Obesity – Officially a Disease According to the AMA

The American Medical Association officially labelled obesity a disease in June 2013 and guess who jumped on the bandwagon for even more reimbursement for its treatment?

Was it nutritionists? How about fitness professionals? No. It was the same-old, same-old… bariatric surgeons and Big Pharma. Popping pills and stapling stomachs don’t have a very high success rate for long-term weight loss compared with helping people change their eating habits and get active but that doesn’t seem to matter when there is so much money to be made with a “quick fix”.

Obesity Gets Even More Controversial

What Are the Real Solutions for Long-term Weight Loss?

According to data from the National Weight Control Registry (Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years):

  • 98% of Registry participants reported they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight
  • 94% increased their physical activity
  • Most keep their weight off by continuing to maintain a low calorie, low fat diet and doing high levels of activity (90% of participants exercise on average about 1 hour per day)

Note that successful long-term losers work on their nutrition and their exercise. They don’t pop pills.

Is It OK to Be Fat if You’re Fit?

Recent research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting showed that being fit is actually more important in terms of combatting the harmful effects of obesity (Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and so on) than losing weight. In other words, being fat and fit is healthier than just being thin.

Let’s Get Exercise Prescribed!

We would like to see more doctors prescribing exercise as medicine for obese patients instead of having them take medication or undergo dangerous bariatric surgery. We realize Big Pharma has unlimited funds to lobby for more attention and reimbursement for obesity drugs and surgery but wouldn’t it be great if doctors learned more about exercise and diet in medical school? Wouldn’t it be great if they could get as decently reimbursed for counseling their patients in exercise and nutrition as they do for prescribing medication?

Diagnosing Obesity is Faulty

What’s more, diagnosing obesity is most frequently done using body mass index (BMI) which is simply someone’s body weight divided by the square of their height. It doesn’t discriminate on composition so increased muscle mass will increase a person’s BMI in exactly the same way as increased fat mass. Using BMI as a measure of obesity labels more than a third of Americans and 56% of NFL football players as having a chronic disease. I have seen a healthy athlete with low body fat but lots of muscle mass check in as “overweight”. It’s insane.

The Bottom Line…

A significant shift in focus off of obesity and onto physical activity is definitely needed. Regular physical activity, no matter the size or shape of the individual, delivers massive health benefits that should no longer be ignored.

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