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 | Don't be alarmed, but I suffer from a chronic condition that, if left untreated, can lead to fatal complications. At 42, I am obese and, now, according to the American Medical Association, that means I have a disease.
Much as I love him, I have my toddler to blame.
Upon hearing the news from the AMA, I plugged my height and weight into the NIH's BMI calculator. BMI stands for body mass index and is used to categorize people as underweight, normal, overweight, and obese. My beef? The BMI calculations don't distinguish between fat and muscle, which means a 250-pound weightlifter may fall into the obese category, along with someone like me, whose body composition is far... squishier.
Imagine my joy when I learned that, with a BMI of 32.6, I was considered obese. Since I'm 5 foot 4 and a half inches tall, I tried again, this time rounding up to 5 foot 5 inches. (Hey, I had to try.) My BMI was 31.6, a little lower but still obese. In fact, depending on which height I use, I'd have to lose 10 to 15 pounds just to be considered overweight.
While I'd like to believe I've got 15 pounds of muscle -- probably in my left arm and shoulder from carrying my 3-year-old boy -- I doubt that's true.
Until I got pregnant, I was a weight-loss success story; I lost 70 pounds over five years and kept it off. But I was not one of those pregnant women who look like a snake that swallowed a basketball; I packed on 58 pounds and became an ancient fertility figure.
Despite my efforts to lose my "baby fat," three years later, I'm only halfway there. It's hard to focus on your own health when you spend your waking hours dealing with someone else's physical and emotional needs. If only reading books aloud or changing diapers burned more calories.
After I gained my unofficial diagnosis, I began to worry. What will this new "disease" designation mean? Will people avoid me, fearing my fat is contagious?
It's also startling -- and annoying -- to learn I'm no longer considered healthy, especially when that isn't true. Two years ago, growing frustrated with the glacial pace of my postpartum weight loss, I consulted my physician. She ran a series of diagnostic tests that determined I was in the healthy range for everything she tested. Some obese people have associated health problems, but I'm not one of them.
On the brighter side, the AMA decision should mean expanded coverage for weight-loss treatments. Hopefully, it will also lead to better preventative programs being offered by employers and insurance companies. And even though the AMA's decision is not legally binding, maybe this will give people recourse if they are discriminated against for being overweight. Ultimately, I'm cautiously optimistic.
In the meantime, I'm going to work hard to lose those 15 pounds. Once I do, and my BMI clocks in below 30, I'm going to have a big party to celebrate being simply overweight.
- American Medical Association