Recently, I went out to lunch with some friends at an Italian restaurant. We had pizza with lemonade, followed by a slice of one of the best flourless chocolate cakes I had ever tasted; it was smooth, fudgy, and melted in my mouth, leaving me wanting more after every bite. Should I have eaten the entire thing? Probably not. But resisting something so delicious, especially as a self-proclaimed chocoholic, was too difficult for my willpower. I’m sure that many of us can relate, whether that weakness is a sizzling plate of bacon or a juicy hamburger or fresh French fries from your favorite fast food place.
The trouble is when these guilty pleasures are taken too far - and they are too often for many people. Over one-third of the United States is considered obese, and the trend isn’t exactly slowing. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently decided to classify obesity as a disease, leaving the medical community in a lurch. As with any controversial decision, there are opponents, supporters, and the people stuck in the middle. But to take a stance, you have to know the reasons for and implications of such a decision, which can be more complicated than they may seem.
Unless a person is obese to the point that it diminishes his/her quality of life, obesity by itself is not usually considered an illness. However, it is a precursor to many other health conditions that are life threatening, such as diabetes and heart disease. Many believe that calling obesity itself a disease will only serve to “prompt people to further identify obesity as a purely medical problem and one that is best treated by pharmaceuticals or surgery,” while it can (and should) be treated by exercise and a better diet by those who can afford it . Critics have also pointed out that overweight people are already ostracized by the media, and now, the stigma will only increase.
However, on the opposite side, there is some concrete justification behind the new classification. The AMA has verified that obesity fulfills the characteristics of a disease: It causes an impairment of the normal functioning of some aspect of the body, it has characteristic signs and symptoms, and it can cause harm or morbidity. Additionally, although for many people exercise and a better diet may be enough to lose weight, for others, obesity is a genetic issue that is caused by no fault of theirs. The new designation may make it easier for these people to get treatment, which is definitely a move for the better. As for the stigma associated with obesity, some argue that calling it a disease will actually lessen the stigma because people might understand that, sometimes, it just isn’t under a person’s control.
Personally, I tend to side with the latter argument – that calling obesity a disease is a move for the better. While I believe that personal responsibility is important, there are too many situations where it’s difficult to avoid weight gain – whether the reason is genetic, due to poverty, or anything else above someone’s control. And hopefully, the people who can afford to make better choices will now realize the significance of being overweight -- it’s not just a matter of a couple pounds but a real issue that can lead to over 65 different possibly life-threatening diseases.
The only way to really determine whether the decision was the right one is to monitor the number of obese Americans over the next couple of years. In the meantime, here are some easy tips that can help you stay on the right side of that statistic:
· Drink water to help regulate your metabolism and purify your body.
· Eat breakfast. That will keep you alert and concentrated while lessening midday cravings.
· Try to replace some junk food with healthier snacks (i.e. chips with carrots).
· Eat slowly, so you can tell when you’re really full. This will help prevent overeating.
· Exercise! Go for a jog, a walk, or even visit the gym. Having a good workout playlist helps - I got some songs from this website (http://themotivatedrunner.com/songs/) which has them sorted by genre!
· Move – every little bit helps!
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