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 | This weekend, I learned that according to an article in the New York Times, the AMA has recently classified obesity as a disease in its own right. My initial reaction is, "Great! Just another reason to put off going to the doctor and continue avoiding people!"
I am always somewhat amazed by people's reaction to information about obesity in the news. It seems as though every few months there is a new announcement concerning how bad it is for people to be overweight, how it damages this organ or that, and plays a role in so many diseases. What amazes me is that in general people, one, act as though this information is new and, two, act as though the obese person must somehow be ignorant of the damage that they are doing to themselves otherwise they would not be so overweight, or, three, somehow think that throwing up research updates to someone who is obese will somehow "help" them.
I am obese. I have been for several years now. I wasn't always overweight or obese, in fact, I was somewhat notorious in my childhood and teenage years for being too skinny. As a friend from high school recently remarked to me, "You were so skinny if someone had bounced a quarter off you they would have received change back!" But for several years, I have had to cope with an autoimmune disease whose treatment requires that I am periodically put on massive steroid doses in order to bring my disease into remission.
For those of you that don't know, steroids cause me, and most other human beings, to lose all control and restraint and eat, a lot. Steroids also cause water retention and for the body to actually modify how it stores fat in the body, so that I and others on it look like a bloated cross between the infamous Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Michelin Man mascots. Telling me that being obese is actually a disease is not helping to encourage me or anyone else who is morbidly overweight to do anything about it other than increase the shame and guilt that we already feel -- which just increases mine and other's appetites.
I find it equally upsetting that in our so-called politically correct world, people now "know' not to make inappropriate comments about one's ethnicity, gender or learning ability, but somehow it's okay to talk about people's weight, to their face, in as rude of a way as possible, and we are all suppose to be okay with that -- after all, it's all for our own good.
I've lost the weight several times over the years. As little as three years ago I lost 86 pounds over the course of five months by walking, praying and eating in a healthy, balanced manner. Then, I went out of remission and was prescribed massive amounts of steroids, again, and currently I am trying to re-lose 60 of those lost pounds. I've started walking again, and watching what I eat, but weight loss is slow progress. I am too ashamed to say how much I weigh now, but a few years ago, when I was on the highest dosage of prednisone, I was 286 pounds -- which is obviously quite difficult on a 5'2" frame. Still, it never ceased to amaze me how total strangers would come up to me, as if I didn't know, and advise me how dangerous my weight was to me.
I am too ashamed to update my photos on any of my online profiles or social media that I use, and I escape having my picture taken at family functions by, one, not going or, two, being the one with the camera. Somehow, it's easier to have an excuse to not have my picture taken if I am the one taking the photos. What a great photographer I have become with the practice over the years!
The embarrassment over my weight fluctuations has caused me to basically become a hermit. I routinely turn down invitations from friends and relatives because I know at some point during the outing, my weight will become the topic of conversation among all of the "well meaning" friends and relations. For some reason they all assume that I am either blind, do not own a mirror, or am otherwise ignorant of my condition and the possible consequences.
I have some advice for those of you who are concerned about those of us who are obese. Saying anything at all to any of us, just makes it worse. Want to do something to help? Encourage us to go walking or participate in a physical activity without bringing up our weight. Instead of saying, "you really should exercise more," why not ask one of us to hang out with you by walking with us?
Instead of criticizing us for our weight, why not involve us in activities that do not involve eating? If you are one of the lucky, blessed skinny people, and you really care about someone who is obese, you can help them by not constantly talking about something as though they are ignorant and "don't know" that they are overweight.
Classifying obesity as a disease will not help anything. My doctor already mentions how dangerous being overweight is to my health. Changing the "wording" around will only cause more distance and stress in already stressful situations. If people really want to help people like me who are obese, they will start by ending their unwitting participation in discrimination and ridicule and will seek ways to encourage us to get moving and change out eating habits without bringing up our weight, or adding to our shame and embarrassment.
- Disease & Medical Conditions