Obesity can be a disability it seems.
The article in The Guardian stated, ‘Employers will have to change the way they treat overweight staff following a European Union court ruling that obesity can, in severe cases, constitute a disability. The landmark decision by the European Court of Justice – in the case of a Danish childminder who lost his job – establishes a precedent that could affect employment rights across the continent. It stops short, however, of declaring obesity to be a protected characteristic against which all discrimination is prohibited.’
Inflammatory headlines and reporting – and social commentary – have evoked all sorts of emotions in me over the past 24 hours. I have seen obese people referred to as ‘fat cunts’ and seen comments about it being ‘their fault for stuffing food into their fat fucking faces’. These people feel that in no way, shape, or form should obesity be seen as a disability.
I feel torn.
First of all, if you look at the definition of ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010 – ‘You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’
What ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ mean:
‘substantial’ is more than minor or trivial – e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed
‘long-term’ means 12 months or more – e.g. a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection
So let’s just say that we apply this definition. I am obese right now. I weigh 22st something or other. It doesn’t take me very long to get dressed at all…in fact, I am a fairly speedy individual when it comes to getting ready in the morning. However, back when I was 43st 5.5lbs I couldn’t dress myself. Mr WLB had to help me get dressed. I couldn’t stand up long enough to wash. I had to have help getting to the bathroom. So I would say that my issue back then would have been very much classed as substantial – in line with the definition of the Equality Act 2010. I would say now though that I don’t really have a problem…yes, I am obese – but it doesn’t affect my day to day abilities.
I have been obese for longer than I can imagine – so it would be classed as long-term.
If we apply the definition to me as I was, then I would be classed as disabled. If we apply the definition now…not so much.
Do I feel okay with that? Yes. Back then I really needed the extra support and assistance. Now, I don’t.
I guess my biggest issue sits with something called ‘causation’. I think this is where the confusion lies and where the emotional elements come into play. Unless you have a medical condition, you have caused your obesity. End of. Medical causation surrounding obesity is quite rare I am led to believe. So the food we eat and the lack of exercise we take tends to cause obesity.
I certainly know that this was my problem. I caused my obesity. My poor food and exercise choices.
However, there were things behind those choices…things that meant I made poor choices – stress, an obesogenic environment…blah, blah, blah.
My issue is that obesity absolutely does cause physical impairment that has a substantial and long term effect on ability to do normal daily activities. Irrespective of how you became obese – for some obese people, it is a disability. For others, it’s not.
Now just to quickly cover something off…in order to receive benefits for this kind of thing – which seems to be the biggest sore point amongst many – you would have to fill out copious forms, prove that you have substantial impairments, and in most cases have to have an interview to verify this with a medical professional. You don’t just get given money for being a fattie I believe. So for those that feel that their obesity is a disability, there is an option…for those that don’t, there is an option. You aren’t all tarred with the same brush.
I think some of the shitty comments come from people who confuse the reason for obesity with the classification of a disability. I have written about this kind of thing before when you get people complaining about treatment for the obese on the NHS. It’s quite hard to look at obesity without bringing the emotive shite into the mix…the context of the creation. It’s the same for alcoholics with liver disease and for smokers with lung issues. Let’s look at someone with liver disease…they have liver disease…that’s it. That is all that is applicable when it comes to rulings related to disabilities. They don’t say, well you drank too much and therefore you aren’t classed as disabled…the classification of a condition is what is applicable. The bit that people have a hard time with is the fact that the individual has been, to some degree, the cause of their condition…so people get all angry and allow this to cloud their judgement…is obesity classed as a disability…by the letter of the definition the answer is ‘YES’.
If you are asking me does an obese person have an element of responsibility for their condition, or can it be cured or prevented…the answer to that is also ‘YES’ – a big fat resounding YES in fact!
Now, obese people have something to say about it too. Comments about this topic have not just come from angry slender people! I have obese friends who are horrified to think that they might be classed as disabled. I have seen quite a few comments from people who were once obese – but of course now that they have shifted their excess pounds, they feel that every other obese person should be able to do the same thing too…there’s nothing as fecking irritating as a reformed character!
Anyway – some of my friends are horrified by this ruling. Maybe this could be the catalyst for them to change? Maybe they are not realising the seriousness of their obesity? Maybe they just think that their condition is something that can be dealt with, whereas many disabilities cannot be? Maybe they just don’t want to be treated differently, or be given special consideration, due to their weight? Who knows what runs through the minds of others.
I would bet that some are a bit thankful though – and welcome the potential changes. Changes such as employers having to tread a little more carefully. As someone who has been bullied about my weight at work, and refused a job purely due to my weight, and had to cram my bum into a tiny office chair on more than one occasion…I personally welcome the fact that employers might have to stop being such cunts!
Finally, do any of you think that I chose to become obese? Did I plan it? Did I welcome it? Would the classification of obesity as a disability have made my life any easier? Would it make me try any less harder to change my situation? Would I have become powerless to change? I think you know the answer…NO!
There are so many complex reasons as to why someone eats to the level that I did. For some it’s a simple case of education – I concede that fact. However for many there is so much more to it. There is no black and white when it comes to the issue of obesity…and no simple answer when it comes to solving it. As with all things, I think people need to be judged on a case by case basis…as do the treatment options.
Personally, I think the priority needs to be support – not the constant fat-bashing and promotion of fat people being lazy, or greedy, or stupid. I don’t know anyone who chooses to be obese. I have seen a few on the Internet who seem to like it…and eat more to get even bigger…I can never understand, and nor will I try to, such people. I will just keep fighting my fight – knowing that I have reduced the burden on my body…I have removed my personal need to be classified as disabled…but I would never take that need away from someone else if it helps them. I would also welcome anything that means the obese get treated equally and fairly from an employment perspective…having sat on both sides of the table – as someone responsible for recruiting, and being recruited – I absolutely know that discrimination takes place.
Phew! Thank you for sticking with me through that rant. I just don’t like seeing some of the comments thrown around…it seems rather uneducated and assumptive of people. Also, just because I behaved in a certain way when I was obese, doesn’t mean that every other obese person does – therefore I can only give my thoughts and opinions…as always!
Right then. This obese person has been killing it in the gym today! I had my final festive workout with my trainer and managed to deadlift 100kg…220lbs…15st 10lbs, along with some other bits and pieces. It was a fab end to the year! I am laying the foundations to a superfit 2015! I saw the horses, popped to the shops, worked for a while, interviewed my potential replacement for the London company, and then stuck a few Christmas cards up. I have just had a quick catch up with my sister too. I am planning a nice night of TV I think.
I forgot to take food pictures today…I had this for brekkie though…
Thank you for reading,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx
If you fancy offering a little support for my 100km night ride challenge, then give the posh button below a click!