What Bugs You: Top 5 Flawed Obesity Thinking

Your response to the recent story about 10 bits of wishful thinking in obesity was impressive. It was greater than the response to anything else written to date on this page. And it brought some clarity about the flawed obesity thinking that bugs you most. The chart below summarizes your top responses.

Wishful Thinking

Despite your clarity, this flawed thinking continues to thrive in news media and scientific literature. Here are some recent examples.

Obesity Is a Choice, Not a Disease. News and social media continues to overflow with people condemning, as well as praising, the AMA decision to consider obesity a disease. Legal experts have been especially prolific. One example from Bowers Harrison LLP predicts dire consequences for the food industry, for people with obesity, and for employers who will have to bear higher costs for accommodating people with obesity. “Calling obesity a disease further seems to be a way of ignoring the fact of personal responsibility.” they conclude.

Well, even if it’s grudging, acceptance of the necessity for addressing the needs of people with obesity is a good thing.

Menu Labeling Promotes Healthy Choices. This well-intended fallacy seems to be here to stay because of a deep conviction that a more informed choice is always better. Never mind all that pesky research that says it’s not necessarily so. The restaurant industry seems to have this one figured out. One industry blog sums it up pretty well: “Show your diners that you care about their health, and they’ll keep coming back for more.” Can you see where this one is headed?

Obesity Is Entirely Preventable. The abstract of a recent article in the American Biology Teacher sums up this thinking:

Obesity is the costliest preventable health problem in the United States. Understanding and applying the first law of thermodynamics will help students prevent and treat this all-too-common problem.

The underlying thought here is something like “there’s no excuse for this.”

Obesity Surgery Is an Easy Way Out. Gatekeepers in the healthcare system are fond of this one, erecting barriers to obesity surgery as if it’s a joyride for people with obesity. Evan Nadler heads the bariatric surgery program at Children’s National Medical Center and he explains it well:

It’s very rare that a patient who wants weight loss surgery has not tried a myriad of other weight loss techniques. It’s a false perception that teens want an easy way out. I have not met that patient yet.

We Can’t Afford to Pay for Obesity Treatment. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson speaks very clearly to this one, saying:

If we are going to get a handle on healthcare costs, obesity is front and center. We simply must stop waiting for people to get sick and then spend infinitely more trying to make them well again. Covering obesity is a no-brainer, and we must begin behaving rationally if we are going to come to grips with rising health costs and a population that’s getting sicker.

Some of this flawed thinking is on its way out, but some of it seems like it will plague us forever.

Click here to read more legal analysis of obesity as a disease, click here to read a restaurant industry perspective on menu labeling, and click here to read advice to biology teachers on preventing obesity.

Bug, photograph © Ewok Jorduman / flickr

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