For many years those suffering from obesity have been labeled as lazy and overconsumers. However, in more recent years there has been discourse surrounding the topic of obesity, leaving many of us wondering, is obesity a disease or a choice?
The American Medical Association’s (AMA) Definition
In June of 2013, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates officially recognized obesity as a disease. This controversial decision caused an uproar in the health community, leading to many individuals questioning the science behind the recognition.
There are many cases on either side of the argument. That’s because the topic of obesity is incredibly complex.
Obesity is a Choice: The Argument
Those who believe that obesity is a choice tend to lead with the fact that we choose what we eat. Every day you have to make decisions: what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; whether or not you will exercise; what clothes you will wear; and so on.
They tend to point out that if obese individuals would simply attempt to lose weight through physical activity and dieting, they would.
However, more complex health problems that affect weight management are often completely ignored. Weight loss isn’t the same for everyone; neither is weight gain.
According to those who believe obesity is a choice, these daily decisions are what define us, and those with obesity are choosing incorrectly. Because we have the potential to choose healthy over unhealthy, obesity is, therefore, a choice.
However, life is rarely as simple as that, and it would be wrong to say otherwise. There are a number of outside factors that contribute to our choices, whether we like it or not. We are influenced by our upbringing, our peers, our environment, our society, our education system, and much more.
Obesity is a Disease: The Argument
Research shows that in low-income communities there are a number of barriers to the accessibility and availability of healthy foods. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, those in low-income areas (especially minority-dense populations) are less likely to have:
- Access to grocery stores within walking distance
- Access to properly stocked grocery stores. (Many of these communities have a high number of convenience stores and small markets instead of a proper grocery store.)
- The money to support healthy eating habits
- Proper education on healthy eating habits
In the study “Designed for Disease: The Link Between Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes”, researchers looked at a community of 40,000 California residents to examine how access to healthy food choices impacts rates of obesity and diabetes.
Residents of neighborhoods with less fresh sources of produce and higher levels of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores were at a higher risk of obesity and diabetes.
The opposite was also found to be true. In areas with increased access to healthy foods and a higher density of full–service restaurants and grocery stores, lower rates of obesity and diabetes were found.
Disproportionate access to healthy foods isn’t the only factor that contributes to one’s risk of obesity.
- Genetics. Your mother’s weight and your family health history both contribute to your risk factor for type 2 diabetes and obesity.
- Infancy and childhood habits. There are a number of factors that occur during your childhood that can influence your health. For example, your childhood eating habits, exercise routine, your method of childbirth, and breastfeeding can all affect your likelihood of developing obesity.
- Medical conditions and medications. Weight gain is a common side effect of many different types of medications, such as birth control and antidepressants. Furthermore, common medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism can predispose you to weight gain.
- Hormones. Our hunger is controlled by hormones, and in obese individuals, those hormones tend to function improperly. This leads to an increased appetite and an attraction towards junk food.
- Addiction. Many of the processed junk foods that are popular in our society can lead to a strong addiction to food. This addiction functions similarly to that of a drug addict, research shows.
The delegation of obesity as a disease does one of two things: it encourages insurance companies to cover treatment and it recognizes the fact that we are a product of our environment and genetics.
So, is obesity a disease or a choice? There is not a definitive medical answer to this, but at WeightWise, our approach is to look at it as a disease.
WeightWise: Your Obesity Solution
If you suffer from obesity and obesity-related health problems, such as sleep apnea, arthritis, or cardiovascular disease, you may be eligible for weight-loss surgery. WeightWise offers a number of weight-loss surgery options to help you take your life back.
Please reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. Our team of dedicated weight-loss surgery experts in Oklahoma City is more than happy to help.