Scott Kahan, Patty Nece, Keisha Calicutt, and Ted Kyle at the PHA Summit

No More Invisible and Silent Obesity

At the fifth summit of the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) yesterday, obesity was neither invisible nor silent. The meeting opened with a panel of three people living with obesity — Kesha Calicutt, Patty Nece, and Scott Kahan — bringing their life experiences with this condition into focus for hundreds of public health activists from all over America. ConscienHealth Founder Ted Kyle moderated.

Kahan described the disrespect that people with obesity experience routinely. Nece related how her medical concerns are sometimes overlooked or misdiagnosed by healthcare providers who cannot see past her physical size. Calicutt explained how complicated dealing with obesity can be:

When you lose a large amount of weight, even if you feel better, it messes with your understanding of who you are. It’s no less dramatic than it would be if were black when when I went to bed and woke up the next morning to find that I was white. It takes people away from their comfort zone.

It seems odd to think that obesity might be invisible and silent. But more often than not, the reality of obesity is completely invisible. The reality of obesity is not about someone’s outward appearance. It is defined by a profound disturbance in the way that the body regulates its metabolism and stores fat. People can’t see that. Even many doctors are blind to it.

The reality is also in the accumulation of experiences that people have as they move through their lives in a larger body. The people they meet — especially and unfortunately healthcare professionals — make assumptions about them that are unkind and untrue.

Obesity is silent because people don’t know how to talk about it. Because too often, people forget or don’t care to listen. And so the voices of people living with the disease have often not been heard when policy decisions were made.

But that mistake was not made at the PHA Summit summit this year.

For more from the PHA Summit, you can browse the twitter feed here.

Scott Kahan, Patty Nece, Keisha Calicutt, and Ted Kyle at the PHA Summit, photograph by Kristal Hartman

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May 20, 2016

5 Responses to “No More Invisible and Silent Obesity”

  1. May 20, 2016 at 11:02 am, Joan Ifland said:

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if people with obesity rose up and demanded that fattening food provocation (advertising and cheap availability) be curtailed?

  2. May 20, 2016 at 11:25 pm, Cian O'Callaghan said:

    “When you lose a large amount of weight, even if you feel better, it messes with your understanding of who you are. It’s no less dramatic than it would be if were black when when I went to bed and woke up the next morning to find that I was white. It takes people away from their comfort zone.”

    As a clinical psychologist working in the obesity field I have to say that this is specious reasoning on a worrying level. If the person loses weight gradually – and that is the key word – then we observe that the psychological adjustments parallel the physical

  3. May 21, 2016 at 7:36 am, Ted said:

    I’m sorry this worries you, Cian. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. May 26, 2016 at 11:13 am, Kesha Calicutt said:

    The problem here is that even is weight loss is slow and a couple of years, that is still nothing compared to 20 or 30 years living as a person with obesity.
    Gradual weight loss, defined as 1-2 pounds per week, can still result in a net loss of over 100lbs over the course of a year. A 100 lb loss is more than enough to skew one’s identity.

  5. May 26, 2016 at 11:35 am, Ted said:

    Thanks, Kesha!