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You may have already been diagnosed and aren’t even aware of it.
Last June the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to officially declare obesity a disease, which applies to more than 78 million American adults and over 12 million children. These individuals now have a medical condition requiring treatment.
“Oh, they can’t mean me.”
Well, yes they can. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or above, you are technically obese. If you’re considered obese, you may think this is harsh. If you’re not obese, you may think, “Why do we need to call obesity a disease when people should just eat less and exercise more?”
Here are three reasons why I believe this new designation is good thing.
People who struggle with obesity will receive better health care.
Redefining obesity means doctors can now change the way they approach obesity management for their patients.
I was surprised to read recently that studies show more than half of obese patients have never had a medical professional tell them to lose weight In the past, doctors may have hesitated to take issue with obesity because it’s a complex, time-consuming and behavior-related condition to deal with – and one for which they received no insurance reimbursement. In turn, this fostered a pattern of treating symptoms (diabetes, heart disease, joint damage, etc.) instead of the root cause.
As insurance companies increasingly cover treatment for obesity, physicians can play a more active role helping people combat excessive weight gain and its negative affects. In fact, it’s now their obligation to do so.
Getting Help for Obesity Will Be More Accessible and Affordable
As I mentioned above, public and private organizations (including insurance companies) will undoubtedly feel even more pressure to develop obesity treatments and cover the cost of them. This will make weight-management programs more accessible to adults and children who can benefit from them.
As a dietitian for more than 20 years, I know from experience that people lose weight more successfully and keep it off longer when they participate in a support program that offers guidance, education, encouragement and accountability.
We Will See More Emphasis Placed on Obesity Prevention
People do not become obese overnight. It develops over a period of time and can result from a wide range of physical, genetic, familial, economic and societal factors.
Now that obesity is considered a disease, I believe we will see more reforms that are intended to prevent people from taking the path to obesity. Already we’ve seen positive changes in school lunches. Soon there will be new food labels. I’m sure this is just the beginning.
Of course, there are some who are against the new term. They fear that making obesity a disease may shift the nation’s focus too much toward expensive drugs or surgical treatments and away from healthy diets and regular exercise. Furthermore, others are afraid this will attach a stigma to those who are obese, and they may already feel humiliated due to their weight.
It’s important to note that every case of obesity is unique. And while diet and exercise are, by far, the best ways to overcome obesity, they alone are not always enough. Also, recognizing obesity as a disease may encourage people to face their situation and seek help more readily.
In the end, I believe there is potential to save lives and change the course of our nation’s health. I hope calling obesity a disease will be the step it takes for people to finally take obesity seriously and change their lifestyles permanently.
Do you live in the Canton, Ohio area and need help with obesity? Mercy Weight Management is here for you. Call 330-588-4854 or contact us online today!
About The Author
Robin K. Doidge, RD, LD, is a registered licensed dietitian at Mercy with more 22 years of experience with the OPTIFAST® program for weight loss. A past consultant and developer of weight-loss classes in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Doidge also has experience as a bariatric dietitian and implemented the OPTIFAST® program as a component for a bariatric surgical center.