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Last year (2013) the American Medical Association (AMA) declared that obesity is now officially a disease.
With approximately 1 in 3 Americans considered clinically obese, this decision was always going to come sooner rather than later.
Supporters of the decision claim it will help with how obesity is perceived – as an illness/disease, rather than through overeating and lack of exercise.
My immediate reaction was simply, disbelief.
Declaring obesity as a disease suggests it can only be ‘treated’ as opposed to ‘prevented’ in the first place.
Does this decision not simply vindicate a lifestyle of little exercise, bad eating choices and lack of nutritional education?
I can’t help but think the obesity epidemic will actually get worse because of the AMA’s stance, rather than improve the situation.
Preventing obesity rather than treating it should surely be the focus.
What Is A Disease?
According to the Oxford Dictionary a disease is:
A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.
Based on the definition above, obesity may very well be considered a disease.
It is brought on through the disorder of diet/food choices, disorder of our hormonal responses to food, and disordered use of the food we eat – energy/fuel/fat/absorption.
Obesity also results in other more serious diseases such as heart disease, strokes, liver disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
But obesity is not a disease in the sense we understand the definition to be, and by labeling it as such, we subconsciously make the following assumptions:
- Obesity is not under our control – we don’t choose to be obese.
- Obesity can only be treated through medication and expensive prescribed drugs. We can’t possibly treat ourselves through improved nutritional choices and education!
- Disease is often terminal, leading to death. It brings a sense of despair and hopelessness.
So by labeling obesity as a ‘disease’, may simply encourage people to stop helping themselves and to rely on the intervention of prescribed drugs.
They can’t do anything about it – it’s a disease, so why try to fix it?
This subconscious thought process will merely enable more people to reach obesity levels without feeling guilty.
Fat kids at school won’t just be labeled as ‘fat’ but fat and sick! Child’s self esteem ‘zero’ – AMA’s tick-in-the-box ‘1’.
Obesity and Profit
The AMA’s decision to re-define obesity, has opened the flood-gates for drug companies to manufacture expensive, and untested obesity drugs.
Profits in the weight-loss industry already run into the billions, and now ‘Big-Pharma’ can cash in on a monumental scale.
Just like statins are making big-pharma billions of dollars through unnecessary and potentially dangerous drugs, so the next wave of obesity drugs will do the same.
Instead of doctors educating obese patients in lifestyle changes, exercise and nutritional advice, they can now prescribe a course of drugs – ca-ching!
Then there are the inevitable medical claims for surgery, counseling and drugs.
The ‘blame’ culture are going to have a ‘field-day’, pushing up the cost of health care and health insurance.
The Internal Revenue Service in the US has already said that obesity treatments can qualify for tax deductions.
The healthier you try to be, the worse off financially you are.
How crazy is that?!
BMI and Obesity
Fat levels and obesity are measured using the Body Mass Indicator (BMI) chart.
This system of measurement is flawed on a number of levels and can result in perfectly healthy individuals being classed as obese.
Be under no illusion, the majority of doctors won’t hesitate in recommending obesity drugs to anyone who falls into the ‘obese range’ on the BMI scale.
The Obesity Cure
Stopping eating so much shit and take more exercise!
It’s as easy as that, isn’t it?
We often associate obesity with a lack of willpower. Just do this, and just do that, and you’ll lose weight.
It’s obviously not as easy as that, otherwise we wouldn’t have this epidemic we have now.
The food and drug industry, along with the medical profession, must also stand up and be counted as contributing factors to rising obesity levels.
There is so much bad and conflicting advice regarding nutrition, it’s no wonder waist lines have expanded.
Foods such as fruit juice, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes are viewed as health foods, and for most people they form the basis of almost every meal.
Essentially these carbohydrate rich foods turn into fructose sugar, which unless burned as fuel, is stored in the body as fat.
Hidden sugar in foods and drinks is a massive contributor to obesity and other diseases, and yet we continue to consume more of it.
Low Fat = More Fat
It’s no coincidence that since we became obsessed with eating a low-fat diet, obesity levels have risen dramatically.
Although we need fat in our diet for optimal health, we have been bombarded with government ‘low-fat’ campaigns for years.
By taking away fat from food, manufacturers had to replace it with something else – sugar!
Sugar (often alongside dangerous vegetable oil) is added to virtually every type of processed food.
The answer isn’t to look for the ‘low’ or ‘zero-fat’ option in foods, it is to buy whole, unprocessed foods and foods that contain natural, healthy fat.
All the evidence points towards sugar (hidden or added) as the single biggest contributor to rising obesity levels and other diseases – including cancer.
These issues, plus living with stress and getting inadequate sleep at night, all have significant consequences on our weight.
Whether you live in the US, Canada, Europe, or any other westernized country in the world, the correct medical advice and education regarding weight gain, is still a long way off.
Whether you believe obesity to be a disease or not, most people’s current lifestyle has to change in order to reverse the trend.
Photo credit: Tobyotter via Foter.com / CC BY