Recently, doctors and researchers have begun to classify obesity as a disease. This is a dangerous diagnosis as it becomes an excuse for being overweight and removes responsibility from the individual to take care of their body. While some people are genetically predisposed to be larger than the average person, they may end up being wrongfully classified as obese. In other cases, people who are simply not exercising as often as they should be have unhealthy eating habits and are overly sedentary. They may even blame their health problems on the “disease” of obesity rather than attempting to try and improve their condition.
Overweight and obese are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems. (CDC Overweight and Obesity)
An adult with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. When talking about BMI, take into account that muscle weighs more than fat. Naturally, some people are bigger boned which makes them fall into a category that is overweight when they are actually in excellent shape (CDC O and O). Other methods of classifying overweight or obese can be calculating a person’s body fat percentage (skin fold thickness) or waist circumference. Generally, if the BMI is a little high but the waist measurement falls within an acceptable circumference, a person is considered to be healthy (CDC O and O). For example, a man with a waist circumference over 40 inches and a woman with a waist circumference over 35 inches are considered overweight. (Web MD Weight loss & Diet Plans)
One of the worst implications of having obesity classified as a disease is the potential strain on the healthcare system. The health issues obese people are faced with such as heart disease and diabetes place a large financial burden on society and governments. Premature retirement, premature death, an increase in health costs and benefit payments and even increased sick days put additional pressure on already strained resources. Britain estimates that the cost of obesity in 2002 was 3.2 to 3.7 billion pounds. (Effects of Obesity)
Consider the psychological effects of obesity, particularly on those with low self-esteem. Many young women often experience depression and resort to the unhealthy practice of binge eating. Obesity also affects the social well-being of people. Obese people face a reduced quality of life, difficulty managing everyday tasks like buying clothes or travelling and even difficulty finding and keeping a job. (Effects of Obesity)
Prevention and change is needed to avoid the implications of having obesity classified as a disease. Adults and children need better access to healthy natural foods and limited access to fatty and sugary foods. Everyone needs to be taught better food management skills, to only eat when you are actually hungry, and not if you are bored or emotional. The importance of physical activity, exercise programs or even being encouraged to ride a bike needs to be communicated and practiced. While obese children may find this difficult, it is important to engrain these ideas in young minds so that they can continue with these habits into adulthood. Children must be taught tolerance and acceptance; they should be encouraged to work hard at being healthy. Society should teach children to love themselves, no matter their shape or size.
Classifying obesity as a disease will let people make excuses and place blame on their genetics for their health issues. The problem and solution to obesity lies within the individual. People must be held accountable and take responsibility for their health. In order to avoid strains on the healthcare system and society, everyone should be encouraged to make smarter choices and lead healthier lives.