David Walker on obesity

Posted by Dave Walker 9.1.19

Senior physicians say obesity is a disease. It has been in the International Classification of Diseases since 1948, arbitrarily defined by a number (Body Mass Index).

The status of disease may help lift the low self-esteem associated with being overweight and obese. It may also correct perceptions that being overweight is caused by gluttony. It is in fact the accumulation of a small number of calories above the body's daily requirement over a long time.

Obesity can be unhealthy. Type 2 diabetes and the associated cost to the Health Service is the most public of its problems. It is a component of the factors that predict increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Arthritic hips and knees can be more painful and less functional, leading to pain in the lower back. Then there are sleep and snoring problems.

To reverse obesity is hard. A permanent change in calorie intake below the daily requirement is needed. Crucially, it involves taking personal responsibility. It sits with other conditions like back pain, fibromyalgia and ME, where the first step back to health is to recognise and accept the individual has a problem which only they can put right. There is an industry surrounding diet, so there is no shortage of help.

There is also exercise. Something everyone is advised to do. It's not everybody's cup of tea but start doing something and keep doing it. Another permanent lifestyle change.

But is obesity really a disease? I suspect those senior physicians will have their doubts. It does get the issue into the press however and encourages everybody to talk about it. Not that there are a shortage of column inches on this topic, but anything that helps to correct misleading perceptions is to be welcomed.

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