The American Medical Association (AMA) announced last week that obesity is now a disease. Despite the panel of experts who were against the classification, delegates from the AMA voted in favor of it. The AMA is not an arm of the government that regulates laws, but it does greatly influence government officials, politicians, and of course, authorities in the medical world.
According to the CDC, obesity is defined by one's height-to-weight ratio, or body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese. To measure your BMI, here is a handy little calculator to use. Where do you fall on this spectrum? If you sit at 30 or more, up until last week you were probably considered fat. Today you are sick.
Obesity, in general, is a lifestyle-related concern, but it is not a disease. There is no doubt obesity is a widespread epidemic, affecting 90 million Americans. But to consider obesity an official sickness like cancer, gingivitis or the common cold is going too far.
Sickness and disease require some dependence on medical intervention. Obesity has been somewhat medicalized for decades. Weight loss surgeries and medications are on the way up. Is it a coincidence that the FDA just approved the first weight loss drug in years, Belviq, a couple weeks ago? Those in favor of the new classification say it will encourage doctors to be more prepared and knowledgeable in how to treat obese patients. Perhaps, but how? And what would be easier? Spending enough time with patients to get them on the fast track of eating right and exercising more, or prescribing a weight loss drug that will help manage the problem for the time being?
We Know What To Do
I started working with a new client about four months ago. When we started working together, he would have been considered obese - and significantly so. Today the same client is no longer obese. He cured his own sickness by eating right and moving a little more. He also managed to get off of high blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Totally cured. No wicked side effects either, like headaches, gas, joint pain, memory loss, mood disorders, gall stones, or any of the other common side effects of medicalized obesity treatment.
This person was obese for 25 years. He's no spring chicken and had some poor habits that needed a lot of change. With a little help from me and a lot of stick-toitiveness of his own, he did it. He always knew what do, but just never made the change. At last he did and is much healthier for it.
Recognizing the Problem
If I walk into a fast food restaurant, order a shake and a big burger, I should not be surprised by the 1300 calories that goes along with it. I should also not be surprised by the incredible amount of sodium, sugar and refined carbohydrate that comes with it, too. But if eat do it once, I'll probably eat it again and again. Behaviors toward eating, and certainly behaviors toward exercise needs serious modifications. Diet-related obesity is caused by eating too much food, probably poor quality, and not moving as much. This needs to change. There is no mystery about this.
Call careless eating risky behavior that can hurt your body, but don't call it a disease.
Who's Off The Hook?
Obese people are now the spotlight of this new disease. The brunt of the repair work, or at least managing it, is on the doctor and patient. Unless that team is working very well together with regular communication, it's more than an uphill battle. It would be easy for someone like me to say, "just eat right, move more and your problems will be solved." That's true, but most people are misinformed by what "eating right" really is. Very intelligent, bright people are misguided by food advertising. In fact, billions of dollars are spent every year trying to persuade people like you and me that if we eat "this" we'll be healthier. So we eat "this"...a lot of it, and we gain weight. Or we "that" because it has no calories, or no fat, but we still can't shed a pound.
We don't eat food in this country. We eat food products. There is a very big difference between the two. Food is, well, food. It's whole, generally clean and not sourced from 30 different byproducts compacted into one spoonful. On the flip side, food products are not food. They're a conglomeration of artificial flavors, colors and fats. They're scraps from old food products in fancy packaging. Food scientists spend years synthesizing a flavor that will create an addiction, urging us to come back for more and more. Food advertisers spent countless hours with focus groups figuring out which ad trips or triggers best. We're far too lenient and permissive with what we allow in our food products in the United States.
I'm very anxious to see what will happen over the next few months in light of this new categorization. I'm equally anxious to see how this will play out in 2014 with all the new changes coming to healthcare.
What do you think? Should obesity be considered a disease?
How can I help you reach your ideal weight or get you fit? Check out my weight loss and fitness coaching services and let me know.
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.