Official: Obesity is a Disease

The American Medical Association (AMA) has officially labeled obesity as a “disease.” A disease? Obesity is now on the same board as cancers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, pneumonia, chlamydia, herpes, and the list goes on and on. See the resemblance? I don’t either.

The AMA has changed the definition of obesity from a "major public health problem" to a "disease." A disease like addiction to drugs or alcohol, but to food. So every obese person is addicted to food? Not so. Does this updated definition benefit or stigmatize the growing population of obese people?

It has been argued that labeling the obesity as a "disease," will make it easier for doctors to have the conversation with patients about their weight. Easier than taking out that old scale called a BMI calculator that has black and white numbers of healthy weights, and as a result you're either underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. Easier than that? If your BMI is over 30, you're obese. Period. That's obesity, not thyroid disease, diabetes, heart disease, insulin resistance or whatever other conditions obese people say they have. The one thing those diseases have in common is obesity, but now obesity is just another disease to put on their bill.

It's a doctor's responsibility to tell a patient they aren't healthy. It can't possibly be more difficult to tell a patient they are obese than it is to tell a patient they have cancer. That is such a load of crap. They are just as obligated to tell a patient they're obese because it's their job, just as if the patient had cancer. Because the truth is, both could kill the patient. If you're obese and your doctor hasn't told you that you're obese, then it's time to find a new doctor because you're wasting your money. I'll call BS on this "disease" definition. It's an excuse that means higher insurance premiums, spending more time and money with doctors, seeing specialists and having expensive tests done.

If you called out sick from work because you have cancer, I'm sure your boss will understand. If you call out sick with obesity, you probably won't get the same response.

Posted by bigtex at June 19, 2013 8:10 PM
Comments
Comment #367532

Perhaps because obesity causes so many much more serious diseases?

Posted by: Marysdude at June 20, 2013 10:27 PM
Comment #367533

This is more of the communist culture of victimization and the total abolition of personal responsibility. If they label it a disease, that makes you a victim, and allows your medical care to be subsidized by the leftist/communist policy makers, which will result in free care or mandatory allotments for treatment, either way at taxpayer expense.

Now you get to proclaim, “My eating ice cream and McDonalds is not my fault, I have a disease! I can’t help myself!”

Prepare for the mentally retarded among us to defend this decision as wise… but see it for what it is: more vote buying for the Communist party.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at June 21, 2013 2:33 AM
Comment #367538

The best is yet to come.
As the ACA fails, it will cause taxes and premiums to keep rising. This will lead to insurance company and government ‘crack down’ and control of what we eat and drink.
Once taxes and premiums are totally unaffordable, people will get their “free” government health care and government will have total control to battle the obesity ‘disease’ and save money.

The obese whining for free government health care are soon going to be complaining about government not letting them sit on their butts and eat all day.

Posted by: kctim at June 21, 2013 10:09 AM
Comment #367541

I’d go even further; people should be able to figure out if they are overweight without a doctor telling them; and their incentive for addressing this, among other things, should be their health insurance premiums.

My nephew plays HS sports but, like me once, has poor endurance. Instead of being told to run every day to build it up, he got diagnosed with ‘exercise induced asthma’ and given some meds. Must be nice.

Posted by: Schwamp at June 21, 2013 12:55 PM
Comment #367542

Everything can be classified as either a disease or mental illness of some sort if you want to take it to that level. The question becomes who pays for the treatment. The system we have now and the one we are about to get does nothing to actually reduce health care costs. In both cases there are way too many people with their fingers in the pie trying to make a buck. There are only two real solutions; one being to go back to the days before health insurance and everyone pays their own doctor bills where they have some financial skin in the game or; a single payer system funded by a national sales tax that everyone pays. In every other scenario, some are paying through the nose, some are paying nothing and middlemen are making tons of cash in the process.

Posted by: JWL at June 21, 2013 3:10 PM
Comment #367543

We have made everything clinical.

Lazy - movement adverse syndrome
Stupid - cognitive challenged
Nasty - compassion deficit.

