The Last Socially-Acceptable Prejudice: Weight Discrimination

Obesity StigmaABC News recently published the article “Stigma Against Fat People the Last Acceptable Prejudice.” Several elements of this article struck a chord in me, and I wanted to touch on some of them in a blog post. Forgive me for paraphrasing so much of the article…there was so much good research and content.

Earlier this month, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University published a study, indicating that in a courtroom setting, male jurors didn’t administer blind justice to plus-size female defendants. Female jurors displayed no prejudice against obese male defendants, especially lean men, and were much more likely to slap a guilty verdict on an overweight woman. Rebecca Puhl, the co-author of the Yale study, said that “these displays of fat stigma are par for the course.” Prejudice against fat people is pervasive and translates into inequalities across broad areas of life. Puhl continued:

“Thinness has come to symbolize important values in our society; values such as discipline, hard work, ambition, and willpower. If you’re not thin, then you don’t have them”

A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that top-level managers with a high BMI are judged more harshly by peers and seen as less effective than their slimmer colleagues, both in professional and in interpersonal relationships. I can personally attest to the fact that this happens, and I’ve felt held back in my career objectives. People have liked me on paper, but have treated me far less favorably at in-person job interviews than their initial online correspondences would suggest.

As much as HR departments will claim otherwise, weight prejudice in the workplace is real. I’ve experienced it repeatedly through my career. I have been passed over for job offers and promotions. I am applauded for my creativity, not my hard work. Is is just a coincidence that professional opportunities are opening up for me like crazy after losing weight? It’s tough to say.

friends don't let friends fat talkIt’s obvious that weight discrimination doesn’t just exist in the workplace. It happens in our schools and in our families. More than 70% of obese people say that they had been ridiculed about their weight by a family member.

Yet another study by Puhl at Yale found the following results: Fifty percent of doctors found that fat patients were “awkward, ugly, weak-willed, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” 24 percent of nurses said they were repulsed by obese patients. Almost 30% of teachers said that becoming obese was “the worst thing that can happen to someone.” People have few qualms aiming overly cruel comments toward overweight and obese people because there are few consequences. One of the ironies of the treatment of overweight individuals is fat people didn’t get much sympathy, even from others struggling with their own weight.

Fat stigma hasn’t changed much in my lifetime, and every time it becomes a topic of conversation…people get uncomfortable. People want to change the subject. In this sense, weight prejudice is the last acceptable prejudice.

“Overweight people are usually shown in stereotypical ways- engaged in out-of-control eating or bingeing on junk food- and they are often shown as the target of humor or ridicule,” said Puhl. “With the amount of media we all consume, it’s no wonder these stereotypes stick.”Puhl also stated, “There are no federal laws on the books that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of body weight, so on the whole, it remains legal. It sends a message that it’s no big deal.” Public health campaigns which brand obesity as a disease are easily perceived as criticizing individuals, rather than the environmental and social factors that lead to weight gain. People engage in public fat-shaming. She also believes media portrayals of heavy people as fat, lazy and gluttonous do them no favors.

Another article I found in Forbes, titled “The Obesity Police Turn A Solvable Problem Into A Needless War“, also brings up some interesting points. “when it comes to addressing obesity, the most prominent public health activists are intent at making it into a war, rather than a solvable problem.” The reference the following video made by Coca-Cola:

Coca-Cola’s video give scientifically accurate data and is trying to spark dialogue about how obesity is caused by consuming more calories than we burn (including the calories in Coke products). They support programs that advocate healthy living, and make it a point to display calorie counts boldly on their packaging.

However, public health activists are not happy about the campaign. These health activists tend to one-up each other, using inflammatory language and tactics to make the food and beverage industry into the villains, instead of making actually making a difference. For instance, Michael Jacobson from the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that if the company was serious about wanting to help fight obesity, it shouldn’t even advertise full-calorie drinks. “They’re trying to pretend they’re part of the solution, instead of part of the problem”. The solution should be to focus on helping those struggling with obesity, and provide resources to those who feel trapped in their predicament, rather than pointing fingers at companies.

