The Athlete's Way

Sweat and the biology of bliss

Will Labeling Obesity as a Disease Backfire?

A new study has found that labeling obesity as a disease has an unexpected psychological backlash among some obese individuals. Read More

It took an entire study to figure this out?

Anyone could have told you that telling obese people that their obesity is the fault of their bodies and not their responsibility would turn most of them into helpless victims who continue to stuff their face with as much unhealthy food as they desire.

This isn't rocket science. People like to eat tasty unhealthy food. People don't like to eat lean proteins and eat more vegetables. Giving some people an excuse to behave badly is exactly what they are seeking. Calling what ails them a disease is the worst solution ever, although horrifically politically correct.

Couldn't have said it better.

I absolutely agree with this comment. I think it's a negative trade-off: they don't get their feelings hurt or "body shamed", but then they also accept it as a hopeless situation, staying in their unhealthy habits.

Diet and exercise, people. Except for a few specific cases, there is no real secret. Just eat right and exercise.

Calling people 'obese' aids defining them as disease

Many fat people object to the idea of weight as disease it is a nonsense, has neither scientific nor medical validity whatsoever. We were not asked, this is a product of the medical complex. Also, the AMA is not the first to define fat people as disease the WHO did it way before.

Those who keep calling people 'obese', another imposition outside any consent have aided this process. If being a person isn't disease then why call anyone 'obese' in the first place? What's it for apart from suggesting that being fat is disease?

Labeling......Not HELPFUL.

That what we are saying. That when our bodies are a certain % of weight over and above what is regarded as healthy for us....that medically we are in a more high risk place that we term Obese. At one level it really does not matter what we decide to call this state of being......if people do not see it as something that is contributing to their lack of well being, and causing serious health problems in the long run. The same can happen if one is malnourished...which many are while being Obese. Perhaps we need to name this differently.....people are carrying too much weigh for many reasons....a small % of who have no physical control over the issues....and others either no psychological control, or lack the knowledge to make the changes that are needed. Public information and assistance with healthy eating options at the point of sale could be made available to everyone. People who are Obese...overweight....know they are and are also looking for models of self control. Attributing blame to a person already in pain is never going to produce results.

The way people are defined is the issue

I agree, the issue isn't names, it's the definition of bodies, therefore people as disease. This is not applied to those in the 'underweight' category.

The weight/risk graph is U shaped and the risks are relative to the centre, not absolute. That means they're higher than a relatively low risk. That is not a diagnosis. e.g. people of low socio-economic status have poorer health overall than middle class people.

That doesn't mean being a person of LSES are disease. It's similar with being thinner or fatter than average. This matters for obvious reasons. Defining people as disease when they're not, does them harm, it's called iatrogenic.

The point about weight is it's the product of your metabolic function. Not only has that not been mapped out anatomically. We don't know how to directly alter its function up or down. Changing what you eat is indirect and doesn't work, the body's defences stymie it.

Self control has got nothing to do with it, if it did, results would vary accordingly. As it is, the results are predictable regardless of personal qualities. For some reason people have decided to be extraordinarily churlish and deny this, to the extent of now labeling fat people mentally unbalanced, 'addicts' etc., Anything to avoid accepting fundamental truths about biological function.

When I consider what fat people accept from others its dishonourable to put it mildly.

The Pros & Cons

While the AMA considered labeling obesity as a disease, I participated in a lively LinkedIn discussion, which prompted a useful article on the Pros & Cons. See

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Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist.


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