If you are fat, it is almost always your choices that made you that way. Look at the picture of your grandfather or grandmother at a similar age you are now. If they are not fat, it certainly not genetics.

People got fatter in the last few decades because of lifestyle changes. Laziness became accepted.

When I was in college, our four story buildings had elevators accessible with keys only to the handicapped. Normal people walked the stairs. Students generally had no cars and had to walk everywhere. If you wanted groceries, you carried them in a backpack.

But I also blame Pepsi Cola. In the great Cola wars, Pepsi suffered because of the shape of the bottle. Coke had that wonderful hourglass shape that sold soda. Pepsi figured if they made bottles bigger, Coke’s advantage would be gone. Much like a woman, when the hourglass shape grows too big, it looks bad. So Pepsi started to make two liter bottles. They relied on the concept of “unit gluttony”, i.e. you finish the package no matter how big. So people drank more soda. Others found the same idea. It costs not very much to add a little more and it worked. Now people pig down super sizes and still feel hungry.

Posted by: CJ at June 21, 2013 6:22 PM
Comment #367546

You’re right C/J…obesity as a prevalent disease is absurd. Why not claim pregnancy is a disease as well.

Do we know what causes obesity? Absolutely…more caloric intake than is needed by the body to support the level of activity.

Do we know what causes pregnancy? That one is doubtful as it appears than many folks are only able to deal with the consequences and have no clue as to prevention.

Where do children get the food that causes obesity? I don’t believe it is from school meals. Could it be from their parents?

If we wish to curb obesity in our children we should punish the parent that provides the means for that child to become obese and not the taxpayer who will be forced to pay the bill.

Posted by: Royal Flush at June 21, 2013 6:39 PM
Comment #367556

Calling it a disease doesn’t assign responsibility away from, or back to the person who suffers from it.

But treating this designation as if it does… One more reason to be irrationally angry about liberals among many. Some are fat because of their glands, and some are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little. Either way its a problem.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 22, 2013 2:01 AM
Comment #367557

Stephen

That glands thing is BS. Look at your grandparents. If they are were fat when they were in their 20s, it may be “glands” that are making you fat. If not, you just eat too much and move too little.

I lived in Norway in the 1980s. The joke was - unfortunately true - what do you call a fat person in Oslo? An American tourist.

My native state of Wisconsin has lots of Norwegian Americans. They are genetically identical to Norwegians in Norway. The two population look very different. It is possible that all the people with “gland” problems moved to the U.S., but that is a low probability.

Re calling it a disease - it does move responsibility. People with “diseases” can demand special treatment. Think of the controversy of the fat guys on airplanes. In Canada they are actually entitled to extra seats at no extra cost. In the U.S. fat people become disabled because of fat and then are given special parking places etc.

Enough of this. We SHOULD consider being fat a personal problem and tell them to get off their fat asses and stop it if they don’t like it.

In America you should be free to do what you want as long as you don’t bother others. This “don’t bother others” is important. I don’t care if people are fat. Just keep your mouth shut about the complaints. In fact, if you keep your mouth shut more you won’t be fat.

Let me add one more permutation. If we accept that fat is “normal” we encourage it. My mother was fat and my sister was too. Well-meaning people told her that it was just the way it was for her. It was not until she was 40 that she decided to take personal responsibility. She has now been thin for fifteen years. Being fat for most people is a choice and we should not call it a disease.

Posted by: CJ at June 22, 2013 7:07 AM
Comment #367562

CJ-
Can’t you look at any problem without taking it on a political basis first?

Look, our bodies evolved to deal with a situation where food insecurity was the rule rather than the exception, and where your daily activities would burn up a ****load of energy. Our ancestors in the 19th century and before actually consumed more calories per day. They just burned them up faster because they had to do all kinds of things.

It’s not a discipline problem, per se. Fewer of us engage in actual manual labor, and those of us who do are aided by machines, often enough, which do much of the work we once had to do by hand or by beasts of burden. Many of us, both in work and at play sit around an awful lot, burning fewer calories still. We eat more meat, what used to be a luxury before labor saving devices and factory farming made meat cheap.

