Tapestry of Faith: Families: A Jr. High School Youth Program that Explores the Diversity, Commonality, and Meaning of Families

Faith In Action: Weight Discrimination

Part of Families

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

Description of Activity

We have a cultural obsession with being a certain size. People who are larger than average are often discriminated against in employment, adoption, and simple things like purchasing airline tickets. At a time and place where most people would consider it inappropriate to make racial jokes or gay jokes, it is still acceptable in almost all arenas of society to make fat jokes.

Consider inviting a guest to speak about the issues of body size. See the Preparation section for possible Web sources of guest speakers. The websites, along with Love Your Body, also have useful information.

If you are unable to invite a guest speaker, use Handout 1, An Interview with Hanne Blank, as a starting point for a discussion on weight discrimination. Invite youth to either take turns reading it aloud or read it silently. After reading, use the following questions to start a conversation:

  • In what ways do you witness weight discrimination?
  • Does discrimination work both ways; are very thin people discriminated against? If yes, are they discriminated against to the same extent as fat people?
  • Some people feel it is OK to discriminate against fat people because they caused their own fatness (which is not always true). Some people feel that since too much body fat can be unhealthy, picking on fat people will deter others from getting fat. What do you think? What would our UU Principles and values say about these attitudes? (If it does not come up in discussion, you should say that because fat people are told that they caused their fatness, they sometimes believe they deserve teasing because of the "wrong" they have done. This can cause fat people to suffer much greater shame than a person discriminated against because of their ethnicity or gender.)
  • Is advocating against weight discrimination the same as promoting an unhealthy lifestyle? Why or why not?
  • How is weight discrimination linked to other oppressions?
  • Hanne says that she has been encouraged to be an advocate by her family. Are members of your family advocates for a cause? How is this expressed?
  • What are some things you can pledge to do to help prevent weight discrimination? Are there ways you can do this within your family? What about at school, within your congregation, or other groups to which you belong? Make a poster with the pledges and display it. Ask if anyone is willing to work on a short article for the congregational newsletter on the group's discussion, and include the pledges.

A third option is to celebrate Love Your Body, if your session falls close to this date. You will find the date and ways to acknowledge the day at Love Your Body. Participants might want to advertise the day with posters displayed around the congregation, host a film series or talk, or present a five-minute piece at a worship service, during which they state facts and statistics concerning weight discrimination and ways to counter this form of oppression.

Including All Participants

You may have youth in your group who are dealing with weight issues. Remember that fat people are not the only ones who have food and weight issues. Monitor the discussion for participants who might be experiencing intense feelings. If you see this happening, consider wrapping up the activity by reminding youth that your congregation has people who are available to talk with them at times when they need an empathetic ear. Name the people, such as the minister, religious educator, or youth chaplain, who serve this function.