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Part 3: American weight a disease or something else?

July 8, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
Welcome to part three of the AMA’s declaration of obesity as illness and why I simply cannot agree. I see a middle ground, but it involves personal choices people don’t like being told to make.

Again, I preface this with the understanding that there are people with true, real, medical issues that can affect their ability to lose weight. And again, know I'm not talking about appearance. I'm still overweight, just not sick from being so far overweight. And still fighting to get the rest off. It's about health.

And, none of this gets at the root causes of why this has become a problem now, mainly in the U.S. What changed during the last 50 or 60 years here vs. elsewhere?

Much of the discussion centers around the AMA giving big people a label as diseased, as if that was the important factor here, not to label someone. It’s better to be politically correct than to get healthy.

I have not found a discussion of this topic that considers the causes, only that looks to treat obesity as a root of other diseases that get costly to treat, including diabetes and heart disease. They’re easy to identify: Sedentary jobs, a lack of activity, fast food, bad dietary choices, a focus on fitness as being about looks or judgementalism, from the fit toward the fat or from the fat toward the fit.

So it’s no wonder that the discussion centers on a “diseased” label instead of admitting the U.S. is doing one hell of a lousy job at making personal choices to care for ourselves. According to the 2013 Weight of The Union report, by Anytime Health, gathering stats from Bloomberg, the CDC, Gallup and elsewhere, the U.S. has a 30 percent obesity rate with an average daily caloric intake of 3,770 calories. In Italy, where the daily caloric intake is 3,660 calories, the obesity rate was reported at 10 percent. Japan reports a daily average caloric intake of 2,810 calories but only a 4 percent obesity rate.

Note, too, that the AMA made its choice over a recommendation from its own panel studying obesity and cautioning that an attack on the causes is important. AMA instead chose to say obesity is to the heavy as lung cancer is to the smoker. Except one chooses to smoke and one actually can make choices in diet and activity, too. Not the solution for everything, but not as radical as raising a whole new and costly treatment regimen for 30 percent of the population.

Yes, you can drink your 44-oz. soft drink, but be aware the consequences of drinking too many of those might be tied to your own personal health. The best way to avoid having the screwed-up government mess with our personal health care is to avoid being in need of the system beyond an annual checkup to tell us we’re healthy. We can actually help create that ourselves. Yes, stuff breaks and goes wrong and we get sick. But we do effect ourselves in the choices we make.

Unpopular as hell, to be sure, is telling us we need to take care of ourselves, let alone the possibilities for the nanny state we live in carrying the logic too far and trying to ban soft drinks and cheeseburgers or advertising. Amazingly enough, people still smoke at $7 a pack, 42 years after the last TV cigarette ad and a few years after stopping tobacco ads in sporting events.

If obesity isn’t labeled a disease and health-care costs keep going up, the day would have to come when the all-loving nanny state will tie our weight to our health care deductibles, no doubt in some flawed way that gets the fit with the obese to pay more.

It’s easier to say we’ve got something wrong with us.


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