I wasn’t sure what to think when I read that obesity has been classified as a disease by the American Medical Association. It seems that there are a lot of people – the majority of commentators in fact – that are highly critical of this decision. Obesity, as far as they are concerned, is something that you bring on yourself…the poor lifestyle and food choices that you have made are to blame, and therefore you are to blame – not a disease!
Part of me feels that this argument is logical and rational. It is one of the reasons that I chose not to resort to weight loss surgery – I had gotten myself into this state and therefore I wanted to get myself out of it! Nobody forced me to eat; I wasn’t held hostage and force fed junk food. My sofa and my arse don’t contain magnets which miraculously hold me in place; I chose not to exercise.
Yet what people forget – and what took me a long time to come to terms with – is that eating is far more than just a mechanical function that we perform to keep our bodies ticking over. We eat for pleasure, we eat for comfort, we eat to sooth, we eat to celebrate, we eat to commiserate, we eat to be social, and we eat when we are lonely…the list goes on! Therefore eating becomes emotional, and our emotions ebb and flow…and we don’t deal very well with this – we like consistency! So to deal with our emotions we eat – or at least people with serious weight issues do…I have yet to speak to someone who was seriously overweight that had got to this stage through a lack of education. The majority of seriously overweight people know that what they eat isn’t going to enable them to have a healthy body and mind…they know what has caused their weight problems! So weight is not easy to control – although I am sure that I am stating the obvious given that most of us bloody know this.
I read an article today that showed that the UK has a serious issue when it comes to obesity. It was yet another research study which told us what we already know – I could have taken the researchers for a stroll through the city I live in…all you have to do is open your eyes – we are a nation of fatties. Why we need constant research studies to tell us this, I will never know – the money spent on research should be spent on helping people with the condition! My point here is that obesity is becoming the norm in my opinion. I see so many more overweight school children lined up at my local bus stop than when I was at school…I was the odd one out, but if I was at school today, I doubt that I would be; there would be a group of us lagging behind on the running track now! I see so many more overweight people at the shops, on nights out, heading to work – we are fat and we don’t need research studies to tell us this.
One of my concerns with the labelling of obesity as a disease is the word ‘disease’. When I was asked about how I felt about my disease, I looked quizzically at the chap asking me. He was referring to my diabetes…it’s a disease apparently. I had just thought that it was a ‘condition’. I thought that he was being overly dramatic! And now I am going to end up with another one…if the UK follows America – who am I kidding, ‘if?’, of course we will…what America does, we do! The word disease seems a little fatal – if I am being told that I have a disease, it seems incredibly serious and almost sounds as if there is nothing that I can do about it. And this is my worry – that those with obesity will feel that way…almost giving up and using the label of having a disease as another barrier preventing progress.
We – fellow losers and fellow obese people – have to take responsibility. It isn’t easy, and it would be unrealistic to think that our environment doesn’t play a part. What I mean by this is that we are bombarded with adverts for high-calorie food, local gym facilities can be terrible unless you are willing to pay a fortune for a posh gym, green spaces are getting smaller which means getting some fresh air can be difficult, and the hours we work at our desk-based jobs means that it is hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle, let alone turn around your situation if you are obese. Critics of the obese tend to spout idealistic rubbish about what should be done – “eat less, move more”, is a favourite of mine…it is so obvious, yet why is it so hard to achieve?! What sort of incredible will-power and super-human strengths do these critics think we possess, to go against the grain of society and the environment that has been created for us? However, we have to do something – and taking responsibility to change is a big step forwards.
However, I also think that obesity is a problem of society, and not necessarily just the individual. Of course, I know that if I can crack my weight loss then my life will be so much better in terms of health – and I am taking responsibility and doing that. But what about all of those other people? Do we just expect them to get on with it – to deal with their ‘disease’ – or do we tackle this, as I think we should, on a community level – a societal level?
The article I read today – on the BBC website – highlighted that those who are well off and well educated had a lesser issue with obesity. Initially, I wondered why the hell money and education made a difference, but I suppose it is obvious really. The environment in which you live has a big impact upon health, and if you are well educated it is evidenced that you will live in a better neighbourhood. Think about the availability of that green space I mentioned which provides a safe place to walk and exercise. Think about the availability and cost of fresh produce (although you can eat healthily on a budget!). The change in society can only come from the change in the local environment. This is one of the reasons that I like community health programmes – which is one of the initiatives supported by HOOP – if we can integrate health into a local community, it spreads…much as violence and crime tends to! Maybe that’s an initiative – WLB urging you on…baseball bat in hand? Obviously, I am very much joking here – to trot out another obvious statement…violence solves nothing! Plus, you have to want to make a change; it can’t be drummed into you!
