Is Obesity a disease?

I have read several articles lately that express outrage that obesity is considered a disease (mostly from fit people in the fitness industry). Their belief is that it must be a lack of will power and simply can not be a disease.


First of all, I should remind you that the origin of the word “disease” is DIS/Des (lack of), Ease. I feel that anyone who has been significantly overweight KNOWS that it is anything but easy.  A couple of decades ago, Alcoholism was also viewed as a character defect and people without the addiction thought that everyone “should” be able to just say no. If a light social drinker could stop after 1 drink, then they assumed that all people should be able to. We are now (mostly) comfortable with drinking or smoking being defined as an addiction (after years of resistance by the Tobacco and alcohol industries),but why do we resist calling obesity an addiction or disease process that involves food addictions. I acknowledge that there seems to be a difference of opinion within the world of psychology (or addiction treatment centers) with defining an addiction as a disease process, but my central point is that some people are more likely to become addicted to various substances (or behaviors) and breaking that cycle involves more than will power. It’s a bit disturbing to me that obesity and potentially related diseases are HUGE killers. The numbers lack the level of resolution I would like, as there is not currently a “all obesity related deaths” category but its about 400,000 people for heart disease, 190,000 for obesity, 45,000 for diabetes and another 93,000 for stroke since the start of 2013(versus about 15,000 for all drug abuse deaths). To be more precise we would need to have the medical community note if the person who died from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc. was obese.


If lung cancer is a disease related to smoking, why is adult onset/type 2 Diabetes not considered to be a disease related to sugar addiction. If we think of how devastating Diabetes is, and that we have methods to control the disease (drugs and dietary restrictions), but people still die every day because they are not able to control it. From what I understand, there are many cases where the person will no longer require medication if they lost the excess weight and controlled their eating (adult onset diabetes), but they continue to gain weight. Of course the same thoughts would apply to cardiovascular disease related to diet/exercise (rather the lack of). I think the last group of people that can be publicly shamed are fat people, and some people really think that name calling will somehow HELP that person. On the other hand, ignoring the issue will not help either and in my own past I know that my mother had major concerns but did not want to upset me by having that conversation. I will tell you that awareness was a biggie for me, and that being accountable to myself was an important step. Its EASY to fool yourself into guessing your calorie intake/burn if you don’t track it.  My wife and I use a calorie tracking app and it was eye opening to realize how many calories are in common foods (especially restaurant foods).


I have no global solutions, as this journey is different for each person. At the heart of it is “move more, eat less” and a move away from processed foods and empty calories. Some people have asked me about my workouts and I’m always happy to share, but what works for me might not be right for you. I think THE best workout is the one that you actually do on a consistent basis. Get out there, find something you enjoy and constantly challenge yourself/raise the bar. If you are not able to control what you eat, you might want to see qualified help. 


Sorry this is such a long post but I felt it was something I needed to share. If you see this and have a question, please feel free to get in touch with me. 

NOTE: this was originally published as a rant on my facebook page, but thought it would be of benefit to publish it to a potentially wider audience. 


About discoveringlean

My blog will document my journey toward fitness at 50 years old.
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