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vivico1
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Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

I dont remember what chapter this was in so if you dont remember an incident about weight, you may want to stop here.

Robert, I found something incredibly fascinating. When he and his wife were shopping that day and he couldnt make out the figure down the aisle and asked if that was a forklift and it was a WOMAN, OH MY! And as he got closer his reaction to this very obese woman, just disgust and wanting to get away. I think he said, not that it was because of whether she was pretty or not but because it was a sign to him of her maybe being unhealthy or something. I wondered how much of both of those were really true. Mike seemed to be in his younger days a womanizer and oh how he did like to go watch the women at that one little outdoor cafe and try to figure out which were women and which were pretty. I think his wife was so cool to go and help him use cues to figure it out and also tell him what was considered attractive. I think it was not only a real act of kindness but I bet she got a kick out of teaching him such things and watching his reactions. But back to the obese woman. With his views on women and his desire to see beautiful women all the time and this reaction to the obese one, just down right disgust, I thought about how we form prejudices. What an incredible thing that we put such emphasis on women's looks and thinness, especially in the media and blame the media (rightly so too) but then here is this blind man who has nothing to compare with, hasnt been visually influenced by the media and sees this woman and is disgusted! It made me think, beyond the media hype that has taken it to the extreme, is there really something innate in us, primal, that finds obesity undesireable? Ugly? Is it not just taught to us since we were kids but something that if he really meant what he said about her health, then in perpetuating the species, man from long ago, would not find some physical characteristics desireable? If this is true in us, even today, then something like this may be one prejudice that as a whole human society, we will never be rid of. That whole experience with that woman and his reaction, just set me aback some. What are your thoughts on it? If this makes sense anyway lol.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Wrighty
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

That event with the obese woman was on page 207-208. I would like to know a bit more about that too. I'm not quite finished yet but I only have about 40 pages left. Unless it's brought up in those last pages not much more is said about why he felt that way. He said he never had those feelings when he was blind and he considered himself an empathetic person. He told his wife that he was very ashamed because he made an emotional reaction based on the woman's appearance. Her looks equaled her. For some reason she disgusted him and he related that to sloth, laziness and maybe slovenliness. What were the reasons for his very strong feelings? As Viv said, he did admire pretty women but he never disliked heavy people. Was it a prejudice or just an instant reaction to a vision he never had before? Or was it something totally different?
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Librarian
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning



Wrighty wrote:
That event with the obese woman was on page 207-208. I would like to know a bit more about that too. I'm not quite finished yet but I only have about 40 pages left. Unless it's brought up in those last pages not much more is said about why he felt that way. He said he never had those feelings when he was blind and he considered himself an empathetic person. He told his wife that he was very ashamed because he made an emotional reaction based on the woman's appearance. Her looks equaled her. For some reason she disgusted him and he related that to sloth, laziness and maybe slovenliness. What were the reasons for his very strong feelings? As Viv said, he did admire pretty women but he never disliked heavy people. Was it a prejudice or just an instant reaction to a vision he never had before? Or was it something totally different?



I'm wondering whether the visual sight was something like the imperfections Bradford witnessed in the environment. Having only experienced anything that is not perfection by other senses-----whether it's peeling paint or obesity, they have acclimated other senses to these concepts. But vision hasn't had a chance to be conditioned yet in them that we are not perfect in a perfect world. I don't think it means he's prejudiced.Does this make any sense?
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vivico1
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning


Librarian wrote:


Wrighty wrote:
That event with the obese woman was on page 207-208. I would like to know a bit more about that too. I'm not quite finished yet but I only have about 40 pages left. Unless it's brought up in those last pages not much more is said about why he felt that way. He said he never had those feelings when he was blind and he considered himself an empathetic person. He told his wife that he was very ashamed because he made an emotional reaction based on the woman's appearance. Her looks equaled her. For some reason she disgusted him and he related that to sloth, laziness and maybe slovenliness. What were the reasons for his very strong feelings? As Viv said, he did admire pretty women but he never disliked heavy people. Was it a prejudice or just an instant reaction to a vision he never had before? Or was it something totally different?



