OAC Board Retreat

Obesity Future in the Eyes of Lived Experience

The future of obesity will look nothing like its past. In fact, right now the contours of this problem are nothing like they were just a few years ago. We are in the midst of great changes, with more to come. So it’s quite a privilege to spend three days peering into the future of obesity with a dozen of the best and brightest people who bring the eyes of lived experience to the puzzle of how best to cope with it. The leadership and staff of the Obesity Action Coalition is an impressive group.

Leaning into the Disease

One thing is quite clear. In the past, we have all done very poorly in dealing with this disease. Not because of any ill intent, but because we lacked a full understanding of it and adequate tools to cope with it. So instead of approaching it as we would any other disease, past efforts to “tackle” obesity involved assigning blame and telling people that they have this condition because there’s something wrong with the way they’re living their lives.

We are beginning to deal with obesity much more productively now because the insights into the disease are a bit clearer and the tools for treating it have crossed a threshold of effectiveness that has the whole population taking notice. The future will bring more scientific insights along with more and better tools for treating obesity. Leaning into the disease in the future means that we will transform the lived experience of obesity into something that is not so different from coping with high cholesterol or blood pressure. Health professionals will simply deal with it competently as a matter of daily practice.

Better insight into the etiology of the disease might even bring us smarter prevention strategies that can bend the curve on prevalence.

Lifting Up the People

Getting from here to there will require OAC to do even more in lifting up the people who live with obesity. It will involve reaching out more broadly. Right now, fewer than a million people with obesity actually receive expert, science-based care for this chronic disease. We’re looking at a future where obesity care should be able to reach and meet the medical needs of more like 30 million people.

Educating, elevating, and advocating for such a broad audience will be a transformative challenge.

Building a Broader Community

So this will mean that we must build a much broader community of people who will bring very diverse experiences with obesity into the community. When OAC began its work in 2005, the core of its membership was people who had benefited from bariatric surgery. This has evolved to include people with much more diverse experiences, demographics, and needs. That diversity will only grow.

Through the eyes of lived experience with obesity we can see a future for coping with it that promises a great deal of progress. Let’s hope we can live up to the challenge.

Click here, here, and here for more on the changes and challenges that lie ahead.

OAC Board Retreat, photograph by Ted Kyle / ConscienHealth

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June 4, 2023

3 Responses to “Obesity Future in the Eyes of Lived Experience”

  1. June 04, 2023 at 10:39 am, Allen Browne said:


    But don’t forget the children with the disease of obesity and their families!


  2. June 08, 2023 at 6:31 pm, Arlet Minassi said:

    Is there a program you can sign up to get free injections for overweight? I can not afford $900 and not covered by insurance

    • June 09, 2023 at 4:05 am, Ted said:

      Arlet, there’s no simple answer to your question because many overlapping issues come into play: problems with health insurance, the presumption that injections are the answer for all, the challenge of finding health professionals who will really help with this, and the list goes on. There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all answer.