The American Medical Association last week declared obesity a disease. That's a step, doctors say, that will help medical professionals better treat a condition that affects 78 million adults and 12 million children. Yahoo News invited Americans who qualify as obese -- those with a BMI above 30 -- to share their story and perspective on the news. Here's one.
FIRST PERSON | I am 6 foot 1 inches tall and tip the scales at 255 pounds. I know that I am overweight, but I never considered myself obese. At 62, I think I have been living in denial, and the recent decision by the American Medical Association to recognize what I have as a disease has driven that point home.
The announcement might have been the last nail in the coffin, but it has had the exact opposite effect. No longer do I say that I am overweight or chubby; I say OBESE.
Let the truth be told: I have always been on the heavy side. When I was in my late teens and playing a lot of football, I discovered that my best weight was around 210 pounds. Using the BMI calculator provided by the National Institute of Health, at my present height and weight, I find that my BMI is 33.6. When I was in my late teens, my BMI was 27.7, overweight but not quite obese.
Last year I tipped the scales at 280, which meant my BMI was 36.9. At that weight, I could experience the negative effects that carrying all those pounds had on my body. One evening, I went for a walk around my Danbury, Conn., housing development -- a distance of one-third of a mile -- and became winded and tired. My clothes were all too tight, and I had to move up from a 42 to a size 44 waist. At that time, I had received an invitation to a small cocktail party, and I didn't have a pair of slacks that fit me - literally. I needed to go out to buy the next size up in slacks just so that I would be dressed properly. In addition, and maybe even more importantly, several of my friends told me that I was getting fat and looked absolutely awful!
When I realized the simple act of walking a relatively short distance was painful, and that I needed to buy larger clothes, and that friends were calling me fat, I decided to diet. Peer pressure can do wonders.
At 280 pounds, I realized the weight was putting too much stress on my body, and I didn't want to test any higher. With my height, a weight of 300 pounds would have meant a BMI of nearly 40, or 33 percent above the obesity threshold. Fortunately, aside from the weight, I am in fairly good health. My cholesterol levels are normal and my heart is healthy.
I did go on a diet last year, and increased my physical exercise and lost 40 pounds. I have regained 15 of those pounds. The AMA announcement is acting as a wakeup call, and I have resumed my diet with a goal of getting my BMI down to just under 30. Slow and steady can win the race, and if I lose 5 pounds a month, I will be at my goal in six months.
I will use the same process as I did last year, which was to eat smaller portions, more protein and engage in aerobic activities. There is no denying that for most people, the not so simple act of taking in fewer calories than are being consumed will result in lower weight and better health.
- American Medical Association