Is obesity a chronic disease?
Obesity has long been wrongly viewed as a kind of cosmetic flaw, something caused by overeating and nothing more than a lack of self-control. This damaging viewpoint has slowly changed over time to understand that obesity isn’t a flaw but a disease.
“The American Medical Association in 2013 was one of the last to recognize obesity as a chronic progressive disease,” said Lindsay Kirkland, RD. “The AMA’s recognition has really positively influenced the medical field to research and develop more effective treatment and prevention methods.”
Unfortunately, this realization has been slow to spread outside the medical field. Popular culture and general viewpoint still see obesity as “laziness” or individuals who “just need to eat less.” The reality is that combating obesity and its effects involves far more than eating less and moving more – it involves lifelong treatment and active prevention.
What are the risk factors?
“We know now that there are several components of any one person’s life that play a role in weight,” Kirkland said, “and diet and exercise are only two of many.”
Other risk factors include:
- Mental health
- Metabolic function
The most important takeaway?
Simply put, there is no one way to ‘cure’ or fully prevent every person from facing the potential of or dealing with obesity.
Obesity is a whole-body disease that affects every aspect of life, including shortening overall lifespan, impacting psychological well-being and social interactions, and often includes a significant financial burden, too.
“Obesity in the United States costs around 1.4 trillion dollars annually,” Kirkland said. “These costs can absolutely be financially crippling.”
While our understanding of weight management and health continues to adapt and change to better match reality, there is still lots of work to be done.
In order to support those we love who are dealing with the physical and psychological effects of obesity, and to continue researching and developing more effective treatment methods, we need to see it for what it is: a chronic disease.
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