While fault cannot be pinned entirely on the individual, removing fault entirely is not the answer either.
Millions of Americans found out they had a disease last year. This disease came about thanks to the decision by the American Medical Association (AMA) classifying obesity as a “multi-metabolic and hormonal disease state.” What we are left with is the obesity disease.
The implications of labeling obesity a disease are many. For starters, it allows doctors to treat it as they would other diseases. They can chart progress, provide medication or surgical options, and possibility bill insurance companies for payment. Many doctors already treat secondary health complications due to obesity. Most of the focus, however, is outcome-based and in turn ignores the person.
The stigma of obesity has long been a problem in America. Americans are bombarded on a daily basis with images of thin models through television and magazine ads. Yet, while the female models in the ads are usually a size two or smaller, the average American woman is a size 14. This results in many women spending their lives on some type of diet in an attempt to become the “ideal size.”
Labeling Obesity a “Disease” is a Mistake.
Thirty years ago America did not have an obesity problem. Now, two-thirds of America is either obese or overweight. By its very nature the label of disease takes away all personal responsibility. The reason we have an obesity epidemic is because of personal choices, not some pathological process over which we have no control.
For example, smoking is not considered a disease but rather a personal choice. Smoking causes a variety of secondary problems including lung cancer and emphysema. Obesity, like smoking, results from choices. We choose the type and amounts of food we eat. It is not something out of our control.
By suggesting that obesity is a fixed disease state, you are changing the way a person responds to the condition of obesity. Why would that person attempt to manage their weight if they believe it is out of their control? In fact, a recent study found that “the obesity as a disease message increased body satisfaction among obese individuals, probably because it removed the shame of obesity as a moral failing.” It also resulted in “less healthy, higher-calorie food choices.”
There is no simple solution to the obesity epidemic. Americans have an embarrassing amount of food available to them. Drive-thru restaurants, like McDonalds, offer a variety of high-fat/high-calorie selections without even getting out of a car. People spend more time sitting than ever before. For the first time we are seeing diseases like hypertension and type two diabetes in children. While obesity cannot be entirely pinned on the individual, removing fault entirely is not the answer either.