It's official, the American Medical Association now recognizes obesity as a disease.
This is troubling to me for a number of reasons. Some of my reasons might be biased as my sister suffered from anorexia nervosa, but I thought I would share why I think it's a mistake to label obesity a disease.
There's no doubt about it, obesity does lead to other illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. It can cause all sorts of medical issues. So why do I disagree with the claim that it's a disease?
First, obesity is a label for someone who is extremely overweight. It's a medical term that doctors use to describe someone who is overweight. There are illnesses like binge eating disorder that can lead to obesity. Yet obesity is not always the result of excessive eating all day long. Sometimes it is the result of a lack of education about what foods to eat, not getting enough exercise or just making the wrong choices.
When someone is obese, they are in danger of other ailments but unlike anorexia nervosa, they're weight is not the result of constant obsessions. Anorexics have a disease of the mind... in general, obese people are not consciously trying to be the way they are.
I think we need more education about how to lose weight and to teach about the dangers of obesity and what it can lead to. Now, I'm afraid that doctors will think of medication or even worse, surgery, as an alternative to diet and exercise. In other words, doctors might look for a quick fix for the problem, rather than educating about lifestyle changes that will help people lose weight.
I would not like doctors to think of obesity as something like hypertension, something that can be fixed by popping a pill. I know that weight loss can be achieved from diet and exercise alone, as I've been there. I don't think there is a quick fix, but if doctors keep recommending gastric bypass, it will not fix the problem long term.
I think we need to educate about how to lose weight in a healthy way and forget about calling obesity a disease.