I'm wondering whether the visual sight was something like the imperfections Bradford witnessed in the environment. Having only experienced anything that is not perfection by other senses-----whether it's peeling paint or obesity, they have acclimated other senses to these concepts. But vision hasn't had a chance to be conditioned yet in them that we are not perfect in a perfect world. I don't think it means he's prejudiced.Does this make any sense?
Librarian


It makes sense. I think I need to say too, that when I say prejudice, I do mean, "the adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge of the facts" that is one of the dictionary's definitions. That he had no experience with this before, obesity and now felt uneasy or disgusted by it. I wonder if some things like that can be as primitive as what we see as desireable for the perpetuation of the species, not the prejudices of how we treat others because we are taught that "those" people are bad, or caused our problems, or dirty or any of those negative things that can make us then do hurtful things to each other. The thing is, science tells us, we do make some judgements for survival reasons even now,not a lot different than a bird waiting for the mate with the best plumage, but I am not so sure I agree with that in the evolved human. But I am saying, could this be an example of that shown in a way that we will rarely ever get to see manifest itself. And if so, will it affect him later as to how he feels about obese people? One form of prejudice can feed into the other. He was shook by his own reaction and it bothered him. He had seen other things that didnt fit what he thought or were a surprise and didnt have this reaction. Its just very interesting that this one got to him.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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ilucas
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

I also thought this sceen was interesting. Thank you for bringing it up. What struck me about it was that he could not even accurately perceive the object of his emotional response. He did not see a large woman, but a large object. It was more than unhealth that the weight brought to mind. He associated the weight with laziness, sloppiness and other lack of virtue. But, he seemed to have a similar negative emotion to other visual stimuli such as his own urine hitting the floor and bird droppings which did not previous disgust him.
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RobertKurson
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

I have read this discussion with great interest. Mike's reaction to the woman in Costco remains a bit of a mystery to me and, I think, to Mike. I pushed Mike on this point, maybe more than he was comfortable with, in an effort to fully understand why he reacted this way. I truly think he wasn't sure beyond the reasons I listed in the book (and which are recounted so well in this discussion). The comparison to Bradford's reaction to chipped paint is so insightful. And I do think there likely is an evolutionary basis to certain reactions humans have to physical human traits. (For example, I remember reading that even very young babies show a preference for attractive faces.) When we talked about the Costco woman, Mike still seemed very pained at his reaction to her - and this was four or five years later. A guy like Mike is a gift for a writer in this way - in that he is willing to be honest about parts of his life that don't necessarily reflect well on him. I think the best story subjects have this quality about them - not just the ability to detect their own flaws, but a willingness to admit to and discuss them.


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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning


ilucas wrote:
I also thought this sceen was interesting. Thank you for bringing it up. What struck me about it was that he could not even accurately perceive the object of his emotional response. He did not see a large woman, but a large object. It was more than unhealth that the weight brought to mind. He associated the weight with laziness, sloppiness and other lack of virtue. But, he seemed to have a similar negative emotion to other visual stimuli such as his own urine hitting the floor and bird droppings which did not previous disgust him.


Thats true, I remember about the urine thing, that he didnt even want to look down when he was urinating to see it. I would have thought he would have found it fascinating, not in some weird way ok lol, but just to watch how the stream leaves the body or ok for that matter, what little boy at some time doesnt want to try to write with that stream in the snow LOL, its just fascinating to them. I have to say Robert, I was wondering when he started to see things and was spending time exploring with his new sight, what he thought about his own genitals, ok yes I am blushing but intrigued lol. Maybe that was not something that he wanted shared in the book but I know you had to have asked him or talked about it anyway lol. He talks about how other parts of his body look to him and OH MY, when he finally does want to check out his wife...from head to toe, that was a pretty hot scene actually LOL, loved it! And I was with her, I wouldnt know whether to run in the bathroom and hide, jump under the covers, or just jump Mike! Now thats some foreplay! :smileywink: I was surprised tho how long it took him to really take the time to start to explore her visually, even her face I mean. He did others before her.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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psb
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

This is an interesting thread. I have not got too far in the book yet but presumably Mike, even when he was blind, would have encountered our society's negative reaction to obesity. Did that influence his reaction once he'd figured out what he was seeing?

