Arguments Against Obesity As A Disease #8: Promotes Helplessness And Hopelessness

sharma-obesity-depressionContinuing in my miniseries on arguments I hear against calling obesity a disease, I now discuss the objection, that doing so promotes a sense of helplessness or even hopelessness in people who carry extra weight.

First of all, as noted previously, carrying extra weight is NOT the definition of obesity. For someone to have obesity they need to be carrying weight that is actually due to excess or abnormal fat tissue AND there has to be some negative impact of that fat tissue on their health – otherwise they do not have obesity!.

That said, I am not sure how calling obesity on changes anything in terms of helplessness or hopelessness.

Yes, the effective options to better manage obesity are limited and most people will likely struggle simply not to gain even more weight – but that fact doesn’t change whether you call obesity a disease or not.

Indeed, there are many diseases for which we lack effective treatments (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis), this does not make any of them any less of a disease.

As for hopelessness, just because you are diagnosed with a chronic disease doesn’t mean everything is hopeless.

In fact, there are many people living with chronic diseases that are controlled and well managed (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea), who do just fine (with treatment) and go on to live long and productive lives.

Obviously, we need better treatments for obesity but even without those,  people living with obesity can change the course of their disease by identifying and  addressing the root causes of their weight gain (e.g. depression, PTSD, emotional eating, etc.) and adopting behaviours, which even if not resulting in any noticeable weight loss, can markedly improve their health and well-being.

Again, whether you call obesity a disease or not is completely irrelevant to whether or not you feel helpless or hopeless – the management approach would be the same, except that hopefully it will shift attention to a chronic disease strategy that requires long-term sustainable management rather than an acute intervention that is unsustainable.

If we are serious about providing patients with help and hope, let us get serious about finding and providing better treatments for this disease.

Toronto. ON