Recently the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to label obesity a disease. There are many that think this was a long time coming. Several other national organizations have already designated obesity as a disease like the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Social Security Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Why is this important? Medical reimbursement. It is a way to get the government and health insurance providers to pay our medical bills. In reality, they have already been paying the bills but under a different name: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke, to name a few.
There are many, however, who do not agree with this labeling. Even within the AMA the very committee that was asked to research the issue voted not to recommend the designation partly because the way obesity is determined is according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) and many experts do not think this is an effective tool for assessment. Additionally, Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, explains in a recent interview with US News & World Report that disease is when the body malfunctions and obesity is as a result of turning calories into body fat, which is a normal function of the body. He has further explained that obesity is a societal problem, not a disease. We have access to an abundance of food and we live of a life of too little activity.
In thinking about this issue and how I feel about it as a person struggling with obesity, I have a a few thoughts. I am fortunate because I am a healthy person. I do not have the added challenges of heart disease or diabetes. However, my cholesterol is a little high, my sugar level is borderline and my blood pressure, although still in the normal range, has creeped up over the years. I spend a lot of time on what I eat and I exercise regularly. I also read daily about weight management tips and tools and what the latest issues are regarding the obesity epidemic. Obesity may not be a physical disease but if all of us are losing the battle against it, there is indeed a problem. A big problem. It is a societal disease of malaise. So many of us suffer from the consequences of obesity from heartburn, to sleepless nights to loneliness or being bullied. There are very few of us who love being “fat”. If we don’t like it, don’t want it and yet still struggle with losing weight and keeping it off, it is obvious there is something wrong with “us”. In reality I don’t think it is a pill or an operation that will fix us. We live in a super-sized world and we are enticed daily by its abundance.
Until we right-size our world, our bodies will continue to expand and trigger the diseases we dread. We need to be served meals that are serving sizes, not enormous portions. We need plates that are shrunk back to a size where a regular serving looks like enough. We need food companies to package foods according to recommended servings and calories so we know what we are eating. And we need a community that supports individuals and families in finding fresh food and knowing how to fix healthy meals at home. It is not a pill that will help us, it is a healthy lifestyle.