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No One Is Obese – End Of Story!

This morning I was reading an article in my favourite news magazine The Economist and came across a passage that reads as follows:

“About two out of five American adults are obese, according to the CDC…..Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, and 12% have high cholesterol. About one in ten has type 2 diabetes.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive, but I could not help notice how the authors talk about Americans BEING obese, vs. Americans HAVING high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. 

Of course the authors could have chosen to talk about Americans being obese, hypertensive, dyslipidemic, and diabetic, but they did not. 

Perhaps “chose” is too strong a word, because it implies intention and making a conscious decision. Rather, I think the authors probably gave no thought to this at all. In fact, they may be surprised that this is even a “thing”. 

However, this “thoughtlessness” about the use of the word “obese” remains common place, even amongst colleagues working in the field of obesity, who should by now know better. While the major obesity journals now at least pay attention to people-first language, copy editors of most medical and scientific journals appear blissfully ignorant that this is even an issue. 

Thus, we continue to see the term “obese” used freely in manuscripts, lectures, and conversations.

How much of this should we continue to tolerate and does it even matter?

Well, if it doesn’t matter, we would probably not even be talking about it. But we are, so I guess it does. 

Do I now sit down and write a letter to The Economist pointing out the problem – or do I just roll my eyes and shrug it off to thoughtless ignorance?

I guess I’ll find out.

Berlin, D


  1. Dear Arya,

    Yes, please write a letter to the Economist, and maybe work with WOF, TOS, OAC, EASO, ECPO, etc to countersign it. Perhaps also consider sending copies to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and USA Today.

    At some point this needs to get traction in the lay press, and this might be just the trigger.

    Thanks for all your great efforts!
    Best wishes,

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    • PLEASE PLEASE write a letter – we will never get rid of this word that the label of those of us with the disease as being the disease if people of your stature are not making the case as you did so eloquently here. THANK YOU for all your advocacy!

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  2. Here we are at least 7 years later at least, making the rational point that we are not obese, but have obesity. I was thinking about this today while weeding my garden today in 27 degree weather for 6 hours. I have to keep reminding myself I have a medical condition. I have to do this because I hear, read, watch how my “fatness” is my fault and my weakness. If our culture can do one thing, one very little thing, and that’s too say “ have obesity” instead are “are obese”, then that very simple change can help me not feel so horrible about myself and the challenges this disease present to me every hour of every day. Thank you Dr Sharma.

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