As far as there being an innate disgust of obesity, I think it is more likely to be cultural. For example, this is an extract from an article about Pacific Islanders: "... French explorers who encountered Kosrae in 1824 recorded that the women had "a tendency to become fat." In fact, islanders even today admire plump women, seen everywhere here in billowing big T-shirts over long skirts, with plastic flip-flops on their feet. "In this society, people believe fat is beauty," said nurse Matchugo Talley, the hospital's chief of preventive services. "Yes, it's true," said Delita Tilfas, ..."

Also, wasn't it true that in the past it was considered attractive to be pasty-white and fat because only rich people could look that way. Everyone else laboured all day.

We also have such figures as jolly old St. Nick, the fat Buddha etc. who are regarded as benevolent.
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning


psb wrote:
This is an interesting thread. I have not got too far in the book yet but presumably Mike, even when he was blind, would have encountered our society's negative reaction to obesity. Did that influence his reaction once he'd figured out what he was seeing?

As far as there being an innate disgust of obesity, I think it is more likely to be cultural. For example, this is an extract from an article about Pacific Islanders: "... French explorers who encountered Kosrae in 1824 recorded that the women had "a tendency to become fat." In fact, islanders even today admire plump women, seen everywhere here in billowing big T-shirts over long skirts, with plastic flip-flops on their feet. "In this society, people believe fat is beauty," said nurse Matchugo Talley, the hospital's chief of preventive services. "Yes, it's true," said Delita Tilfas, ..."

Also, wasn't it true that in the past it was considered attractive to be pasty-white and fat because only rich people could look that way. Everyone else laboured all day.

We also have such figures as jolly old St. Nick, the fat Buddha etc. who are regarded as benevolent.


This is true and before I lost 65 pounds and since I am glow in the dark white who cant seem to get a tan LOL, i used to refer to myself as Ruebenesque lol, since the painter Reuben always painted larger women and pale, and they were considered beautiful. What I meant by could there be something innate in us for the survival of the species, as there is in the animal world, that sees some traits as desireable and some not, could this be a case of that? I dont believe it really but pose it as a thought. If that were actually true, he could be one of the few real cases of showing that. And not that she wouldnt be desireable because she was fat, but because he perceived fat as unhealthy and in the animal world, unhealthy would be an undesireable trait. In the human world, that could also lead to other prejudices tho since we dont on a conscience level think about whats desireable to perpetuate the species. Does that make sense? Maybe tho, since his feelings even bothered him, that he had those thoughts, maybe it really wasnt about being fat at all and he shouldnt worry about that, but maybe it was really about the fact that he didn't even perceive her as being a human at first but a THING! How disconcerting has that got to be? Then, because it was her weight that made her look bigger than what he expected in a human, he was upset thinking he had such feelings about an obese person when that wasnt the first trigger anyway, not recognising her as a human was. Does that make sense?
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

