Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Obesity Shouldn't Be a "Disease"

Categorization can have all sorts of ramifications. Observant Jews are aware of this, as most of us have one foot in the secular world and another in the religious. 

For instance, in a minor way, modern science classifies whales as mammals, whereas any creature that dwells only in water is a fish, to a rabbi. Then there is the major halachic aspect, like the rabbis deciding to classify the new invention of harnessed electricity as "fire," making it verboten on Shabbos. 

The American Medical Association decided to label "obesity" as a disease, claiming this way it will receive higher priority by the medical world for research. But as Crystal Hoyt and Jeni Burnette report, it's not a good move

Validation can be a dangerous thing. With validation can come complacency. The mental health field contains enough patients who want a sympathetic ear, not emotional tools to move forward; they dwell in the past, instead of progressing towards the future. 
There are those who blame every character "quirk" on their traumatic upbringing; I empathize, I do. But you're 60. You are choosing to focus on that which was out of your control decades ago instead of enjoying life now

As Hoyt and Burnette concluded, once obese individuals were informed that their condition was a disease, not as a result of lifestyle choices, they ceased to consider the caloric content of their meals. 
To be fair, any decision that involves an issue that cuts across physiological and psychological conditions will involve complications and trade-offs. Our research highlights one of these: Calling obesity a disease may make people feel better about their bodies, but it also may contribute to the maintenance, rather than reduction, of obesity.
Ideally, we would have a public health message that leads to a decrease in self-blame and stigma while at the same time promoting adaptive self-regulation and weight loss — both equally important components of the fight against the obesity epidemic. We’ve yet to find an answer to this dilemma.
While I read articles about weight-loss drugs currently in the works, I shake my head. In nearly every aspect of medicine, if a condition can be solved without pills, that is always the ideal. While drugs can do amazing things nowadays, they should not be taken unnecessarily—the list of potential side effects is enough to scare the willies out of me.

We all know what the best way is. Check out Rena's "8 Week Get Healthy Plan" for tips and inspiration. Remember, it's not about weight loss, it's about getting healthy. 


Daniel Saunders said...

I agree with most of what you’ve written here, but I disagree with the paragraph about validation, particularly “With validation comes complacency”. It would be more accurate to say “with validation can come complacency.”

Where someone has been made to feel totally inadequate from a young age then some kind of therapeutic validation is probably necessary to build self-esteem as a stop along the way to becoming a well-adjusted person who does not need external validation and who is able to live life a healthy way. In these cases you need to address the root cause of the problem otherwise healthy diets, exercise routines etc will just fail.

Princess Lea said...


However, in the cases of those with overeating issues (such as myself), food is just an activity, something to do. I had a healthy, non-traumatic childhood, but I just really like food. It takes self-control to hold back, which is what I do. I would say developing self-control, as opposed to discovering a psychological cause, would be a more effective means of long term success.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Obesity is a disease. In some it's genetic, in some it's lifestyle but considering all the other illnesses it directly leads to you can't ignore it as a disease.

Princess Lea said...

I would call it more a causality.

Obesity causes many diseases, and in most cases extreme weight gain doesn't happen if someone is consuming a sufficiently healthy diet.

If you cross the street without bothering to check both ways, chances are you will get creamed by a bus. Is being irresponsible a disease?

Next it will be said that a lack of self-control is a disease, too.