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Heavyweights Tackle The Discrimination Of The Lean And Mean

SAN FRANCISCO (dpa) – Like many of her fellow Californians, Amanda Wylie admits to being a fitness fanatic. She goes boxing, jogging, does yoga or aerobics, and lifts weights five times a week.

Yet the 29-year-old’s weight of 114 kilos does not match her image as a sportswoman and hardly lends itself to all those trendy stretch outfits worn in fitness studios and videos.

“Being fit and fat do not exclude each other”, says Wylie who has been battling her bulge since she was a child and started working as a sports instructor in her spare time after several unsuccessful diets.

A few months ago, she joined forces with the “fatties movement” which has been gaining in numbers recently and has pledged itself to fight discrimination and achieve equality with slim people. Wylie supports her friend the 108 kilo aerobic fan Jennifer Portnick.

She has lodged a discrimination complaint against a fitness company under a two-year-old “fat and short law” in San Francisco.

Jennifer, a 38-year-old heavyweight and computer specialist, has been doing aerobics for 15 years, trains six days a week and teaches fitness classes on a honorary basis.

Yet when she applied for a job as an aerobics teacher, she was rejected because she did not “look” fit enough. Instead of coming to terms with her fate, Jennifer turned to the human rights commission in San Francisco. They are due to make a decision in her case by the end of April.

Until then, her lawyer does the talking. “According to San Franciscan law, a person’s weight should not be a deciding factor on acceptance for a particular job as long as the applicant meets the job requirements”, says Sandra Solovay. Despite her weight, Jennifer is an excellent aerobics teacher which her pupils and colleagues will be only too happy to confirm.

According to state estimates, about 60 per cent of U.S. citizens or 127 million people are overweight. The minister for health recently spoke of an “obesity epidemic” and called on his fellow citizens to exercise more.

However, Amanda points out that fat people not only have to cope with pounds but with prejudice and rejection, too. She once overheard an onlooker make fun of the “fat boxer” while she gave lessons in a boxing ring at a fitness studio.

Some days, she feels comfortable with her weight but then on other days, she can hardly endure the stares, says the Californian. She is lucky to have the constant support of her trainer and pupils.

After several futile diets, Amanda hopes to lose weight gradually by doing sports regularly. She has given up counting calories and cannot do without a glass of beer in the evenings.

“I have to work harder than thin people, but I train my heart, change fat into muscle and am much fitter than many people think on first glance”, says Amanda. She tries to be a role model for children especially in her function as a health advisor.

Kelly Brownell, a specialist for eating and weight disorders at Yale university stands by her telling the San Francisco that “many heavy people are fit.”

More and more researchers feel that one can be fat and fit simultaneously.

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