So. Where do we go from here? How can we bring up these dialogues and foster meaningful change?

weight discrimination question

I think the important thing is to talk about obesity, and the ways that people can emerge from the trapped feeling of excess weight. Last week I sent out a tweet and posted in my Beauty and the Bypass Facebook Group, asking for people to share their experiences about weight discrimination.

And what was the response?

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Nobody is comfortable talking about weight prejudice. People are either too scared to talk about their experiences, or they fear retribution for discussing the experiences they’ve had with weight prejudices in the workplace. Or even weight prejudice in general. I have stayed mostly silent on the subject, even though it’s an issue that infuriates me. Last year when I published my post “Weighty Impressions“, there was fallout from it because I mentioned experiences that I’d had in the workplace (at several different jobs). Employers are scared of getting sued, and employees aren’t really protected by anything legally. It’s a really bad situtation.

Where do we go from here? I think it’s time to talk about it. Ideas?

How Much Does Stuff Weigh? [infographic]

How Much Does Stuff Weigh? [infographic]

Rapid and significant weight loss through gastric bypass isn’t the typical weight loss experience. While 2 pounds a week is considered a “healthy” rate to lose weight, there are periods of rapid weight loss where some patience can lose over 50 pounds in a month. While it feels good to drop pounds and lose inches, it’s sometimes hard to visualize how much weight you’ve actually lost.

In Bariatric Bad Girl Club, we’ve talked about certain lists of weights and how much our losses equate to in everyday items. My coworker Joseph created this infographic for our site at work, and I thought it would be fun to share here. When we discussed it in BBGC, it was a hilarious conversation because the largest weight on this infographic is 100 pounds, and many people in the group have lost much more weight. So we came up with funny combinations of what our losses were equivalent to. My favorite? A response from @Trina_Lockary on Twitter.

dishwasher cement tweet

How much have I lost? At 122 pounds, I’ve lost a toilet, a car tire, and 8 sticks of butter. Let the good times roll.

Wordless Wednesday: Slimming Down and Wearing Spandex

Nicole bullock weight loss

Wordless Wednesday: January 2012 to January 2013

nicole bullock weight loss

Top Ten Non-Scale Victories of 2012

2012 has been an incredible year for me.

I have accomplished so much, and achieved goals that have previously seemed impossible. Obviously, the weight loss has been the highlight of my year. I weigh over 120 pounds less than I did going into 2012. But beyond the total pounds, there have been a lot of other non-scale victories (also known as NSVs in the weight loss community).

Some of my favorite NSVs:

  1. Having the energy to walk 10+ hours a day with my family in London
  2. Fitting into jeans and dresses that haven’t fit since I was newly married to my husband
  3. Being able to go on airplane flights without a seatbelt extender…and having extra slack on the seatbelt when I pull it taut.
  4. Seeing my collarbones again. And my knee bones. And my wrist bones.
  5. Acquiring an amazing support network, both online and offline, by sharing my story
  6. Meeting Beth (aka Melting Mama) and many friends from Bariatric Bad Girls Club
  7. Having the confidence to go on TV and be featured as KSL’s Blog of the Week 
  8. Being able to cross my legs comfortably
  9. Tossing aside my giant beach towel and using a regular-sized towel for bathing
  10. Looking at myself in the mirror…and seeing the real Nicole that I know has been there all along…

Here’s to an amazing 2013!

Reclaiming An Active Lifestyle

hiking in san dimas canyonA lot of people hate exercise. But I am not one of those people.

It might not make sense to some people that overweight and obese people love to be active. Despite my weight getting into the upper 300s, I wasn’t opposed to exercising just because it required effort. I didn’t exercise because I was good at hurting myself. When I start an exercise program, I am gung-ho at first – I feel motivated, I prioritize my time to make sure I fit it into my day, and end up with crazy insomnia from all the endorphins. But then I hurt myself, or over-exhaust myself, and it’s hard to start back up again when I’m able.

I’ve been conservative about exercise since surgery, until about 6 weeks ago. My body was losing weight rapidly solely from my food intake, and I was figuring out how much I needed to ingest for general survival. Because I have been so prone to exercise-related injuries, I wanted to wait for intense exercise until I knew I could do it without doing a number on my joints.

During the summer and fall, it was easy to get in some exercise by walking around my neighborhood or while shopping. I won a bike at a blog event in September, so I did quite a few rides on the Jordan River Parkway until the weather got too cold.

working out after gastric bypassWhen my family went to England last month, we did LOTS of walking. Some days, we walked around the city for up to 10 hours a day. I felt like I was in a good place with my body to ramp up the exercise. Doing workouts in the cold are aren’t good for my lungs (it’s a trigger for asthma and bronchospasms, especially when air quality is bad from an inversion). I looked into local gyms, and found out that the Lehi Legacy Center, was not only inexpensive (only $42 per month for a family membership), but there were lots of options to mix up my exercise routine. There’s a really nice pool, an indoor track, a large cardio area, and weight room. So far, I’ve been 11 times in 3 weeks.


When we went to California for Thanksgiving, Taylor and I decided to try to walk a 5k on Thanksgiving morning. All of my friends were doing Turkey Trots, and I know of any going on locally. My in-laws live near San Dimas Canyon, so my husband and I did a lengthy walk/hike of 4.2 miles (well beyond the 5k I’d planned on). I burned enough calories that I didn’t  worry too much about how many calories I ate for Thanksgiving dinner. I did have a reactive hypoglycemia episode after Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ll talk about that more in another blog post.

The next morning I was feeling motivated, so I took a walk up through the walking trail in Heritage Park. I was playing around with the Nike+ app, and wanted to see the differences in how many calories I could burn if I threw in a few bursts of jogging. I haven’t attempted ANY running since 2007, and that was after losing some weight and being on a consistent gym schedule. I was please to find out that I enjoyed it. I could only run 30-60 seconds at a time, but it was energizing. My only complaint was the shoes I was wearing, so I knew I shouldn’t run again until I bought some proper shoes.

New Balance shoes

I started looking at websites to see reviews for running shoes, and was blown away at how many preferences for shoes runners have. I wanted to make sure that I chose the perfect shoe if I was making an investment over $100. Unfortunately, I didn’t have $100 extra bucks in my budget for a pair of running shoes.

I lucked out while shopping at Nordstrom Rack for some Christmas gifts, and found this pair of New Balance running shoes for only $24. They are quite comfortable, and I like the colors. As silly as it sounds, I was already leaning toward a pair of New Balances because they have NB on the tongue (and NB could also stand for Nicole Bullock) 🙂

I’ve got a long way to go in my weight loss, but I’m so happy that my body is able to keep up with my spirit again. I am naturally a “go and do” kind of girl, and I like that I have the energy to get a lot more done. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get around with 123 pounds off my body.




Wordless Wednesday: Facial Comparison At 10 Months


Month 10 Post-Op Update

nicole bullock weight loss comparison

Sometimes it’s hard to really see the progress within yourself in a weight loss journey. You notice small changes, but you don’t always recognize how you’re changing in the grand scheme of things.

When you look at this side-by-side comparison picture of me, it’s obvious I’ve lost a significant amount of weight (119 pounds as of today). But this picture does not reflect the other ways I’m changing and evolving as a human soul.

As I’ve discussed in multiple posts on my blog, the most difficult part of the weight loss surgery journey for me has been my emotional evolution. Sorting out my self-image and the relationship between my long-held beliefs about body can be very confusing. I don’t always know if I’ll recognize the person looking back at me in the mirror. Sometimes I’m larger than I’m expecting, other times I just don’t look like me. I hadn’t been morbidly obese my whole life, and on my “skinny days” I see a very young Nicole staring back at me.

rei winter workout clothes

Not that youth is a bad thing! It’s fun to ask people how old they think I am. Lately, it’s usually 25-27 years old. Most people are surprised when I tell them I’m 32 and I have a 12 year old daughter.

