University gets federal grant for fat vests, 'weight sensitivity training'
New Mexico State University (NMSU) received a hefty grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) so students and faculty can run around campus in a fat vest as part of a “weight sensitivity training.”
The $17,500 tax payer funded grant, went towards the 20lb fat vests as part of an “Experimental Empathy Exercise” so “non-obese” students can experience what it is like for someone who struggles with weight problems, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
"The campus was fairly desolate this Saturday, so I ate in peace, but I knew I was anxious about seeing people and concerned that I would be judged while eating."
Devon Golem, a NMSU professor of human nutrition in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, is participating in the experiment, and provides a firsthand account of her experiences wearing the fat vest on the NMSU website.
“I wore the mock fat vest while I engaged in my typical routine of exercise, work and errands,” wrote Golem. “I was self-conscious about my appearance in my workout clothes and noticed a couple of passers-by staring. I was sweating much more than normal and was out of breath.”
“Eating my lunch outside: As I was heading down the stairs, I recognized that I was having thoughts about not wanting to take the effort to go back up them after lunch,” Golem writes. “The campus was fairly desolate this Saturday, so I ate in peace, but I knew I was anxious about seeing people and concerned that I would be judged while eating. A couple of people passed, but paid no attention.”
The gel vests—meant to concentrate the weight around the wearers midsection for 12 consecutive hours—are part of an effort to combat the reported 60 percent increase in weight prejudice over the last decade, which the USDA says paralells rates of race and gender discrimination.
“Weight prejudice (a.k.a. anti-fat prejudice and weight bias) is the presence of negative beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors toward individuals who appear to be overweight or obese,” explains a grant, awarded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, according to the Free Beacon.
“Weight prejudice translates into disparities in education, healthcare and employment settings,” Golem said. “It is important that all members of our society are provided equal opportunities in these public settings regardless of their body shape and size.”
In addition, participants will be educated on the “uncontrollable factors of obesity, all forms prejudice, [sic] body image, and psychological consequences of discrimination” through “Weight Sensitivity Education Sessions.”
“Upon the completion of the evaluation of each of these strategies, a weight sensitivity training program will be developed with the goal of increasing self-awareness of weight prejudice and reducing behaviors and practices of weight prejudice,” reads the grant. “The ultimate goal of this research project is to reduce the social inequities and negative consequences associated with weight prejudice.”
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