Treating Obesity Seriously at Obesity Week

obesity week logoThis week I am in Atlanta, where the first ever Obesity Week (Where Science and Treatment Meet) is being co-hosted by The Obesity Society (TOS) and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).

What you have, are two major obesity conferences running back-to-back with a slight overlap, thus bringing together those of us primarily engaged in obesity research, behavioural and pharmacological interventions with those of us, who are primarily involved in bariatric surgery.

This not only makes sense but many may indeed wonder why it has taken this long for these two societies to synchronize both their the timing and venue for their annual meetings. After all, as regular readers will be well aware, bariatric surgery is never just about surgery. Nor, can those involved in behavioural and other non-surgical interventions ignore the substantial contribution that bariatric surgery is making made to the field.

Obesity Week also draws attention to the Treat Obesity Seriously campaign, initiated by TOS, which urges Obesity Week participants to take the following pledge:

“I believe obesity isn’t just a problem. It’s a disease that warrants serious evidence-based treatments. Nutritional and physical activity guidance. Intensive Behavioral counseling. Drug Therapy. And Surgery. I agree to learn more and help more. I treat obesity seriously.”

While purists may quibble with the wording, the intention of this pledge is clear: belittling obesity as merely a matter of poor lifestyle “choices” and sending those with excess weight off with friendly but useless advice to simply “eat less and move more” is not only contemptuous but also a major disservice to those with weight-related health problems.

The point of the pledge is to remind us to treat overweight and obesity as seriously and with the same diligence, be it behavioural, pharmacological or surgical, as we would any other disease.

Of course, regular readers will know my bias against simply using BMI as the means to decide who needs treatment and who does not – fortunately, this will be exactly the topic of several talks that I will be giving at this conference – where I will do my best to further promote the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) as a means of making meaningful clinical decisions.

I look forward to a week of hundreds of original presentations, review lectures, and (most importantly) intense discussions with my colleagues from the US and around the world.

Atlanta, GA