I understand why people become frustrated with the obese. The cost to the economy is huge. The strain on the NHS is huge. Tax payers have to fund this. It isn’t ideal. I won’t rehash my old soapbox moments about the impact of many lifestyle choices which lead to disease, needless to say that we are where we are, and we have to find a way of improving the situation. And stigmatising the obese will not lead to improvements! In fact, recent studies show that those who do feel under pressure, and have been bullied, or ostracised, actually end up getting bigger.
The reasons behind why a person becomes obese is unique to that person. Removing the ‘more calories than they need’ factor – the road to obesity takes a different route in each case. Each case of obesity is complex and brings with it different risk factors. For example, I have never had blood pressure or cholesterol issues which surprises a lot of people. Fellow obese people might not have diabetes, but have that high blood pressure. Some people suffer from odema – swellings of fluid in various places. Some will have high cholesterol. And some will be perfectly healthy and be the exception to all of the risk factors associated with obesity!
My worry with labelling obesity as a disease is that a broad-brush and generalist approach will be taken when it comes to treatment. Upon reflection however, this is what already happens! Tasneem Bhatia wrote a wonderful piece about obesity as a disease. In it she wrote, “I have learned that obesity is ultimately the consequence of a series of poor choices, but that those choices are rooted in more complex health issues. It is a vicious cycle of not feeling well, trying to find a way to feel better, resorting to food to feel better and then not feeling well again. We know that for every 20 pounds of excessive weight, there is a significant drop in energy, ability to move, and lowered self-esteem, leading to worsening depression and anxiety. Imagine what happens when weight gain approaches 50 or 100 pounds.”
She goes on to say, “Labelling obesity as a disease may be a start in at least acknowledging the complexity of this particular condition, but it will not solve the obesity crisis. For the majority of patients that are obese, depression and anxiety are the root of erratic eating patterns and poor choices. It is hard to get someone isolated from family, living alone, or stressed financially to focus on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. Fast food, easily accessible and cheap, becomes a more realistic option, but furthers nutritional deprivation. Existing nutritional deficiencies aggravate feeling “bad” and the cycle continues. I have seen patients “wake up” from a depressed or anxious state after simply correcting a few key nutritional deficiencies, more motivated to exercise and eat well.”
Tasneem states that the classification of obesity is a tentative step towards a solution. On her website, she says that, “Obesity, like alcoholism, depression, and anxiety, is a disease. There are definite medical patterns: hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter deficiencies and nutritional exhaustion that all contribute to obesity.”
So maybe this classification is progress. Maybe it will mean that those people responsible for treating the obese medically will give more thought to the individual factors that led to the obesity. Who knows? I am not really for or against the label – I just hope that whatever happens, a solution is found…but that solution has to be more than some of the advice given to me by medical professionals…”stop dieting and eat what you want” and “surgery is your only option” are my current favourite useless pieces of advice. I might get them printed on a loo roll actually!
Today has been relatively sedate…
I didn’t sleep well and woke up feeling a bit strange. This was compounded when the breakfast that I ate very quickly came back up again! I have no idea why, as it was my usual, but I bit strange for a while. I decided to just get on with some project work for my other half, and then we headed out to see the horses. This weather is a treat for them – they looked happy in the sun, but they didn’t have much grass so we put some hay out for them and topped up the water. Asda was next on the cards, and then home. Whilst my other half was working, I added some bits to Pinterest – one of the sites he got me on…he is entirely responsible for my social media overload! I am also potentially looking at arranging an event with HOOP and Jessie Pavelka…I need to see if I am capable of organising something and am planning on getting some fellow Slimming Worlders involved. Dates might prove difficult, so if not this visit to the UK, then his next one will see him meet WLB! A quiet evening beckons I think – I started season two of ’24′ last night and so am keen to see how Jack saves LA!
Breakfast: Two Alpen light bars (6 syns) and a banana.
Well that is my breakfast batch craving sorted out! My brinner was lovely. Firstly, brekkie was not good – I was sick straight after, so I don’t know if those syns count? Lunch was left for a while, and I added mint to help settle my stomach – perhaps tikka chicken wasn’t such a good idea…but all was well. Brinner was a combo of Weight Watchers sausages, which are 0.5 syns each, along with some of their bacon, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, spinach, onion and mushroom, with wholemeal rolls with cheese in – immense! My consultant and I had a chat today and she was very pleased to hear what I was planning for dinner…she wants me to address my cravings in an ‘on-plan’ fashion!
Exercise: Shushhhh – nothing…again! My foot feels as if it is getting better, so hoping to be up and running (or walking slowly!) next week.
Thank you for reading,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx