Is Obesity the Worst “Choice” a Person Can Make?

I am guessing that by now, everyone on this planet has probably watched the video of US TV anchor Jennifer Livingston, who delivered a sincere and well thought trough ‘comeback’ to an e-mail taunter, who declared that she was a bad model for viewers because,

Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain“.

While the public discourse and the world-wide media coverage of this issue has gone off on some interesting tangents (like for e.g. whether or not this e-mail actually constituted ‘bullying’ or was merely stating the facts), the immense outpouring of support that Livingston received may be a first indication that the tide on what is acceptable behaviour towards larger people may indeed be turning.

Interestingly enough, the statement that obesity is a ‘choice’, implying that the opposite is also true and that anyone can ‘choose’ not to be fat, remains a widely held notion. Irrespective of the fact, that the vast majority of people who ‘choose’ to lose some weight, actually end up putting it back on (and more), the belief that anyone can lose weight and keep it off if only they ‘choose’ to do so is prevalent even among people who have been battling their weight all their lives.

Thus, many of my patients blame themselves for their excess weight and blame themselves for not trying hard enough or failing again. It is one thing for the non-obese public to think of obesity as a self-inflicted matter of choice, It is something else entirely, for someone, who has already spent enormous time and effort on losing weight (over and over again?) to blame themselves for failing to make the right ‘choice’.

As health professionals, the one thing we can certainly acknowledge to our patients is that managing weight is anything but easy. Any health professional, who still tells their clients that managing weight is as simple as eating less and moving more (ELMM), has not yet grasped the very fundamentals of human biology.

Take someone with a genetic predisposition (i.e. the majority of us) and throw them into an environment of stress, sleep deprivation, sedentary jobs, hour-long commutes, abundant and omnipresent energy dense foods, unhealthy body-image promoting media, and obesogenic medications and I’d be surprised if they did NOT gain weight!

And remember, weight has never been a good measure of health or of a healthy lifestyle anyway.

So, kudos to Livingston for her comeback and kudos to everyone who jumped to her defence.

If you are one of the few remaining people on this planet, who has not yet seen this video – here it is (e-mail subscribers will have to head to my site to see it):

Appreciate your comments.

Edmonton, Alberta