Weight discrimination: It's real, but is it right?

Weight discrimination: It's real, but is it right?
Jennifer Portnick won a settlement with Jazzercise ten years ago when denied the right to be a rep for their company.

Weight discrimination is real. Research supports this and there are laws against this. But do employers have a right to deny new applicants opportunities due to a person’s size? I must say, I can see why they would. Health issues affect a person’s ability to function at their optimal levels. If you’re overweight, you’re more likely to be sluggish, tired or sick, which may just be a judgment some may claim, but the fact is, if you are overweight and/or obese, you’re going to have more health concerns than others. With that being the case, shouldn’t employers strive to hire people who can do a good job both emotionally and physically? Is that discrimination or making a wise investment?

I realized how sensitive this subject matter was after asking if people respected fat fitness pros in my last blog. Click here if you haven’t read it. Many people commented that they in fact DO NOT respect fat fitness professionals and that there is an expectation that if a person is teaching fitness, they should also model a person who lives a healthy lifestyle.

When writing the blog, I Googled “fat fitness teacher” to look for a picture and came across the one I used as my featured image. It is a picture of Jennifer Portnick, a real fitness instructor out of San Francisco, CA who was denied the right to represent Jazzercise at that time because, in their words,”Jazzercise sells fitness,” said Maureen Brown.  Brown was then director of franchise programs and services for Jazzercise.  She went on to say that “Consequently, a Jazzercise applicant must have a higher muscle-to-fat ratio and look leaner than the public. People must believe Jazzercise will help them improve, not just maintain their level of fitness. Instructors must set the example and be the role models for Jazzercise enthusiasts.”

Interestingly enough, Portnick did reach a settlement with Jazzercise and went on to continue teaching fitness. Her motto at the time, “Three, five, seven, nine, love your body, it’s just fine.”

Once the voice of hating the skinny woman, now sings a different tune.

Once the voice of hating the skinny woman, now sings a different tune.

It seems that this was around the same time that comedian Mo’Nique went on her rant about hating “skinny bi*%$es” and even wrote a book called “Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small Minded World,” published in 2004. What did Mo’Nique say at the time?

It is NO secret that I am a BIG girl.
Always have been, always will be.
The only way I’ll ever wear a size 6, or even a 16, is if you add them together. That’s right: I wear a size 22. And I’m proud, because I wear it well.
Hell, even Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder can see that! -Mo’Nique in “Skinny Women Are Evil” 


Now how’s this for an interesting turn of events? Mo’Nique is now down 82 pounds!!! So correct me if I’m wrong. Mo’Nique went from fat to fit?  Like Portnick, Mo’Nique said she was a big girl, would always be big, and people need to love and respect people of all sizes. However, when you read her story, you find out, as we all do when the scale, clothes, blood pressure, cholesterol level, and everything else shows us when carrying excess weight–she was not healthy! She admits that herself.

From Fat to Fit: Does Mo'Nique now consider herself to be a skinny bi$%*?

From Fat to Fit: Does Mo’Nique now consider herself to be a skinny bi$%*?

Now, just to be clear: do I think it’s right or fair to judge people based on what they look like? Absolutely not. If that were the case, as an African American woman, I would be denied many rights that my ancestors fought for me now to enjoy freely. So please don’t twist my words. But Mo’Nique’s story, and the obesity epidemic shows that we may have missed the mark in encouraging people to love themselves just as they are, AS IF THROUGH THAT LOVE AND DECLARATION THERE WAS NO NEED TO CHANGE OR IMPROVE ONESELF. How do I know we missed the mark? Because our society shows this. We don’t need to just accept that we are “big boned” and “born this way” because we all have the potential to improve our health by eating better and exercising.

And companies have since changed their tune from what was acceptable just ten years ago. Now schools, unions, postal workers,  the military, and many others have wellness checks, and if you are over the weight requirements, you have to lose it, or pay higher insurance premiums, or in some cases, consider a different career.

I don’t think I’m being judgmental or unfair to expect that a fitness professional should look the part. I think that’s just plain common sense. You tell me? Would this guy ever be the president of the US?

Would this guy ever be the President of the US? Absolutely not! He could be a Harvard graduate as smart as a whip, but based on appearance, he wouldn't make it on a poll.

This could be a Harvard graduate as smart as a whip, but based on appearance, he wouldn’t make it on a poll. And that’s a fact jack!




About Me: I’m a certified fitness instructor and writer raising twin five year olds and teenage daughters. In total, I have six daughters and I know firsthand what it’s like to ride the roller coaster of weight loss and gain due to pregnancies, but also from having Crohn’s disease. In writing this piece, like others, I feel pressured to live and look a certain way, but I just thank God I have found a simple, effective, and affordable way to do this with the Vi 90-Day Challenge, the #1 weight loss and fitness challenge platform in North America. To date, over 3M people have taken the challenge, and it is our mission to punch obesity in the face.  I love all people and work with people of all sizes, ages, and races. I know how hard it can be to face emotional scars which compel people to use food for comfort, which is why I have made it my personal mission to be a health evangelist and fitness spokesperson to show that if a mom of six can wear a six, not because it’s the right size to be, but because it’s my body size when normal and healthy, ANYBODY CAN. So, yes! Let’s love our bodies and ourselves as we are, and let’s love ourselves enough to live a healthy lifestyle. YOU are worth it!

If you’d like more information on my Challenge, you can visit my site here.

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Elana Anthony

    I am a wife and mother blessed to have six daughters who fill my home with love and laughter. My passion is writing and teaching, but most especially inspiring people to live healthy lives in my faith-filled fitness classes. My dream is to have my own faith and fitness TV show where people from all the world collectively join together on our "temple" building project of enjoying optimal health. I am a certified group fitness instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and earned graduate degrees in Writing from DePaul University, in addition to a degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the California University of Pennsylvania. I have seen and experienced the hand of God work and move in my life, and consider it an honor and blessing to be saved to serve.

  • Recent posts

  • Tags

  • Advertisement: