Let’s be clear, obesity is not a disease. By some medical definitions it is a simple ratio of weight and height that includes Tom Cruise, The Rock, and me. By other medical definitions it is a body that is 30 pounds over “ideal” weight. By it’s more colloquial definition it is just another word for what someone considers a very fat body. Making obesity into a disease is simply pathologizing a body size. While it’s been highly profitable for everyone from diet companies to pharmaceutical companies to bariatric surgeons, it’s a dubious idea at best. Obesity is not a set of distinguishing signs or symptoms. Obese people have as much diversity of experience, behaviors, habits, and health as any group of people with only one common physical characteristic but for the exception of our shared size discrimination, bullying, and oppression. I have suffered because I’m obese, but I’ve never suffered from obesity.
Still, even if obesity is a disease, let’s look at how it is being handled compared to other diseases:
Can you think of another disease with a treatment protocol that is prescribed to over 30% of the total population despite over 50 years of studies suggesting that the protocol is unsuccessful and often makes the disease worse?
Can you think of another disease intervention that fails almost all the time that is not only still prescribed to everyone with the disease, but whose failure is actually blamed on those who aren’t cured ? In spite of evidence that the intervention itself actually causes the disease? While those receiving the intervention are told that everyone who tries hard enough gets cured.
Can you think of another disease that is diagnosed by a single physical characteristic which has no distinguishing symptoms other than the physical characteristic itself, has widely varied health outcomes, almost none of which have been causally related to the single physical characteristic that comprises the entire diagnostic criteria?
Do you think it’s a good idea to shame, stigmatize, blame, bully and oppress people who have a disease and call it a public health intervention?
Can you think of a disease that often has zero major health consequences where people are nevertheless pushed to choose highly dangerous and very expensive interventions that can kill them?
Can you think of a diseases where doctors practice experimental medicine on millions of people while leading them to believe that the interventions are proven to be successful?
Even if obesity was a disease, there is absolutely no justification for the way it is being handled by medical science. Of course it’s not a disease. The pathologization of fat bodies is just more size bigotry masquerading as “medicine” and those practicing it should, and perhaps do, know better than to call a body size a disease, and they should, and perhaps do, know better than to make all the mistakes that are happening after the first one. Sometimes it’s just lazy medicine, sometimes it on purpose for profit. Regardless of why it happens, until it stops the rest of us have the option to refuse to buy in, and to speak up and stand up against it.
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