People generally assume that obesity is strictly a matter of personal choices, the product of bad choices about physical activity and diet. That kind of thinking gets in the way of actually dealing with obesity as a health condition.
Obesity is a very complicated condition. About 50 to 70% of one’s risk of obesity is genetically determined. You can make choices that make it better or worse, but that’s just like any other chronic disease. When the blame and shame that is so common gets in the way, it makes it hard to actually improve the health of people living with obesity.
A lot of health plans have had broad, blanket exclusions for obesity, thinking that it is a cosmetic condition. However, the rise in the prevalence of obesity that’s happened over the last 3 decades has made it clear that it’s creating a burden of chronic disease ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to many cancers.
Because weight-based stereotypes and prejudice so often emerge from attributions that obesity is caused and maintained by personal characteristics such as laziness or lack of willpower, there is a clear need for increased public awareness and education about the complex biology of obesity and the significant obstacles present in efforts to achieve sustainable weight loss. The prevailing societal and media messages that reinforce blame on obese persons need to be replaced with messages that obesity is a chronic disease with a complex etiology, and is a lifelong condition for most obese persons.
A number of studies have consistently demonstrated that experiencing weight stigma increases the likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors and lower levels of physical activity, both of which exacerbate obesity and weight gain. Among youths, several studies have demonstrated that overweight children who experience weight-based teasing are more likely to engage in binge-eating and unhealthy weight control behaviors compared with overweight peers who are not teased, even after control for variables such as BMI and socioeconomic status. Other research has consistently documented a positive association between weight-based victimization and eating disorder symptoms and bulimia. Weight-based victimization among overweight youths has been linked to lower levels of physical activity, negative attitudes about sports, and lower participation in physical activity among overweight students.
If you’re looking for treatment for this very real, physical disease, contact Dr. Shawn Tsuda for an appointment. Our expert team understands the complexity of obesity and all of the issues that come with it. We can help find the right treatment for you.