I feel like I can look more youthful with my “new body.” I’m dressing in more age-appropriate clothing (since I’m not limited by juvenile “youth plus” or the mature fashions in the women’s department (that I shouldn’t have to wear for a few decades). Before surgery, I was wearing 28/30 size jeans. Now I’m in size 18 jeans, and even smaller in stretchy activewear. In the picture I’m wearing here, I’m in a 14/16 yoga pant and a men’s large jacket. I’m starting to pick around and try on fashions in XXL and XL sizes in the “regular” women’s department, instead of being limited to the plus size racks.

nicole bullock weight loss

As I’ve dropped weight and I’m dressing more my style, I am getting a lot of attention on my appearance. After years of feeling like I was either ignored or shunned for being morbidly obese, it’s fun to be closer to average-size. I’ve been blessed with great features (especially my hair and eyes), so even at my highest weight I got compliments. But now I get them every day, and from people who probably would never have talked to me before. I’ve noticed men being more gentlemanly, flirtatious and chivalrous, and women warm up to me in conversation more quickly. I’m enjoying the barriers that are diminishing in my social life.

As much as I’m lapping up the attention, I’m also conflicted at times by it. The compliments I’m getting about my body are exciting, but I’m noticing people are more complimentary in general.  I get kind comments on my  professional talents and more praise on the projects I accomplish. I feel like I’m working as hard as I ever was, but I get more attention for it. The horrible assumption that “fat = lazy” has become more prevalent as I drop pounds and I’m suddenly not considered lazy anymore. Surgery didn’t magically make me a go-getter…I’ve always been one.

Nicole Bullock KSL blogger event

I’ve had some fun non-scale victories lately, and one of them is having the confidence to be fun and playful on camera. I went to an event this week hosted by KSL 5 Television, and was able to tour and goof off in the studio. I took a lot of pictures with my friends, and I wasn’t always concerned about the angle I was standing at, or if the way my head was tilted gave me a double chin.

I was given the opportunity to be interviewed on a segment about children and online safety on KSL yesterday. Had I not lost the weight, I would have let the opportunity pass by. But with my increased confidence with my weight loss, I accepted in a heartbeat. I was excited to be on camera, and my worries about the segment were limited to what I’d look best in on camera. If you’d like to watch the segment, here it is:

Last week, my family returned from a 8 days in England and Ireland. I was able to fully enjoy the trip, including the days where we walked around the city for 10 hours. I’ll be writing a post about my experiences in London this weekend.


Six Month Update – 100 Pounds

100 pound weight loss
August marked my 6-month mark since gastric bypass surgery. August also marked my biggest milestone yet – hitting 100 pounds lost. I was stuck at a plateau for over 3 weeks, varying between 96-99 pounds lost, and I finally hit 100 pounds. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Last week I pulled out my pre-op jeans. They are size 28/30 elastic-waist stretch jeans that I wore to and from the hospital for surgery. They used to be a tight fight, especially on my belly and calves. Now I wear a 20/22 jean. I’m still wearing “plus size” clothes, and it’s been interesting to see that losing 100 pounds hasn’t made me drop clothing sizes as quickly as I expected. But I think the next 100 pounds will be where the big size/shape changes happen.

Since surgery, I’ve lost the following amounts on my body measurements

  • Neck -2.25″
  • Bust -8″
  • Chest -8″
  • Waist -11″
  • Hip -14″
  • Thigh -6.5″
  • Calf -3.5″
  • Ankle -2″
  • Upper arm -3″
  • Wrist -2″

I’ve noticed a reduction in joint pain, sleep apnea symptoms, circulation problems, and back pain. I feel more “mobile” – it’s easier to fit into chairs with arms, I have more stamina for physical activity, and I find myself more willing to try new things. When I was in New York City a few weeks ago, I did LOTS of walking. Several miles a day. I walked enough to wear myself out and get blisters all over my feet…and it felt great!

