Hefty folk weigh in with a bigger say

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The Independent Online
While in New York and California slim and body-conscious are the watchwords, the proportion of America for which fat is the norm is ever wider. In 1981, 25 per cent were obese; the North American Association for the Study of Obesity recently heard that, under a new method of gauging fitness, 59 per cent of men and 49 per cent of women fell into the fat category.

On present trends, 75 per cent of Americans will be obese by 2050; Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, says by 2230 they will all be obese.

The National Centre for Health Statistics says television "zappers" may have helped create the problem and suggests advice on television about diet and exercise is no match for the huge, fatty helpings served in the country's restaurants. This has a penalty: the direct and indirect costs of obesity total nearly 10 per cent of sick-care costs in the West.

There is evidence the fat are still discriminated against. Research by Duke University says a businessman will earn $1,000 (pounds 660) a year less for every one pound he is overweight.

But the growing strength of the "fat" voice has meant a burgeoning of support groups. Many ask whether thin is better. The fat-acceptance movement advises on "fuller-figure outfitters", which airlines are "big-friendly" and even which cinemas allow you to watch from your own specially imported chair.

The US National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance recently demanded changes to the Eddie Murphy film The Nutty Professor, saying the portrayal of the 30-stone teacher was demeaning to fat people. Their complaints were based on the script: "We haven't seen the movie," said a spokesman. "The theatres have no seats big enough."