Before I start this post, I must say that I don’t have any health qualification. Everything that I say in the following post is my own opinion based on the observations of my own weight struggles.
One of the constants during my mental health treatment has been that I am not my illness. I HAVE depression, I am not depression. It helps to realise that we have an identity outside our mental illness. However that doesn’t really work for obesity. It’s not something that I have, it’s something that I am.
Obese is not all of who I am, I don’t magically become a better or worse person because of my weight, regardless of what certain psychiatrists believe. A person shouldn’t be judged on the weight that they are. Yet many people feel that they can and even have the right to judge someone because of their size.
The judgement seems to have pushed the belief that obesity is a disease on it’s own, something that I don’t believe. It is my belief that obesity is a symptom, it’s not a disease. I feel that labeling obesity as a disease in its own rights can be dangerous. I worry that some people will believe that because they now have an illness, that there is nothing they can doing about their health, because being obese is more about health and less about physical appearance.
I think that this line of thinking is wrong, that there is a reason that someone is obese but it doesn’t mean that it’s a disease. A reason that is often a lot more complex than ‘stop shoving burgers in your mouth’. There is a plethora of reasons that a person gains and is unable to lose weight. It’s only by finding these reasons that someone with weight issues can begin to move towards a healthier body. That’s why I am hesitant to call it a disease on its own.
Obesity is a symptom of something deeper, whether that be physical or mental and I think that those things are what we need to be focusing on. I don’t need to be labelled as diseased either by myself or the medical field. I don’t need another label to try and distance myself from.
Do you think that obesity is a disease?
Do you think more needs to be known about contributing factors to obesity?
I thought they meant obesity was a disease because of the health implications (on heart etc), not the actual becoming obese as a disease? Interesting post….(and happy new year to you)
I watched my mother struggle with obesity her whole life. Even her eye doctor who was an otherwise kind and considerate person used to tell she should lose weight. She was in her 80s. Didn’t it occur to him that maybe she had been trying her whole life and it just isn’t that easy.
I think this is a loaded topic. There are far too many variables to say any one certainty for the whole. I’m not even sure what would be defined as obese. Do we go by the BMI? Which I personally think is crazy anyway. If we do, then I have been obese. I have suffered anxiety and depression. Then I lost 12kgs which got me into the healthy for my height range, though only just. The BMI wanted me to be skinnier still. Was I the same person? As far as morals and beliefs go, yes I was. But I think I was a happier and more confident version of myself. I’ve since put 6kgs back on and again I feel my confidence slipping, my happiness fading. I think some people have genuine medical issues which makes it difficult (or impossible) to lose weight. But I wonder if some people might think if they have this “illness” then perhaps there is a cure? I think the most important thing is that we are healthy, no matter our size, and that we are happy. If we are happy and confident and healthy, it doesn’t matter what size clothes we wear. Great post – it’s made me start the day off thinking! 🙂 x Aroha (for #teamIBOT)
According to my BMI I am obese at the moment. To look at me though, I look overweight YES, obese NO. I also suffer with Depression and Anxiety but I don’t even say I have depression or anxiety. I say I am prone to Depression and Anxiety. I live my life in a way to manage these two t hings and keep them at bay. Neither being BMI obese, or being prone to depression and anxiety define who I am. I am no different to someone that has to live their life around diabeties or coeliac disease or with chalky bones. We all have things we have to live our life around. 😉 x
Interesting logic. As always, you are very thought provoking.
I have been every size between an 8 and a 24. I have suffered body image problems at every size.
This is a thought provoking piece… I guess I have always thought of obesity as a disease just like I would think of alcoholism as a disease. Both have pre determined genetic factors- some people are more likely to be obese than others.
I do agree that there is a lot of prejudice towards those with obesity… people often say they are worried for your health but at the same time I find often it is laced with judgement as there are plenty of other things that impact peoples health that doesn’t get focused on.
I choose not to look at the weight number anymore, the BMI whatever we get too focused on numbers. Do I feel good after I have exercised? Yes even though I totally grumble about doing it. It makes me feel like I am taking care of my body (that would be the endorphins talking) and that’s all that matters… that we’re happy and feel good whatever it takes to make us feel that way 🙂
I agree. It’s not a disease. I think it can be a symptom, definitely. I think alcoholism is a disease and a symptom. Judging people and labeling them is despicable. Happy new year Tegan. I hope this year is the best ever for you 🙂
I tend to agree with you on this one. I don’t think labelling it as a disease is helpful.
I wonder whether obesity is the symptom/result of addiction to food (sometimes complicated by genetic predisposition) and like any addiction – food, alcohol, drugs, internet is then a symptom of whatever lack or unhappiness a person feels or is underlying? It would be great if we (society) could separate definitions for medical conditions from negative labels that we give people. From a health perspective it is obviously very important that people understand that obesity is a risk factor to diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease but at the same time to define obesity itself as a disease is not helpful. In general I think we should be focusing more on preventative and holistic health of the whole person than a labelling and treatment approach to disease.