Other nations where this has become a reality have seen similar increases in numbers of fat people.

Simple truth is, our metabolism is keyed towards fighting starvation. For the longest time, we had to deal with the fact that our stomachs would be empty for extended times, and then eat as much as we could when we could. But now this natural inclination meets with a situation where we’re food secure, and America, being especially wealthy, has far fewer people who have to wonder about where their next meal will come from.

Being overweight puts a strain on our systems. It makes the cardiovascular system work harder. It increases the likelihood of Type Two Diabetes. It increases the likelihood of sleep disorders, with follow on problems elsewhere. From that perspective, treating it as a disease is a no-brainer.

As for whether it’s normal? In my experience, normality emerges from a mix of experience and culture. Experience for many folks, young and old, will be that they will see more overweight and obese people around them. Culture will see to it that these same people will constantly see rail thin men and women, setting their expectations in a different direction, not necessarily in a healthy manner.

Yes, people should exercise more. Yes, they should moderate their diet. No, it’s not entirely about willpower, science has proven that with study after study. Yes, willpower plays a role, but willpower itself is limited when people are under stress and exhausted.

In other words, it’s complex, and I think any doctor will tell you it is. You shouldn’t be trying to reduce this to another tired, hackneyed critique of post-FDR society. Let the AMA, a society of doctors, call it a disease, and start helping us to solve the problem (as diseases are problems, rather than normal functioning).

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 22, 2013 9:13 AM
Comment #367564

Stephen

We conditions are officially designated, they get political constituencies and develop “rights”. That is how it becomes political.

You are right about the past. They didn’t have to make choices we do today. Nature and poverty disciplined people of even the recent past. Today, even the very poorest have access to massive quantities of food. Today WE make the choices.

Treating it LIKE a disease makes sense, assuming that you assume fat people are not completely competent to make their own choices. But treating it as a disease from the rights point of view or to shift responsibly is a very bad idea.

Re ” Experience for many folks, young and old, will be that they will see more overweight and obese people around them.” You are exactly right, which is why we need to be vigilant. We should NEVER define fat as normal.

As you know, I live outside the U.S. often. When I come back to the U.S., I am always surprised how fat people are. Worse, I see people eating as they walk or as they wait in airports etc. Just stop it.

We NEED to stigmatize being fat. We should not tolerate the weakness it entails. It is not helpful to enable fat people to get fatter. A NORMAL person is not fat. Unfortunately, an average American probably is.

Posted by: CJ at June 22, 2013 9:34 AM
Comment #367565

CJ-
I’ve had my troubles. I think you’re dreaming if you think it isn’t already stigmatized. Truth is, though, people also stigmatize those who eat healthy, or advise healthy eating. We eat like we’re working on the farm or in the factory, and then sit at a computer all day, or couch potato it.

We put ourselves through a lot of stress, which depletes our reserve of self control, we do a lot of things.

I’m not saying that we’re not responsible. Far from it. But defining Obesity as a disease? I don’t have a problem with that, and I don’t think it normalizes it.

We need to start dealing with problems, rather than trying to do social engineering on a nation of free people. Get the kids exercising, get them eating right early. A study actually showed that doing so early actually made it to where those children would develop into adults who could consume more calories and put on less weight.

As I said before, it’s complicated, and you’re reducing it to another hate-letter to the liberal society you blame for so many other problems. Why don’t we deal with the problem for what it is in and of itself? Why don’t we acknowledge the condition for what it is, the wellspring of a number of other problems, all of which could be reduced in our society if we got at the problem of Obesity.

Whether it’s teaching people how to employ discipline, how to lead a more active life (even it if just consists of getting up and moving around for significant portions of an hour), or changing food policy to encourage healthier choices, we need to recognize the problem we’re facing, not put blinders on so we can continue our self-serving moralism.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 22, 2013 10:13 AM
Comment #367568

Stephen

“depletes our reserve of self control” - in my experience, self control doesn’t get depleted by use. In fact, it is more like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it.

