Go Away

Three Catchphrases for Gently Dismissing People with Obesity

Solving a problem is tough when you’ve been dismissed. And routinely, in conversations about obesity, we hear the people with obesity dismissed. Here are three popular catchphrases for gently dismissing people with obesity.

1. We can’t treat our way out of the obesity epidemic. The false choice between treatment and prevention surfaces again and again. The truth is, we have made too little progress in both treating and preventing obesity. Evidence-based treatments can help, but not really cure the metabolic problems of obesity. Prevention strategies might bend the curve a bit, but compelling evidence has yet to support that hope. Using the tools we have for prevention and treatment is a good start. Developing better tools for will take us further.

2. Once a person has obesity, it’s too late. Condescending pity only feels good to the person dispensing it. Writing in the Canadian Family Physician, Jana Havrankova argues that obesity treatment is futile. “For every individual who wants to lose weight, I maintain hope. For society, however, what gives me hope is prevention.” Condescending pity is a gentle tool for dismissing people with obesity. But it’s unmistakeable.

3. We must not medicalize obesity. Recently a physician from a large managed care organization spoke proudly to us about “hoops.” They make a person with severe obesity leap through those hoops to qualify for bariatric surgery. “We can’t afford to medicalize obesity,” he told us. “Medicine and surgery usually makes things worse.” Behind this rhetoric lies the false bias that obesity is a simple, reversible matter of choice.

For dismissing people with obesity, these are just three of the most popular phrases available. But now obesity affects 37% of the population. So healthcare providers might be dismissing many of the people for whom they should be caring.

People with obesity will find healthcare elsewhere, from caring providers.

Go Away, photograph © Antonio Fidalgo / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


February 1, 2017