Hmmm. Now you’ve got me thinking …
To be honest I think that weight issues (whether weight gain or severe weight loss) are alarm bells to something greater. Whether it be mental of physical, the body’s response to certain factors often reflects itself in weight challenges.
I don’t know what the scientific definition of “disease” is. What makes a disease a “disease”?
But I personally don’t feel comfortable calling weight challenges a disease. There may be a disease which is causing weight challenges … much like referred pain …. but surely weight isn’t a disease in itself?
Great post. But stop making me think so much! Hurts my brain …
L x o x o
I understand the idea of labelling it a disease- apparently it would mean greater access to treatments. But yes, it may well be that it’s just a symptom and I agree- it’s not *who you are* and shouldn’t define you.
I agree wholeheartedly with you on this Tegan. Especially this bit…
“There is a plethora of reasons that a person gains and is unable to lose weight. It’s only by finding these reasons that someone with weight issues can begin to move towards a healthier body. ”
Weight issues are about so much more than simply eating less and moving more. I think the way our bodies look is so often in direct relation to how a person is thinking and feeling and there is no one size fits all solution, and certainly not another “disease” we need to label ourselves with.
I haven’t actually put a great deal of thought into it, honestly, but I think I agree with you. Giving it the name ‘disease’ does have the tendency to justify it for some. And it’s quite probably justifiable for some. But I think that you’re right in saying that it’s more likely a symptom, and that the reason why a person is obese is definitely worth exploring.
There’s so much to this issue though. It’s not clear cut in the least.
A Danish court recently ruled that obesity was a disability and it was discrimination to not modify his work responsibilities as a result. It’s not a stance I agree with but it opens the door for interesting debate in the area.
There is a growing body of evidence that long term obesity has more to do with genetics than what you put in your mouth. I don’t know whether that would make it a disease but it certainly makes it much more than a simple lack of self restraint, which it’s definitely not. #TeamIBOT
There are so many things I could say on this! As someone who has been in the “obese” category since the age of 4 (ish), I believe I have a unique view on this topic.
I wouldn’t call it a disease in and of itself. The health complications such as heart issues and diabetes, certainly. However, obesity itself, not so much.
That said Tegan, I disagree with you on your first statement about the identity of obesity. You freely state that your mental illness is not who you are. Well, I believe that obesity no more defines you than the mental health. You have fat. You are not fat. You have fingernails too, but you would never BE fingernails. The same principle you use for mental health works for this too. In my opinion. 🙂
I agree with you, I think it can be a symptom of a disease (like diabetes or a thyroid condition) but I don’t think its a disease on its own.
I’m not sure if I see obesity as a symptom or eating issues as a symptom. For me for anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating are all a symptom of something else. Unfortunately as a result, I’m obese.
Having said that I really dislike that word. I know that I fit into the category called ‘obese’ but I think I’d rather just be called fat. Obese feels more medical, more scientific and more like something that can / should be cured.
(See, I’m no help at all!)
I agree, obesity is not a disease it is a symptom of underlying things, as you said whether it is physical or mental .
I think obesity predisposes you to developing certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes but in itself I don’t believe obesity is a disease.
I agree with you on this one, I to suffer from depression, and i am over weight at the moment. However it does not define who I am and I am certainly not over weight because of being a lazy fat cow. No matter how hard I try at the moment with both diet and exercise I just can’t shift more than a few kilos.
Nobody should be defined by the way they look or by what illness they have, this is not who they are
Weight does not define who someone is… regardless of if they’re obese or super skinny. Who we are is defined by our actions! Happy new year xx
I agree with you. I believe it’s a symptom of something greater going on in the body. I’m overweight and despite breast feeding I have plateaued in the weight loss which means I need to watch what I eat and be a bit more active. The body can do strange things as well because some people put on weight due to thyroid issues and for some women menopause. All I know is that I dislike the labelling and much prefer to be healthier.
I agree with what you are saying. And one of the first circumstances that came to my mind is that of a fellow primary school student who suffers from muscular dystrophy. In early primary school he had leg braces and crutches to help him move around independently. By grade 4 he was wheel chair bound and as a result he began putting on even more weight. Now, I believe that his becoming obese was a direct result of his disease ‘Muscular Dystrophy’ and not that he got ‘Obese’ as a disease itself. Perhaps it is an epidemic, as it has been described. It is definitely a major health issue, but I personally wouldn’t call it a disease though.
I agree with you Tegan! I don’t think it’s a disease on its own and definitely a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be investigated. I also don’t believe that obesity can be determined by BMI… If that was the case then a lot of body builders and athletes would be considered obese due to their weight because of their muscle mass.