Is Obesity a Disease? Does It Matter? And How Can You Combat It?

Is Obesity a Disease? Does It Matter? And How Can You Combat It?

Posted by Will M on Jul 10th 2013

The recent classification of obesity as a disease by the American Medical Association (AMA) has elicited an array of varying reactions, both from those who feel it will improve the way the epidemic is handled by the medical, healthcare and insurance communities, as well as those who think it will become a scapegoat for patients to pass off responsibility for changing their diet or activities and will actually exasperate the problem.

What isn’t up for debate is the fact that obesity is an epidemic – more than 1/3 of Americans are now classified as obese, with more than 2/3 being classified either overweight or obese, according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

A recent article in the Boston Globe entitled Should Obesity Be Labeled a Disease? examined both sides of the argument, as well as the ramifications of the decision. Apart from fears that labeling obesity as a disease will lead to less personal responsibility for lifestyle changes, the method for determining whether or not one is obese – Body Mass Index (BMI), which calculates weight as related to height – is controversial as well. In fact, another Globe article cites research that people categorized as obese by this method aren’t always unhealthy.

And what is it that makes an obese patient have similar cholesterol and blood sugar and pressure levels as those of someone with a healthy BMI? Of course, it’s that same playing field leveler we here at Human Solution now blog about with a mantra-like consistency – getting up and walking.

In a Time Magazine article entitled If Obesity Is a Disease, Why Are So Many Obese People Healthy?, multiple studies are cited which show some active people technically classified as obese actually have a lower rate of heart disease and mortality than sedentary people at a healthy weight.

While it may help those in the medical or insurance industry to label it a disease, for most ordinary people, it’s all arbitrary semantics. Type 2 Diabetes is universally considered a disease, and some people who develop it change their eating and activity habits, while others continue living and acting the way they always have. Hopefully, the AMA’s decision will at least raise awareness of the problem and allow healthcare providers, as well as those labeled obese, to take an even more active role in combating obesity and its related health issues.

Of course, as the aforementioned studies so clearly point out, whether your weight and height classify you as “healthy” or “obese,” doing something as simple as the government-recommended guideline of walking at a moderate pace 30 minutes a day for five days out of the week is just as beneficial, if not more so, than simply maintaining a healthy body weight. Take some time out of the eight-hour work day or your lunch break to just get up and walk around, or, you can get in even more than 30 minutes of walking time while still getting your work done with a treadmill desk.

Whether obesity is recognized as a measure of the risk of disease or as a disease in and of itself, recognizing the importance of being active instead of sedentary is a far more important distinction.

Read more about how to stay active, even at the office, at

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