Your weight defines your social status

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Your weight defines your social status

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Generally, overweight people project one of two images: lazy or rich. When I was in elementary school, plump kids were considered rich. First of all, not many of us were fat. Each class had 60 to 70 kids, but most of us were tanned and skinny. Some were so thin that they looked like skeletons covered with skin. The only overweight kid was the team leader. His complexion was milky, and his body was chubby. He resembled Bibendum, the white and fat Michelin Man. He was very generous as well. His lunch would include a big portion of ham, and he would be glad to share it with his friends. He used to say, “I’ve had too much already.”

For other classmates, ham was a rare delicacy, and kids would line up to get a piece of ham, praising the taste. I didn’t want to reveal my envy and didn’t share his lunch, only to regret the decision. He ran for class president, hoping his generosity with ham would help his popularity. But when he failed, he blamed me for not sharing the ham and not voting for him. Since then, I have tried to avoid chubby kids with milky complexions.

Lately, the fat people are in trouble. Bibendum is the first to suffer. According to the Wall Street Journal, the tire company Michelin is to give $1,000 credits toward health insurance costs for employees who keep their waistlines under 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. If Bibendum were working for Michelin, his waist would surely measure far more than 40 inches. Bibendum may be the most recognizable and successful character representing a company, but its employees must not be pleased with his body anymore.

Moreover, an airline company is to set airfare based on the weight of passengers. Samoa Air is to charge passengers based on weight - $0.50 to $1 per kilogram. Passengers have to report how much they weigh, and the weight will be checked before boarding. Norwegian economist Bharat Bhatta claimed that charging by the weight of passengers and their luggage would cut costs by $3,000 dollars per kilogram. Samoa Air is the first to put the “pay as you weigh” initiative into practice. Despite discussion of discrimination against the obese, supporters say that it will encourage fat people to lose weight. The United Kingdom is preparing a plan to cut welfare benefits for obese people who do not work out.

For a long time, being chubby was a symbol of being friendly and comfortable. The Chinese proverb goes, “Just as no one grows fat at one sitting, no success can be attained with one single effort.” The Chinese people say it to mean, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The underlying message is the assurance that it’s not easy to become obese. Today, your weight defines your status and character. I suddenly miss the old days when we didn’t shun fat people.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yi Jung-jae
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