Obesity is a Disease: What it Means for Patients

June 24, 2013

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Obesity a DiseaseLast week, the American Medical Association released a statement recognizing obesity as a disease.

Who cares? You, as patients, should.

You may think it doesn’t matter what it’s called—a condition, disease, lifestyle—but the reality of human nature is we alter our approach to problem solving depending on its definition. Think about it. When you hear the word “organic,” many automatically think “healthy.” When you hear the word “smoking,” you automatically think “unhealthy.” Now, when you hear the word “obesity,” you may think “disease,” which is something that requires care and attention.

I applaud the AMA, the nation’s largest physician organization, for taking a stand to focus on advancements in treatment and prevention of a disease that affects one in three Americans. Here’s how you will benefit:

Your physician will be more prepared. A recent survey, published in BMJ Open, found only 44 percent of primary care physicians reported success in helping obese patients lose weight. Unfortunately, this statistic doesn’t surprise me because it’s not the central focus in medical school. Ironically, physicians see countless obesity cases. Classifying obesity as a disease is a breakthrough message to physicians regarding their critical role in addressing the nation’s obesity epidemic. It puts the medical community in the driver’s seat to improve your health at its root, which is weight management.

You will have better resources. Your physician will make providing you with the best resources a priority. For example, your doctor can calculate your BMI using your height and weight, but your BMI isn’t the whole picture. Many athletes, for example, have high BMIs but are a healthy weight because they have more muscle mass. Today, there are scales available that can give you a more accurate assessment of your health. My patients, and patients of other Center for Medical Weight Loss physicians, have their weight assessed using a Body Composition Analysis scale that measures percentage of muscle, water, and fat. Recognizing obesity as a disease will encourage more doctors to invest in better resources, like a BCA scale, to improve your health.

You won’t put your weight on the back burner. Hopefully, this message will urge you to take control of your health. Your physician can tell you that you need to lose weight time and time again, but ultimately, only you can decide to make a change. Your doctor can’t monitor everything you eat, but he or she can provide guidance and counseling to help you reach your weight loss goals and get your health under control. If you’re diagnosed with a disease, everyone needs to be on the same page and have the same goals to find an effective cure.

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