Obesity a disease? Come on, really?

Let me start by saying I absolutely believe that some people’s struggle with their weight is a result of a specific disease. But as a personal trainer and fitness advocate, I know firsthand that lifestyle changes (nutrition and exercise choices) play a significant role in keeping obesity at bay for most people.

Last month the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest physician group, officially recognized obesity as a disease. Heavy debate has surrounded this issue for years.

Proponents maintain that it will help focus medical attention on obesity and help remove the stigma that’s associated with it—changing the perception that it is simply the result of eating too much or exercising too little.  The political and financial implications are substantial as it could help improve reimbursement for obesity drugs, surgery and counseling. Obesity treatments already qualify as tax deductions.

The AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health, which was commissioned to study the issue last year recommended against obesity being considered a disease primarily because the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index (B.M.I.), is simplistic and flawed. Using this grossly inaccurate diagnostic tool, treatments might be given to some perfectly healthy people with high B.M.I.s while others with low B.M.I. and dangerous levels of body fat and metabolic problems might be overlooked.

“Medicalizing” obesity by declaring it a disease immediately classifies one-third of Americans as “diseased”(36% according to the Center for Disease Control). This designation will exponentially grow the number of treatments and surgeries (the obesity health market) and increase the financial toll on the economy. (I’m guessing the political pressure was “ big” on this given all the pharmaceutical and device companies (lapband) that will reap the profits.) Again, I’m not debating that some obese people suffer from very specific hormonal / glandular and metabolic conditions and require treatment. I’m questioning  the prudence of lumping all obese people into this general disease category, without being able to truly substantiate their disease status. Suddenly all obese people are victims, absolved not only of any personal responsibility for their condition, but also robbed of their personal efficacy to positively effect change  in their lives and their futures on a very basic level.

The obesity disease classification is in perfect sync with the “the take the easy way out, just give me a pill or schedule my surgery, victim mentality”.  This mindset is a pervasive, ugly and very real disease that is eating away at the spirit of our country.

Let’s face it; obesity / the diabetes epidemic  is not a disease that goes back through the ages.It is a condition of 21st Century Westernized Civilizations. What does that tell you? Clearly it is not a disease of the body; it is the disease of our culture and our minds. It’s our over indulgences – horrendous diets (fast, processed, junk foods) and our  under indulgence in an active lifestyle  (excessive inactivity tv, video games, desk jobs). Soda, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, MSG, these are some of the worst culprits. I’m not saying that the deck is not stacked against us – food scientists have been working for decades to create the addictions that keep us feeding our fixes. And now, big pharma, medical device and healthcare companies are joining with the mega food corporations in a gluttonous, greedy frenzy that is destroying our bodies, wallets & psyches. Let’s push back (from the table) together and regain our personal power, health and wellness. Quick, let’s do it before they classify laziness as a disease.

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