Angela Fitch at YWM Engage

YWM Engage: Bias Meets the Future in Obesity

On the first full day of YWM Engage, it was plain that this was a different sort of convention for OAC. It was smaller. The group was being very cautious because this rotten pandemic, though it’s less of a threat, isn’t over. So the agenda got right down to the business of bringing everyone up to speed on the latest facts in the dynamics of obesity. It’s all about understanding how bias shapes our present situation and how the science of obesity can shape our future prospects.

Coming to Terms with Our Own Internal Bias

Robyn Pashby is a clinical health psychologist in the Washington, DC, area. She has a clinical practice focusing on psychological and behavioral treatment of obesity, binge eating disorder, emotional eating, and chronic health conditions. So she brought the voice of a caring clinician who spends her life guiding people through the psychological maze that dealing with obesity can become.

Pashby reminded us that the bias we face from family, friends, doctors, and more starts early and happens often. So it’s no surprise that so many of us take that bias in and become our own worst bullies. She told us that we can learn to say no to our bully brains and say yes to self-compassion. It’s like upgrading our underwear. It might not be obvious to many people, but it really matters to take care of ourselves.

Understanding the Biology of Obesity

Angela Fitch went straight into the fundamental disconnect between the common misunderstanding of obesity and the science of this chronic disease. It’s driven by our biology and our genes, though activated by the environment all around us. Bottom line, it’s about chemistry, not character. But because of better science to explain obesity, we have options for treating it and they’re getting better every day.

Questions to Answer

Bob Kushner brought home a concise understanding of four big questions for the future of obesity science and innovation. How can we better define this disease is at the top of the list. In the past, it’s been all about BMI. Now we know that it’s really about adiposity that impairs health. But we have work to do on crisp clinical criteria for diagnosis and differentiation of different forms.

The remaining questions are about identifying the people who should get priority for really intensive obesity care, who will respond to what, and how will a new generation of more effective obesity meds change the landscape.

Wegovy (semaglutide) has been described as a game-changer, and it is bringing significant benefits for many people. But in truth, it’s just a taste of what’s to come if we can set aside our bias about this disease – and about ourselves – to open up the doors to a better understanding of it and the expanding options for treating it.

We have every reason to believe that bias can fade as the future of obesity science and clinical care comes into sharper definition. Advocates at YWM Engage will be a big part of making that happen.

Click here for more on overcoming self stigma, here for more on the biology of obesity, and here for more on what lies ahead.

Angela Fitch at YWM Engage, photo courtesy of the Paul Davidson, PhD

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July 16, 2022