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  • Debi Stafford

Obesity, part 1

I've kept it no secret, I struggle with obesity. I began gaining weight around age 8-9. I struggled with being the thick girl in high school. I saw myself as the fat girl. My mother would take me to Weight Watchers in the 1980s in an effort to help me find better eating habits, and it would work, for a while. Being a teenager where every social event involved cheeseburgers and pizza isn't health-promoting. I've had periods of healthy weight and obesity since those early years. I'm currently in an obese status, trying to reduce my weight to become overweight instead of obese. I'm 5 points away from making it happen. But why do I and so many like me struggle with obesity?

Obesity was first classified as a disease by the National Institutes of Health in 1998 (Rosen, 2014). The basic definition of obesity is a body mass index (BMI) over 30%. You can click here to calculate your own BMI. The BMI is not perfect, however. Men, in particular, can easily meet the obesity classification if they lift weights because muscle weighs so much more than fat. Because of the BMI limits, we must look at our bodies within the framework as a whole person. We aren't just numbers, we are living, breathing humans with minds, bodies, and spirits.

We are becoming a fatter America and fatter planet in most first-world nations. Since 1980 obesity has doubled in over 70 countries. I remember growing up in the 1980s and the person with obesity was noticed and made fun of. Today when I look around, it seems the slender people stick out more because so many of us are overweight. The CDC lists the following associations between obesity and health:

Health Consequences

People who have obesity, compared to those with a healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • All-causes of death (mortality)

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Coronary heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)

  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems

  • Many types of cancers

  • Low quality of life

  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders

  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

As you can see, obesity is a leading cause of health problems and mental health disparities. In the coming weeks, I'll discuss more on the root causes of obesity, and what we can do about it.

For now, I leave everyone reading with this: step one in addressing obesity is admitting we are obese/overweight and need to make some changes for our health.

Our clinics are glad to partner with you for better health through routine physicals, blood work, discussions on diets, exercise, and supplements/medications to assist you in your goals.

Rosen H. (2014). Is Obesity A Disease or A Behavior Abnormality? Did the AMA Get It Right?. Missouri medicine, 111(2), 104–108.

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