[ Edited ]
Hi All----I came across one of those syndicated press stories in the newspaper that might explain Mike's reaction to the large size of the woman. This story was about a study conducted with 4 month old babies. Even though the babies themselves weren't talking yet, naturally they were used to hearing talking around them and to them. They were offered identical toys by a person who spoke like the people around them and by a person who spoke differently (accent, etc.) In all cases they took the toy from the person who spoke like the people around them. This indicates that impressions on our senses and expectations of them are formed at a very young age. Maybe in Mike's first three years, an expectation of the sizes people should be was formed in him. Therefore when he could see again,even though he knew the concept of overweight, the picture wasn't right to him and it was just an instinctive reaction not a prejudice of meanness. I don't know if this could be. But I thought I'd throw this idea out to all of you. What fantastic ideas everyone is contributing. I've really been enjoying this book discussion. Thank you Robert, Mike, Bill and everyone!
Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 07-19-2007 11:00 AM
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning


Librarian wrote:
Hi All----I came across one of those syndicated press stories in the newspaper that might explain Mike's reaction to the large size of the woman. This story was about a study conducted with 4 month old babies. Even though the babies themselves weren't talking yet, naturally they were used to hearing talking around them and to them. They were offered identical toys by a person who spoke like the people around them and by a person who spoke differently (accent, etc.) In all cases they took the toy from the person who spoke like the people around them. This indicates that impressions on our senses and expectations of them are formed at a very young age. Maybe in Mike's first three years, an expectation of the sizes people should be was formed in him. Therefore when he could see again,even though he knew the concept of overweight, the picture wasn't right to him and it was just an instinctive reaction not a prejudice of meanness. I don't know if this could be. But I thought I'd throw this idea out to all of you. What fantastic ideas everyone is contributing. I've really been enjoying this book discussion. Thank you Robert, Mike, Bill and everyone!
Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 07-19-2007 11:00 AM




That does sound like a good explanation. It seems like it would be something like that rather than a prejudice because that was his instant reaction. He had never expressed a prejudice in regards to the issue of being overweight before.
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

I agree - this is such an interesting idea by Librarian. I wish I'd thought of it when I was interviewing Mike about the woman at Costco.

It's always interesting to me to talk to Mike about feminine beauty. He tells me that, when it comes to appreciating women, there is an advantage in his inability to understand the nuances of faces; he finds many more women to be beautiful than does the average man, as he is unable to detect the kinds of tiny imperfections so often held against women.


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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning


RobertKurson wrote:
I agree - this is such an interesting idea by Librarian. I wish I'd thought of it when I was interviewing Mike about the woman at Costco.

It's always interesting to me to talk to Mike about feminine beauty. He tells me that, when it comes to appreciating women, there is an advantage in his inability to understand the nuances of faces; he finds many more women to be beautiful than does the average man, as he is unable to detect the kinds of tiny imperfections so often held against women.


He ran into one big "imperfections others hold against women" here didnt he! I think Mike had the reaction to the woman, that we have about the woman in the picture of your book whose features are upside down, not what we have known or expected so quite disturbing. Did you see the movie Ray, about Ray Charles two years ago? Ray was quite the ladies man and how he would judge if a woman was pretty or he wanted to be with her, was to hold her hand and feel her wrist. If she had big thick wrist, to him that was a sign she was not a pretty woman and he didn't want to be with one that was not. The sighted guys talked about Ray checking women's wrists. We all have expectations of what things are, or should be I guess. These two blind men (Ray and Mike) had their ideas and expectations of what women look like too. There is a bad old joke about all women are pretty in the dark, but if you think about it, hey arent most things better in our imagination than in real life anyway? We can have anyone look anyway we want when we cant see them. Kinda like people who online date LOL~! geesh, they worry me, no one gets what they think they know doing that!
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning

Here's a couple of extracts from an article I read today:

"... according to research reported in Evolution and Human Behavior some people suffer abuse because being too fat is mistaken by the brain for a sign of disease.
Researchers say the immune system can be triggered into action at the sight of obesity because it doesn't like the look of what it sees, and associates it with infection.
Just as it orchestrates attacks on viruses and bacteria and triggers nausea at the hint of bad food, so it sends out signals of disgust in some people at the sight of an obese body that is designed to encourage avoidance and survival.

...

