The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease.
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the association’s board, said in a statement. She suggested the new definition would help in the fight against Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are linked to obesity. –– NYTimes
Now the real fun begins.
Because this is really a judgment call — there’s no universally accepted definition of a disease, and the term “obesity” is usually applied based on Body Mass Index (BMI), a simplistic calculation that often describes otherwise healthy people — not everybody is happy with this. Fat Activists point out that
… “medicalizing” obesity by declaring it a disease would define one-third of Americans as being ill and could lead to more reliance on costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes. Some people might be overtreated because their B.M.I. was above a line designating them as having a disease, even though they were healthy.
Love the term “Fat Activists.” While these aren’t necessarily avoirdupoidically blessed individuals — although all the ones I’ve ever met are of cattle girth — what makes them “Fat Activists” is their belief and advocacy that people should learn to accept their mammoth proportions as normal and/or beyond their control. It’s not just a question of dropping one’s knife and fork or mixing in a salad now and then. It’s closer to being born crippled or mentally retarded, or just ugly. They say. Like this one:
Linda Bacon, a nutritionist at University of California, Davis, said, “I’m appalled that the AMA chose to ignore science and name obesity a disease.”
Bacon, author of “Health at Every Size,” joins other critics in noting that the definition of obesity — basically how one’s weight and height ratio stacks up on a BMI chart — is imprecise, and only defines size not health. “The AMA just determined that some people are sick based on how they look,” Bacon said. “What’s next? Will they pronounce being black as a disease because there are higher rates of cardiovascular disease in black communities?” — Leader-Telegram
Yeah, her name is “Bacon.” And she really said that. These Fat Activists are pathetically out of touch with reality. Size 75 Enablers. Look at this one and her “autoethnography of fat activism.”
But if you cut through to the meat of the argument, as it were, all of this has to do with just one thing: money. If obesity becomes a disease, more people will seek medical treatment, which means medical bills, insurance reimbursement, and eventually, expensive pharmaceuticals. It is hardly coincidental that in the last 12 months, two anti-obesity drugs have been introduced: Qsymia and Belviq. Ka-Ching is the new fat!
It’s an old argument. Most therapists are comfortable labeling alcoholism and drug addiction diseases, but not everybody agrees: they won’t tag what they appraise as nothing more than bad habits and self-indulgence as anything more serious than stupid, willful behavior. “Drinking ain’t a disease! Cancer is a disease!” Whatever. For the record, I consider them therapeutic medication.
I’m not a specialist, but my commonsense take on this is that some people are obese thanks to bad habits, bad diet, and bad attitude, while others thanks to a perfect storm of metabolism, heredity, and circumstance. In other words, sometimes it is a disease, and sometimes it ain’t. This may not sound like science to the medical establishment — you know, the people who considered homosexuality a mental illness until 1973 — but I don’t think we’re dealing with science here as much as art.
No matter what, I like the idea of making fat people pay higher airfares and more for health insurance.