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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Obesity as “Disease” Will Increase Fat



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We will never control health care costs if we continue to medicalize lifestyle desires and problems. Take obesity, which I have discussed before. Some insist obesity is a disease, which is different from an unhealthy and disease-causing condition caused by our own personal behaviors. Calling obesity a disease empowers people to avoid personal responsibility. 

Perhaps worse, declaring obesity a disease also fuels the freedom-stifling technocracy–now growing like The Blob. Indeed, it is amazing how closely proposed obesity “solutions” track with global warming hysteria policy proposals. 

Now, a UK physician named Max Pemberton is playing my song. Writing in The Spectator, he warns against turning obesity into a disease. From, “Obesity is Not a Disease:”

There’s something comforting about blaming obesity on genes. It enables people to relinquish responsibility for their weight, which can be seen as outside their control. It’s nothing new, either. Years ago, fat people blamed their ‘glands’. When I started medical school, I patiently waited for us to be taught about these magical ‘glands’ that made people fat. I’m still waiting. Even when people have problems with an underactive thyroid, which can slow the metabolism and result in weight gain, this can be treated with thyroid replacement tablets and the metabolism returns to normal. As a rule, however, fat people have one thing in common: they eat more than they need to.

Pemberton puts his finger on the core problem: Personal attitude:

What really stands out, more than the lifestyle differences, is the sharp contrast in the attitudes towards obesity between the two different eras. The 1967 survey found that nine out of ten people had attempted to lose weight in the past year, compared with barely half of adults questioned in 2010. Perhaps most tellingly though, 40 years ago only 7 per cent of those people who considered themselves overweight had failed to do anything about it, compared with nearly half now.

That’s the key finding! If we want more fat, tell people it isn’t their fault, they are just sick. Empower the nanny state–increase government to save us–rather than handle the problem ourselves.

But that won’t work. Tell the truth. Be judgmental!

Doctors should be required to tell patients a blunt truth: if you’re fat, eat less, exercise more, or both. And if you keep guzzling the tasty treats, you will die earlier. It’s not a disease, it’s a mindset — and that means it can be changed. We doctors need to be a little less understanding, a little more judgmental, and realise that our oath — ‘do no harm’ — must come before our desire to save the feelings of our patients. The truth can be the hardest drug to administer.

I write as someone who has a weight issue.  I have to control my appetite to be in good shape. When I am diligent, I weigh less. When I yield to appetite, I gain weight.

For most of us, it is really that simple. 



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