'Antipathy toward obese people is a powerful and pervasive prejudice in many contemporary populations. Our results reveal, for the first time, that this prejudice may be rooted in multiple, independent mechanisms. They provide the first evidence that obesity serves as a cue for pathogen infection,' say the University of British Columbia researchers.
They say a behavioural immune system appears to have evolved in humans that is designed to detect body signs that are related to disease, like rashes and lesions. The sight of them triggers disgust as well as negative attitudes and avoidance. The system errs in favour of over-reacting because failure to react to a real danger could be fatal.
Researchers carried out a number of experiments, including word associations and tests where they compared the reactions and views of men and women to obesity.
The results show that people who agreed with comments such as 'it really bothers me when people sneeze without covering their mouths' were more likely to agree with statement such as 'if I were an employer looking to hire, I might avoid hiring a fat person'. The greater the fear of disease, the stronger the negative feeling about obesity."
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning


psb wrote:
Here's a couple of extracts from an article I read today:

"... according to research reported in Evolution and Human Behavior some people suffer abuse because being too fat is mistaken by the brain for a sign of disease.
Researchers say the immune system can be triggered into action at the sight of obesity because it doesn't like the look of what it sees, and associates it with infection.
Just as it orchestrates attacks on viruses and bacteria and triggers nausea at the hint of bad food, so it sends out signals of disgust in some people at the sight of an obese body that is designed to encourage avoidance and survival.

...

'Antipathy toward obese people is a powerful and pervasive prejudice in many contemporary populations. Our results reveal, for the first time, that this prejudice may be rooted in multiple, independent mechanisms. They provide the first evidence that obesity serves as a cue for pathogen infection,' say the University of British Columbia researchers.
They say a behavioural immune system appears to have evolved in humans that is designed to detect body signs that are related to disease, like rashes and lesions. The sight of them triggers disgust as well as negative attitudes and avoidance. The system errs in favour of over-reacting because failure to react to a real danger could be fatal.
Researchers carried out a number of experiments, including word associations and tests where they compared the reactions and views of men and women to obesity.
The results show that people who agreed with comments such as 'it really bothers me when people sneeze without covering their mouths' were more likely to agree with statement such as 'if I were an employer looking to hire, I might avoid hiring a fat person'. The greater the fear of disease, the stronger the negative feeling about obesity."


This was the question I was trying to pose exactly, ty psb. I was trying to say, could there be something innate in us that would make us see obesity as undesireable to the perpetuation of the species and we dont know how to intepret that now, but that we feel as it says, or Mike said, disgust? He and blind people who are new to seeing any body type with their eyes, would be more proof to me than studies on the sighted, especially now with all the knowledge we have linking disease to obesity. People today know all that and could just say thats it when many years ago before we knew all that, Bigger women were seen as healthy and bigger hips were suppose to be a sign of good chances of childbirth. If you had done this kind of study in like the 1700s then, I dont think the results would be the same. But if the blind who now see, feel that inside, thats pretty powerful stuff. Its also pretty scarey, but these studies are even more scary, because I do know how you can skew results to say what you want them to. We did a full semester in psych in college, doing just that, to show how carefully we must do our testing and what parameters to put on them. Why this is scary is because, if in this day and age, we say, well it IS something in our brains from our evolution that makes us feel disgust, then we open all kinds of doors for nothing more than being prejudice, because in actuality, you are taught now that fat is ugly from the time you are a kid. Either from being fat and teased about it, or being on the other side of that and learning from parents and peers to hate and tease those who are. We have so ingrained this into our youth now, that for the last several decades, the rates of eating disorders keep climbing because of the prejudice to the kids and the world of ads telling us what we SHOULD look like that has nothing to do with health. Anorexics arent anorexic because they are worried about their health, but because of how they percieve themselves to look.

