Deal with It

Deal with It: Obesity Is a Disease

Euphemisms. We hear them in when people talk about their health. My sugar is a little high. I’d like to lose a few pounds, but it’s not a big deal. I just need to watch what I’m eating. Fine. But there comes a time when you can’t fake it anymore. The Royal College of Physicians in London reached that point on obesity last week. Obesity is a disease and government policy must deal with it as such, said the College.

This word comes just as the Obesity Society has published an update to its 2008 position on dealing with obesity, aiming to:

Shift public perceptions of obesity away from the misinformed view that obesity is a lifestyle choice or aberrant behavior toward a chronic disease model for understanding and addressing obesity at individual and population levels.

Predictable Responses

This news produced a storm of coverage – ranging from well-informed to dismayingly ignorant. On the well-informed side of things, Sky News interviewed experts in obesity research, along with individuals living with the condition.

And then you have the Daily Mail, where Dominic Lawson informed us that he has a BMI of 30, calls himself a glutton, and resents being told that he may have a chronic disease. What’s right for him is right for all, goes the thinking.

David Buck of the Kings Fund think tank told Sky News that obesity “isn’t a disease, it’s a condition.” A fine bit of hair splitting.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has no interest in this debate or any concerns about weight stigma. After the news from the Royal College emerged, Hancock announced he wants to target people who smoke, drink excessively, or have obesity to make them shape up their behaviors. No more nanny state for all. He wants to go after the bad actors. “Obesity is absolutely a matter of behavior,” he told the Times.

Setting Aside the Emotions

Looking at this messy public debate, we choose to find a glass half full. The Royal College of Physicians is on board with a more objective approach to the complex, chronic disease of obesity. Tabloids will have their say. Haters, too. We can deal with it.

And in the end, the objective approach, based on facts and science, will prevail. Keep calm and carry on.

Deal with It, photograph © Jonathan Cohen / flickr

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January 7, 2019

4 Responses to “Deal with It: Obesity Is a Disease”

  1. January 07, 2019 at 5:49 pm, John said:

    I always rely on politicians for my health advice – Not. Clearly physicians can identify major environmental health issues that urgently need to be address – Finally. In the post truth era how can we move forward with complex health and environmental issues?

    Call on the ignorant, especially if they are politicians?

    Silence does not work. Science is silent, respectful, and slow. Become a very noisy active scientist!

  2. January 08, 2019 at 12:07 am, Angela Golden said:

    Absolutely excellent Ted!!! We will prevail – and will use the tag line “keep calm and carry on” for the people with the chronic disease of obesity!

  3. January 08, 2019 at 8:09 am, Angela Chesworth said:

    Great words Ted as a person living with Obesity I have no choice but to keep calm and carry on. I remind myself that at one time in history the most intellectual people on this earth thought the world was flat however ‘The Science’ proved them wrong. I live in hope that this will happen within obesity so people like myself will be helped instead of judged and stigmatised.
    Keep up the great work

    • January 08, 2019 at 8:14 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Angela!