Drinker at the Edge of the Cure

Obesity: Eradicate It? Or Heal the Harm?

With the conclusion of #ECO2021 and #COS7, it’s worth reflecting on where the efforts to address obesity will take us. In the 1990s, the concept of a “war on obesity” gained traction. But it was problematic. Not only did it promote weight stigma, it was also ineffective. Medical care for obesity has been mostly inaccessible. Prevalence has soared while efforts to prevent obesity have had little effect. Nonetheless we now hear people speaking of an intent to “eradicate” obesity.

Let’s call a truce. We would do well to refocus on healing the harm obesity is causing.

Respect for Diversity in Body Size

One reason that a call to “eradicate” obesity is problematic is the simple fact of human diversity. It’s a feature, not a bug. People have always come in small, medium, and large sizes. This will not go away. And some of the largest people will have bodies with adipose tissue that causes problems with health.

Respecting the diversity of human bodies does not require denial of health problems related to adipose tissue. But it does require focusing on health first. The new Canadian guidelines for obesity care set a fine example for this.

Moving to More Effective Prevention

Reassessing Prevention Strategies for Unhealthy Nutrition

It’s hard to deny that efforts to prevent obesity have thus far failed. While policymakers pretended this should be simple, obesity rates grew. And we continue to hear people insist they know what will work. We must be patient, they say.

At ECO2021, Mikael Fogelholm presented a reassessment of prevention strategies related to nutrition. His summary included familiar favorites. But he noted that for many of these, the know-how for programs that will actually work is lacking.

A Balance of Prevention and Care

For the closing session at COS7, presenters summarized the goals for Obesity Canada in clinical practice, research, and policy. They offered rich details, but it all supports the vision: “people affected by the disease of obesity are understood, respected, and living healthy lives.”

Healing the harm of obesity will do more for humanity that vain attempts to “eradicate” it.

Click here for more on the destructive futility of war on obesity.

Drinker at the Edge of the Cure, painting by Maximilien Luce / WikiArt

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May 14, 2021

One Response to “Obesity: Eradicate It? Or Heal the Harm?”

  1. May 15, 2021 at 5:02 am, Mary-Jo said:

    ‘Eradicate’ — yet another word/concept inviting society, HCPs included, to view obesity as a ‘plague’ and to scorn people with obesity. The science of obesity being multifactorial has been there from early 70’s and has gotten stronger, even as obesity has become more prevalent, evolved into an epidemic. The reality that people with obesity are not respected enough to get proper understanding and treatment, access to insured care for obesity, until they have ANOTHER disease that IS accepted as being treatable and covered, has been there from days when prevalence was 1/20 people and persists at an unacceptable level. Indeed, why can’t we first just start applying science, compassion, third-party reimbursement and delivering evidence-based treatments before embarking on quixotic crusades. IMO, this may actually lead to changes in food supply and marketing, exercise recommendations, decreased weight bias and stigma, decreased incidence and prevalence of obesity, and improving health of populations.