In the end, the AMA cast aside the findings of its own council and opted instead for a resolution pushed forward by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American College of Cardiology and other organizations.
As the AMA’s governing body sees it, obesity is a “multimetabolic and hormonal disease state” that leads to such debilitating ailments as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Nobody would argue that obesity is a risk factor for certain diseases, notably diabetes, high blood pressure and heart conditions, however, is the disease model the most fitting means to address the issue of obesity?
Controversy continues to swirl around surgical interventions such as bariatric surgery and Ryan mentions how pharmaceutical companies are finding ways to address the problem. Before rushing in with simplistic solutions such as diet and exercise (although these are obvious remedies), the entire issue requires a more sensitive and accurate analysis.
Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple had an excellent article on this very issue. It is among the better articles I have read. Sisson is author of The Primal Blueprint, and writes sensitively concerning the obesity stigma. Sisson writes:
Some say the obesity/overweight stigma is the last allowable prejudice. Although I think there’s enough animosity and judgmentalism in the world to debate the statement itself, I understand the central point. Researchers have time and again measured the “anti-fat bias” (effects ranging from outright discrimination to unconscious stereotyping) at work in everything from employment to health care. Obesity/overweight stigma figures into the collective consciousness far more than we often give it credit for – lurking in places and people we’d assume would be immune to its effects.
Physicians themselves, numerous studies show, demonstrate a significant anti-fat bias. Just a few weeks ago, a published study reported 40% of medical students demonstrated an unconscious weight bias. Research has illuminated anti-fat bias in therapists and even health professionals within obesity related specialties.
With all this, research shows primary physicians are offering less weight loss counseling to their patients – particularly those with high blood pressure or diabetes.
Physiology is physiology. The biological facts behind obesity are constant, yes. The personal picture of one’s weight – not to mention each person’s experience of it – however, is much more complex than any stereotype or momentary judgment can begin to tell. When we simplify other people’s stories, I think the person we end up diminishing is ourselves. My mother used to constantly say “Worry about yourself.” Sure, it was generally in response to sibling quarrels or school yard gossip, but it gained dimension as I grew older. To this day, it’s one of the most abiding pieces of wisdom I’ve ever come across. It doesn’t mean of course, don’t appreciate other people or help where and when you can. After all, life is about connection. Happiness and health are about connection. That said, we miss the point when we bring a self-grandiosity or condescension to that engagement. We do better when our support for others comes from a place of personal humility.
Read More: The Stigma of Obesity
As we tackle this issue, we should do so sensitively and also with an awareness of our own challenges with our physical, spiritual, and mental health. I am all for personal responsibility but I am all to aware of human weakness, particularly my own. This means that as I get older there is less and less room for judgement of anybody on my part and more and more compassion.