It feels like I’m used to my life as a weight loss surgery patient. I’m more intuitive with my body’s signals and am better and respecting its limitations. The two ongoing struggles I have are with fatigue and hair loss. Luckily, the hair loss has diminished, and it’s only slightly worse than “normal.” I have patches that are thinner than I’m comfortable with, but it doesn’t freak me out every time I run a brush through my hair.

I don’t know when the fatigue will improve. I’ve upped my protein intake and doses of vitamin B12 and D. I also resumed taking Provigil, which helps with my daytime sleepiness from sleep apnea. Some days I’m fine, other days I can hardly make it through the workday.

While 100 pounds is a significant accomplishment, my journey is far from over. I’m still 100 pounds overweight. I know that the next hundred will not come off as quickly or easily as the first hundred, and it’s possible I may stall out and my body won’t let me get to my goal weight. But I have hope. I am grateful for what I’ve been able to do for my health, and am grateful for all of the support I’ve received along the way.


Every day since surgery, I’ve dealt with challenges. Usually the challenges are related to my body and the things that I can eat. Lately, it’s been a much more difficult battle mentally.

My body has changed a lot over the last 4 months. I’ve been through major surgery, I’ve dropped a lot of weight, I’ve likely had some nutritional deficiencies, and  all these changes take a toll.

Before surgery, I was given “the Bible” from my surgeon’s office. It’s a comprehensive binder full of information with food lists, side effects, warning signs, and facts about the different post-op stages. I read portions of the book daily for the first few weeks, but hadn’t picked it up for a while.

There is a phenomena called “hibernation syndrome” that is really common with gastric bypass patients. Patients are going through so many changes, and the body is getting used to far less food intake, and it causes fatigue and depression. People don’t feel like going out of the home or interacting with other people as much. It usually hits patients within the first few weeks after surgery, and gets better after about the 6 week mark. I didn’t really notice it at that point in time, but the last 3 weeks I’ve felt a lot different. I feel exhausted all the time, have been sleeping more, exercising less, and don’t feel like doing much. I don’t know if it’s directly surgery-related, or just due to other stress in my life.

I am going through a transition phase currently. I ended one job, started a new job, and I’m preparing to move.  So far I really like my new job – I think it’s a great fit, and I like the work that I’ll be doing. But there is always some anxiety about starting a new job and being “the new person”. I’m also a bit stressed because one of the perks of the job is a well-stocked fridge of drinks and a cupboard of treats and snacks. There are some “good” things that I can have, but there’s a lot of stuff I have to avoid. It will take a lot of will-power to avoid the foods that I know I shouldn’t have, but tempt me just because they are THERE. I’ve stocked my desk with some “safe” items that should satisfy me when the office treats are calling my name.

As for moving, we’re getting ready to move from our apartment in the Salt Lake valley into my parents’ basement in Lehi. It will be closer to work, which will be nice, but further from the city and airport (where I usually am at some point each week). It will be an adjustment to living in such close proximity to my parents and brother. However, it will help us tremendously financially. We’ve on a bunch of payment plans for my medical bills, in addition to all of our other monthly expenses and student loans. We’ll be able to position ourselves much better financially, but it will be a difficult loss of independence.

In happy news, I hit the 70 pound loss mark. I’m at 302.5, which is the least I’ve weighed since I lived in Atlanta in 2009. At that point in time, it was the most I’d ever weighed. I went on a pretty intense weight loss plan that didn’t yield a lot of weight loss, but instead threw my metabolism off for months. Pretty soon I’ll be to my “Michigan weight,” then my “California weight” and then to the weight I was when I married Taylor. Today he told me that when I get below 200, he’s taking me to Hawaii. Sounds like a great deal to me!

Forgive me if my posts are less frequent then usual, it’s been really hard for me to even turn on the computer. Once I’m off work, the last thing I want to do lately is get back on the computer. It’s a tough trade-off since most of my biggest supporters are online.

Hopefully this fatigue “hibernation” slump will be temporary. I’m going to make an appointment to see my surgeon and get my lab work done. If I can feel better just by figuring out if I’m deficient in a nutrient or two, it might explain why I’ve been so darn tired lately.