What does obesity mean now that it has been labelled a disease?
A year ago, I went through some major life changes and was very stressed out. My lack of activity due to several back surgeries coupled with eating junk food, too much fatty meats and nights of dinners and drinks took a toll on my body. By September, I had gained 30 pounds, had a cholesterol level of 330 and my blood pressure was borderline high.
I didn’t know quite where to start, all my doctor’s told me was that if I didn’t change, they would put me on medication, that seemed to be the only solution. That scared me so much, but I still didn’t know where to begin. I wasn’t referred to a nutritionist, a psychologist, or any other weight related behavior modification treatment.
I was depressed and anxious. My clothes didn’t fit right and trying to reward myself with a scone and latte every morning weren’t helping. I obtained a copy of my medical records and obesity was a diagnosis… I was wearing size 14 jeans and didn’t feel it was so bad since I wasn’t shopping in the “plus” size department. I was in total denial.
Luckily, I started the year cutting back on anything white – white flour products, white sugar, and high fat dairy. I started drinking a protein shake that was high in fiber and dropped 23 pounds in three months. My cholesterol level dropped 100 points and the doctor’s office was shocked and just said, “Keep doing whatever you are doing!” But they didn’t ask me what I was doing.I recently adopted a rescue dog so that I walk three times a day, 20 minutes each time.
About two weeks ago, the American Medical Association found it necessary to identify obesity as a disease as it is the number one cause of death through cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the country. This really made me start thinking about the ramifications of what this means to the average person who accepts weight gain as a product of aging.
The pharmaceutical companies make a fortune on high blood pressure medications, cholesterol lowering medications, heart surgeries (sometimes numerous), diabetes and the reimbursement doctor’s receive for all of these services. Obesity is a huge industry…and several industries benefit from poor eating habits.
But there is another side to this decision. Obesity in children has been on the rise for a few decades now. Our fast food culture has taken over healthy meals, even frozen dinners. Are insurance companies going to start reimbursing for weight loss treatments outside of bariatric surgeries? More importantly, are junk food companies going to stop making products with corn syrup? This syrup destroys the liver and sends no signal to the brain that someone is full after eating. That’s why it is so easy to eat a whole bag of chips, a pint of ice cream, a box of cookies, and fast food.
With health care reform looming over us, what does making obesity mean to individuals who feel they just can’t help themselves or their children? If someone has to be over 18 to buy cigarettes and over 21 to purchase alcohol, should there be an age limit on food that is labeled with high calories, cholesterol, trans fats and sugar? Are parents going to face removal of their children from their home for not controlling what they eat?
I remember when my son was in elementary, middle and high school, physical education classes were eliminated due to budget cuts. Vending machines loaded with candy and sodas were all over the schools. The “student store” (a place to buy school supplies and some snacks) was loaded with more junk food, and it was owned by a third party not affiliated with the school district.
It was very difficult to keep my son active and on a healthy diet while working full time. He chose to eat healthy on his own and ride his bike constantly. He’s in great health, but unfortunatly not everybody makes this choice.
There are a myriad of treatments for obesity, diabetes and unhealthy cardiovascular diseases associated with obesity besides bariatric surgery. Many times, when bariatric surgery is used, the food addiction is transferred to alcohol. If reimbursement for obesity treatment is increased and included in health insurance that Americans are going to be mandated to purchase in 2014, there may be a light at the end of this tunnel.
Falling into the trap myself due to stress and depression was quite surprising since I have been active all my life. However, my father did have his first heart attack at age 42 so I do know that there are some bad genetics that I face, and genetics does play a part in these diseases.
Preventive measures to obesity are key to preventing the more serious diseases but the reimbursement for these preventive measures need to be included and increased. If physicians (including pediatricians) are reimbursed for behavior modification treatments and patients see their doctors more frequently, there is more accountability.
But what about all the “fake food” someone sees at the grocery store, convenience stores, gas stations and coffee joints? Should these businesses be held accountable as well? I have to go to the very back of the grocery store to buy broccoli and an apple… what if they were near the checkout stand?
There is only so much obese individuals can do without proper treatment and ongoing therapies. My insurance limits physical therapy to 20 sessions a year and only for injuries… Obesity could change dramatically if once a week, patients went to physical therapy and were held to some kind of accountability.
My real concern is for children and their parents, and how the Department of Children’s Services is going to hold parents responsible for their child’s weight when the temptation for everything bad is everywhere and has little to do with parenting. Physical Education needs to be a daily class for a start. Junk food needs to be banned from schools and school lunches need to be altered from pizza, burgers, hot dogs and chicken strips into healthier choices. How hard is it to make a turkey sandwich?
The food industry is huge and abusive. Individuals are stuck in the middle of this conundrum and at this point, insurance companies will pay for bariatric surgery, which does help some but why go to such an extreme? I expect to see changes but are they going to be the right ones? Are they going to be helpful or punitive? Are the pharmaceutical and food corporations going to modify what they do as well? Only time will tell, but the decision by the American Medical Association should be a concern for all Americans. I expect many will be held accountable for not controlling their eating habits.
http://www.webmd.com/ – has a diet and exercise calculator that helps track progress