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“Obesity” is a disease

The fatosphere has been alight this morning with the news that the AMA has officially made “Obesity” a diagnosis (at least the NY Times has a picture of fat kids running. The LA Times can’t seem to do anything beyond put headless fatties next to their story).

Marylin Wann, Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat, and Atchka at Fierce Freethinking Fatties have already done incredible jobs discussing this issue. I highly recommend reading their takes on it.

I wondered what it the world I could possibly say that would add to what they, and no doubt many others I haven’t read yet, have said. Then I realized, I can talk about how this may affect me as a doctor, and potentially my patients.

As far as how it will affect how I treat patients, well, it won’t. I will still encourage all of my patients, regardless of size, to pursue healthy habits. I will still weigh only when necessary. I will still discourage diets and weight loss for the sake of weight loss. My biggest concern is whether or not, as NDs become more widely seen as Primary Care Physicians (PCPs), as they are here in Oregon, if I will be forced to diagnose “obesity”. Considering that I am not part of the AMA, and I pray that my own national professional organization, the AANP, does not follow suit, it is possible my patients and I will not be faced with that. Regardless, I refuse to diagnose someone as “obese”.

As far as patient advocacy goes, this makes it even more clear to me that there needs to be an intervention at the practitioner level.

A Revolution.

Naturopathic Medicine has long been scoffed at, until something we have been doing to treat various conditions for decades suddenly is “discovered” by the conventional medical establishment. I see “obesity” and the fight for equal medical treatment for fat people in the same way. At some point, everyone, including many naturopaths, will fully realize that not only are diets bad (most people are getting on board with that now), but that lifestyle changes don’t always lead to weight loss and that is not due to a lack of compliance on the part of patients! Becoming an ND has prepared me to “suffer the slings and arrows” of the modern thoughts on “obesity” and health. I embrace the Health at Every Size(R) as an idea ahead of it’s time and as more people (physicians and patients) come to embrace it, I predict that we will see an improvement in health, and maybe even general weight loss (though maybe not). At the least, we will see happier, healthier, more well adjusted people.

I encourage every fat person reading this to have frank discussions with your physician. Fire physicians who do not comply with your health goals (if you can). Find physicians who understand that you are a person, and that your size should not dictate the quality of the treatment that your receive. Don’t let the financial interests of the diet, drug, and surgery industries affect how you are treated. Encourage your doctor to read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon and start a discussion. Patients will be a big push to get full equal treatment for fat people. Those of us who are already here are working toward it, but we are few and you are many. Plus you have money! Money speaks.

Questions and comments are welcome.

My “obese” cat has the same lifestyle as my thin cat.