Obesity can be defined in many ways, but there is perhaps only one way we should look at it. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines obesity as “a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body” and can be measured using body mass index (BMI). Simply put, if you are carrying extra fat and you exceed the medical standard for how much you weigh for how tall you are, then you are by definition considered obese.

There are two common ways being diagnosed with obesity are received by the patient: shame and logic. Shame is a feeling of emotional pain and humiliation that comes with insecurity and the failure to live up to their own or someone else’s standards. If someone has lived their whole life believing and reassuring themselves that they are not obese and someone informs them that they meet the definition of an obese individual, it is common for them to feel ashamed. This action and subsequent feeling of shame have recently been called “fat shaming”. In recent years, showing concern for someone’s health by asking them to exercise with them or eat a healthy meal has been considered an elusive but hurtful way of fat shaming.

The other way a diagnosis of obesity can be received is with logic. Being diagnosed with obesity should be thought of the same way as any other disease and a prescription should be made for diet and exercise. The truth is obesity is a serious medical condition that has a built-in positive feedback loop of exacerbated disease. This means the worse your obesity is, the worse you will experience other types of disease. Obesity leads to hypertension, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, sleep disorders, cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. It decreases your quality of life through decreased mobility and increased joint pain. Your medical bills will be higher thus you will have less money, and you are more likely to experience depression if you are obese.

So what is obesity? It is more than just an opportunity to fat shame, it is a medical diagnosis that is likely a significant limiting factor in the patient being able to live a happy and fulfilling life. It is more than just a definition of someone’s weight, it foreshadows the story of one’s life by predicting both physical and mental disease. When someone feels they have been shamed due to their weight, they reserve the right to feel ashamed, especially if there was malicious intent. However, we as a culture need to start seeing obesity as a treatable disease that when cured can significantly increase the quality of someone’s life.

To help combat the rising obesity epidemic we need to start making health and fitness part of our culture. To learn more about how we can do this, read The Grassroots Health Movement, an article about changing our nation’s culture one person at a time.

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Posted by Scott Edward

Scott is a Certified Personal Trainer and a member of the International Sports Science Association.

One Comment

  1. There’s a whole culture lately wherein obesity is being somewhat normalised, and catchphrases like fat shaming get hurled around to the extent that whatever meaning it did have has been lost. Totally agree though that malicious shaming is not morally right, and I think things need to get back on track towards positively promoting treating obesity medically as a disease rather than looking at it as some sort of an identity or even some sort of oppressed race.

    On the subject, Kevin Smith’s Too Fat To Fly podcast was pretty interesting and it’s funny that he could laugh about it later, and now he’s looking a lot healthier too.

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