Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fat Is Now a Disease: What Will That Mean?

A disease-filled hot tub.
Some years ago when the American Medical Association recognized alcoholism as a disease, there were cheers from one side of the debate, derisive jeers from the other. You can still the same expressions from the same people today when those of afflicted with alcoholism say we are suffering from a disease.

Now the AMA has said the same thing about obesity. (Here's the story.) It is a disease, not a condition or an affliction. It is likely to become eligible for federal treatment and study funds. The stigma of being fat could be reduced, much as the alcoholism stigma took a pretty serious hit.

I'm not sure how to feel about this ruling because most fat Americans are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little, not because of glands gone wild. It is a pretty simple cause/effect. But you can say the same about alcoholism: you drink too much, you get drunk, you can become a practicing alcoholic. For those of us in the category, there is the additional issue of our natural proclivity toward the disease. Maybe so for the obese, as well. I'm no doc, and I don't know.

If this ruling helps slim down the population, then it is a good ruling. If it works the other way, it is a bad one. My guess is that it won't do much of anything.



  1. Here's the problem. Fat people (like me) are addicted to food. Those same lights that go off for an alcoholic when he has beer operate when a fat person eats. The difference is that when someone is rehabilitated from alcohol, or heroin, or coke, they can keep the substance out of temptation's reach. But I can't keep food out of reach. I can't simply stop eating and have no food in my home. It'd be like telling a heroin addict he should cut back a little. Wouldn't do him much good.

    There's another thing about this that's economic. If being obese is recognized as a disease, then insurance companies might start covering bariatric treatment, including surgery. Lap-bands are a safe surgery that can help people lose a ton of weight. That may sound expensive to insurance companies, and it would be at first, but imagine how much they're gonna save when they don't have to cover insulin, cholesterol drugs, Hypertension drugs, heart surgeries and the nearly limitless complications that come from being obese.

    I've really got a problem with the "they eat too much and don't exercise" point-of-view. That's oversimplifying a complex issue. It also suggests that overweight people are content with their current condition. That simply isn't true. Give everyone a choice and they'd choose thin and healthy over fat and dying.

    There's a lot of study to suggest that compulsive overeating is caused by leftover DNA from ancient times, when food was scarce and the compulsion to eat proved valuable to survival.

    Anyway, try to put yourself in a fat person's shoes and see if you don't get sore feet.

  2. I'm sorry; I know it is in poor taste, but that picture just cries out for a caption contest...

  3. Thank you, Dusty. I'm glad your explanation came from you. It's basically the same one I use for my alcoholism. Addiction is addiction and there is a way to get it under control (never totally defeat it) for those ready and willing.