Labeling Obesity as a Disease May Have Psychological Costs

In my book I make a case for the impact of the disempowering messages of "today" on our waistlines and psyches. Now, here is some evidence that being inundated with defeatist messages from the medical community may really be a form of enabling: 
Messages that describe obesity as a disease may undermine healthy behaviors and beliefs among obese individuals, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The findings show that obese individuals exposed to such messages placed less importance on health-focused dieting and reported less concern about weight. These beliefs, in turn, predicted unhealthier food choices.
The other day I was reading a discussion on LinkedIn between a physician and professionals who work with obese individuals. The consensus among them was that until "society" offers better "choices" for healthy eating, that any talk of "personal responsibility" is a form of fat-shaming.

What about offering better THINKING choices that EMPOWER people? What's so shameful about educating ourselves to make healthy choices in a sick society? If any of us waited for the world to become a better place to make better choices, wouldn't that be choosing to give up our personal power?

I really believe the key to fitness is to stop consuming junk in all forms: science, food and thinking. When I step on my scale and look in the mirror more than four years after I began the 50s diet, the validity of the outdated belief system of can do is positively reflected!

Comments

  1. Very good point! It is so easy now days to *blame* something instead of taking responsibility for ourselves, our families, etc. Everything starts at the crib. Like one nurse told me many years back, "Training starts at the breast."

    ~lisa

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    1. This line of thinking is great for business if you're selling pills and potions which makes it very scary and all of us potentially vulnerable to being exploited.

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  2. I didn't like the AMA's decision on that either. It's really an economic insurance driven cave-in. Of course, I never joined the AMA, lol! I was a member of the student AMA during med school, but they were a more useful organization to be part of, lol!

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    1. I'd love to see more insurance-covered prevention and attention similar to what we saw in Cheers for Chubby! But I'm afraid it may lead to more pills and surgeries instead.

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  3. While watching "Cheers for Chubby", I couldn't believe how involved the doctor was in Mr. & Mrs. Chubby's health. When I go for a doctor visit, my nurse weighs me...the doctor sees me - and never brings it up - even when I was VERY overweight. At that time, the overweight nurse brought it up (irony). My HMO gives the "cattle shoot" treatment. My neighbor, who is a dietician, told me that the doctors of my HMO are allowed between 7-8 minutes to see each patient - hardly time to really get to know a person. So, I think the better argument the doctors in the LinkedIn discussion could have made would be, "How can we properly care for patients when we are being rushed", but that would require biting the hand that feeds them.

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    1. Excellent points, Momo's Mom! I'd love to see them discuss that, too. Another thing about the 1950s medical care-- they still made house calls! Ah, the good old days.

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    2. I can see and treat many patients in 15 minutes. Considering what I do to them, they are very happy I'm that fast :-)

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    3. I always have the feeling my doctor is rushing to get me out of his office to move on to his next paycheck - I mean patient. Doesn't give me much confidence in going for check ups or even emergency situations.

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  4. I agree that if as a culture real healthy choices were the norm it would be easier to keep weight at a healthy level but to say we have to wait for it or it's "fat shaming" is just silly. Most of us are fortunate enough to NOT live in food deserts.

    One thing I do if buy a lot of produce. When I open the fridge it's there and I don't have to dig for it and it's abundant, not junk.

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    1. OH, I forgot a key part! One of the people in the discussion thread said that it was very 1950s to think in terms of personal responsibility because now we know so much more about the causes of obesity...that was meant in a derogatory way, of course!

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  5. I absolutely believe that packaged foods are far more sophisticated than they were 60 years ago, and that scientists are hard at work to find the right combo of fat and salt and sugar that will compel me to eat more.

    To me, that means I need to exercise even MORE personal responsibility, not less.

    I very much enjoyed the video btw! I thought it was cute and I didn't think it was fat shaming at all.

    But the idea of a doctor actually having a conversation with a patient instead of just whipping out a prescription pad? All too rare these days!

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    1. I agree!

      I'm glad you enjoyed the video. It's very telling that so many picked up on the relationship of the doctor with his patients and how that is lacking today; not just in quality and time but also the discussion of being overweight...and no pills.

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  6. I know this discussion is very very old, but I enjoyed reading it. I was rather appalled both when alcoholism and obesity were declared a disease. This is not like cancer. Or the measles. All kinds of behaviors are now "not my fault."

    I do agree that declaring anything a disease makes it a cash cow. Perfectly normal things, like wrinkles or male pattern baldness, now require medical intervention. Which means pharmaceutical studies, support groups, fundraisers, and establishing foundations to discover a cure. All these employees will need to be paid, of course.

    I agree with your book. We're all being encouraged to be thin-skinned when it comes to the truth. But I've always preferred the truth. It really does set you free.

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