Many fat guys know little about either working out or self control and so they miss the point.

Re kids exercising - this is a un-PC thing to say. One problem is mixing boys and girls in gym class. If boys are running at the same pace as girls, most of the boys are running too slow. Genders are not equal in this respect.

We should also have gym classes in school and not that “relaxing” shit. When I was growing up, my friends and I could all to 40 pushups and 10 chin ups. This was the minimum and can be achieved by almost everyone. Today, I doubt that 10% of the kids can achieve this. But every healthy person can work up to both those things. That is the beauty of it. It is democratic and achievable.

One thing we might do is move parking places farther away. Don’t have elevator for less than four or five floors. And just say no to the next burger.

Posted by: CJ at June 22, 2013 11:07 AM
Comment #367569

So who decides obesity is a disease? Not Obama, nor the Federal government. It was the AMA, an organization of medical professionals. Why, because “The organization doesn’t have any kind of official say in the matter, but it’s influential nonetheless, and the vote of the AMA’s policy-making House of Delegates is one more step in the evolution of social attitudes towards obesity.”
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama

Yet Yukon Jake claims it is the communist. Kctim would have us believe it is a government plot to crack down on what we eat. Royal tells us it was done to force the taxpayer to foot the bill. Follow the money trail and get over your silly government plot nonsense.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 22, 2013 11:05 PM
Comment #367570

j2t2

Nobody blames Obama. It is part of this silly trend to making every human activity clinical. The danger is not calling a disease per se. The danger is that in our overextended state “diseases” often get government support and create rights for the “sufferers” and obligations for others.

I don’t think this is a plot to get government to foot the bill, but it is likely to work out that way. It certainly will create pressure to include being fat as something insurance should pay to reduce.

It is just bad for humanity to claim that something so obviously lifestyle based and simply by changing habits is a disease.

Most of us struggle to remain fit. It is part of the human condition. The fact that fat people already add to the burdens of our health care system should be a source of anger for most of us. Indeed, they should act more responsibly. But it is up to the fatty. The “treatment” consists of eating less and moving more.

Maybe the treatment should be thinks like special parking places much farther from the the malls.

Posted by: CJ at June 23, 2013 7:12 AM
Comment #367603

C&J-
You’re not completely wrong. But our body insists on certain things, regardless of our level of self control. We have the strength to fight it most when we haven’t been having to spend it on something else. Stressed people do eat more.

And really, I don’t think Republicans are exactly the poster children for self control. Anybody says, much less does anything about what people eat, what people smoke, what people drink, and the Republicans get bent out of shape.

We have culture that doesn’t put a real premium on restraining one’s impulses, and I’d say partisan lines of division don’t really factor into that. You know, sometimes, two different sides of a generation aren’t really so different as they’d like to think. They adapt to certain events that both have to deal with, so they evolve in ways that are roughly equivalent, even if they’re in different directions.

I think labeling obesity as a disease will mean better treatment.

You think of things from a standard model perspective. My perspective is that you have a combination of wide variety of cultural environments combined with a varied gene pool that gives people varying neurological predilections, and metabolic capabilities to deal with the result. So, some people are dealt a great hand, and some people a lousier one. Add to that the fact that people have a lot to eat, and the cheapest food isn’t necessarily the best, and American cultures is not big on impulse control, and you’ve got a bunch of complex reasons from which emerge greater obesity.

I don’t think saying “obesity is a disease” means “obese people are victims who need to be coddled.” It means you approach it differently than you might, say, the tendency of people to dump their leaves in the storm drain.

The body will fight people with these kinds of health problems. We need to acknowledge that.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 24, 2013 11:53 PM
Comment #367685

Stephen

Bottom line is that the fat person is the one who has to do the changing. Whether you want to say it is his fault or not, the fatty holds all the cards that might change his fate.

People were not so fat years ago. Many people are not fat today. Nobody can be fat unless they eat too much. Just drop the donut, fat-boy and the future is yours.

Posted by: CJ at June 26, 2013 6:45 PM
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