When I first thought about this idea with Mike, thats what I thought, this would be better scientific proof, if you found this with more people who had gone through what he has, than any study today because of what we know today. Like I said, this wouldnt be the same if it were given a few centuries back at all. So how valid is it today, given what else bombards our brains daily about being obese or even just a little overweight? And the second thought was, if this really did have any validity, its just so scary to think this could be used against the overweight in overwhelming justification for discriminating against them! Wild huh?
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Re: Weight and prejudices, whole book spoiler warning



vivico1 wrote:

psb wrote:
Here's a couple of extracts from an article I read today:

"... according to research reported in Evolution and Human Behavior some people suffer abuse because being too fat is mistaken by the brain for a sign of disease.
Researchers say the immune system can be triggered into action at the sight of obesity because it doesn't like the look of what it sees, and associates it with infection.
Just as it orchestrates attacks on viruses and bacteria and triggers nausea at the hint of bad food, so it sends out signals of disgust in some people at the sight of an obese body that is designed to encourage avoidance and survival.

...

'Antipathy toward obese people is a powerful and pervasive prejudice in many contemporary populations. Our results reveal, for the first time, that this prejudice may be rooted in multiple, independent mechanisms. They provide the first evidence that obesity serves as a cue for pathogen infection,' say the University of British Columbia researchers.
They say a behavioural immune system appears to have evolved in humans that is designed to detect body signs that are related to disease, like rashes and lesions. The sight of them triggers disgust as well as negative attitudes and avoidance. The system errs in favour of over-reacting because failure to react to a real danger could be fatal.
Researchers carried out a number of experiments, including word associations and tests where they compared the reactions and views of men and women to obesity.
The results show that people who agreed with comments such as 'it really bothers me when people sneeze without covering their mouths' were more likely to agree with statement such as 'if I were an employer looking to hire, I might avoid hiring a fat person'. The greater the fear of disease, the stronger the negative feeling about obesity."


This was the question I was trying to pose exactly, ty psb. I was trying to say, could there be something innate in us that would make us see obesity as undesireable to the perpetuation of the species and we dont know how to intepret that now, but that we feel as it says, or Mike said, disgust? He and blind people who are new to seeing any body type with their eyes, would be more proof to me than studies on the sighted, especially now with all the knowledge we have linking disease to obesity. People today know all that and could just say thats it when many years ago before we knew all that, Bigger women were seen as healthy and bigger hips were suppose to be a sign of good chances of childbirth. If you had done this kind of study in like the 1700s then, I dont think the results would be the same. But if the blind who now see, feel that inside, thats pretty powerful stuff. Its also pretty scarey, but these studies are even more scary, because I do know how you can skew results to say what you want them to. We did a full semester in psych in college, doing just that, to show how carefully we must do our testing and what parameters to put on them. Why this is scary is because, if in this day and age, we say, well it IS something in our brains from our evolution that makes us feel disgust, then we open all kinds of doors for nothing more than being prejudice, because in actuality, you are taught now that fat is ugly from the time you are a kid. Either from being fat and teased about it, or being on the other side of that and learning from parents and peers to hate and tease those who are. We have so ingrained this into our youth now, that for the last several decades, the rates of eating disorders keep climbing because of the prejudice to the kids and the world of ads telling us what we SHOULD look like that has nothing to do with health. Anorexics arent anorexic because they are worried about their health, but because of how they percieve themselves to look.

When I first thought about this idea with Mike, thats what I thought, this would be better scientific proof, if you found this with more people who had gone through what he has, than any study today because of what we know today. Like I said, this wouldnt be the same if it were given a few centuries back at all. So how valid is it today, given what else bombards our brains daily about being obese or even just a little overweight? And the second thought was, if this really did have any validity, its just so scary to think this could be used against the overweight in overwhelming justification for discriminating against them! Wild huh?



Psb and Vivico-----Those are very interesting ideas. I agree there could be a biological basis for the disgust. I also see your point Vivico--how people could start to justify these prejudices. We really need to connect empathy and compassion with the biological cues.
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