The disease of obesity?

The disease of obesity.

I came across this article about obesity by accident, but it made me think a bit about the way that addiction is often termed as a disease. This is not a definition that I agree with and I feel that it has a really negative effect on many people who believe they are suffering from something that cannot be cured. I also feel it is insulting to those who do suffer from real diseases such as cancer. I think people need to be honest and realistic about their problems and not dress them up as something such as a disease.

obesity cartoon

The disease model does seem to be more popular in America compared to the rest of the world, and I remember reading the great book the “Diseasing of America” by Stanton Peele, that talked about the way the ideas from the 12 step world had become mainstream in America. The article here about obesity is from a British site, where the disease model is not so accepted. I am not surprised it is critical of the idea that obesity is a disease. It points out that although some people may have a better self image by viewing their problem as a disease it actually holds them back in finding a solution and I think this happens in the 12 step world.

It is interesting that calling obesity a disease actually causes similar problems to many experience when they believe alcoholism or addiction is a disease. Although some people seem to form a better self-image, it often ends up with them succumbing to the disease they believe in. It is almost as if they are programming themselves to fail, which seems to be a problem in the 12 step world. Many of the obese people choose high fat food after accepting they have a disease, rather than realising that they need to change poor lifestyle choices. There are many parallels with addiction.

I think that the disease theory is pretty much the opposite idea, that should be being pushed for addiction, of whatever type. I think the best way to beat addiction is to look at what you are really doing with your life and not to try to dress things up or make an excuse. I have managed to get away from my addictive problems by acknowledging them and taking responsibility for every aspect of my life. You are not doing this, if you blame your addiction on genetics or a disease. AA groups often reinforce these type of “disease and powerless” ideas, and often promote quite bizarre solutions to many of the problems in life that can lead people into addiction or other problems.

I think getting honest about problems and being ready to take responsibility in all aspects of our life are important. I think a lot of people are harmed in early recovery if they go to treatment centers that promote the disease concept, and I can see the same thing happening with obese people, if they use the disease concept. The answer to obesity is a huge lifestyle change – the same as for addiction. The sooner people face up to a problem the quicker it can be solved. I think labelling these problems as a disease is a big mistake and people will look back at this idea as a huge error in the future. I certainly view obesity and addiction as an illness, and am sympathetic for those that have a problem, but I think dumbing the problem down as another disease is completely the wrong approach and will not help people in the long run.


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