Obesity: Emotional, Mental or Medical Condition?

Over the last two years my view on Obesity has changed dramatically.  As a person who was once considered “Morbidly Obese” I understand what that label can do to a person. I mean you’re not fat or just obese; you’re now what they consider “Having to do with disease, illness, and a higher risk of death”. OUCH. To say this becomes part of who you are or affects the way you think would be a gross understatement.

Now, this article isn’t meant to create excuses for people who are obese. Actually it’s probably the exact opposite. I want to shed light and perhaps even explain why people have chosen..or NOT chosen to be obese..

 Editor: If you aren’t obese I would suggest reading this to get a better understanding on Obesity and why it’s an epidemic of mass proportions in this country.

Lets start with a definition. Obesity is described as “The condition of having an abnormally high proportion of body fat. Defined as a body mass index (BMI) of greater than or equal to 30. Subjects are generally classified as obese when body fat content exceeds 30 percent in women and 25 percent in men.” [1]

I hate the Body Mass Index. For one it doesn’t consider body type, bone density or muscle mass. I have always felt that the better indication on a person’s “Body Mass” is their Body Fat Percentage. Body Fat Percentage actually takes the percent of a person’s weight that is made up by fat. Different authorities have developed different recommendations for ideal body fat percentages. The table below describes different percentages but is not a recommendation (from the American Council on Exercise).

Description Women Men
Essential fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Average 25-31% 18-24%
Obese 32%+ 25%+

Let’s be honest here, if you’re Body Fat percent is 30% or higher, you’re in trouble. The BMI chart may be skewed or just plain stupid but there is a direct link between high body fat percent and a high BMI

Looking at this table I currently fall on the low side of “average” at 20%. When I started losing weight, I was somewhere around the 40% body fat which isn’t even tracked on this chart….again OUCH. Determining a person’s Body Fat Percent isn’t simple. Typically nutritionists need special tools and measurements to get an accurate reading. But for a general idea you can use this online calculator. For a much more advance version click here. So now we have determined how a person is medically labeled “obese”..

So now we have determined how a person is medically labeled “obese”. Next lets look at the why.

Is it their economic status, are they just plain lazy, or are there emotional, genetic and medical conditions in play? Well the simple answer is “all of the above” which is honestly the scary part. I got fat cause I ate a ton and never exercised. Actually, I would bet my bottom dollar that this is the reason why MOST people become obese but there are outside factors some people can’t control.

If you are reading this and are not considered obese I want to ask you a question….Why do YOU think people are obese? Don’t just go to the immature “CAUSE THEY’RE LAZY PEOPLE!!!” answer. Really think about it for a minute.

What was your answer?

Do you think if people just ate less and exercised they wouldn’t be over-weight? Is that the answer? Eat healthy and exercise more? Well, yes that is the frist step but certain conditions like Hypothyroidism, Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency, food sensitivity, Cushing’s syndrome, Prescription Drugs and Kidney, Heart or Liver Diseases all can cause weight gain. Many of these conditions aren’t known to the person and if you don’t eat the right diet for your “condition” than exercising is almost pointless…cause you won’t lose weight.

Did you know if you have Hypothyroidism that carbs are your arch nemesis? Your body doesn’t break down carbohydrates like the normal person causing you to store the excess as fat. If you didn’t know that but ate carbs in your diet you wouldn’t lose weight and become frustrated…It’s not just about eating right and exercising..

Unfortunately though, these conditions make up a very small percent of people who are obese.

Let’s look at some date. This first graph is showing the obese rates for each state. The second is showing the increase in Obesity, Cardiovascular disease and diabetes since 1900.







To say there has been an upswing in obesity rates since 1900 is an understatement. Just look at the increase in Diabetes! (This can be directly linked to weight gain BTW.) This is just insane..

Why the increase you may ask? Has there been an incline in “diseases” that create obesity? Are these “diseases” just focused in the South where obesity is out of control? Maybe, just maybe our mindset has changed and society has succumbed to the idea that more is better and less is for the birds? Perhaps we are using the excuse of being obese as a reason to stay obese? We have chosen processed CRAP over home-made healthy meals. That sweet tea is the new water…. McDonald’s is now a fancy restaurant…. Being active is just too much for our busy, hectic and crazy lives…I find all this to be complete crap BTW.

I recently read an article on Obesity that suggested a pill to “treat” the “disease” of obesity. It enraged me.

The reality is that obesity is a chronic, relapsing, neurochemical disease with a genetic basis. Simply telling an obese person to “eat less and exercise more” is overly simplistic and demonstrably ineffective. For many people, the extent of long-term calorie reduction and exercise enhancement necessary for adequate weight loss is not feasible for a multitude of biological and environmental reasons we are only beginning to appreciate.

As long as obesity is viewed as a matter of willpower rather than a medical condition, the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical houses will lack an incentive to develop and approve more medications–despite the reality that obesity is the most pervasive public health problem in our nation.” [2]

Why did it make me so mad? Well for one this “theory” is creating excuses. Yes, there are conditions that lead to massive weight gains but we aren’t talking about those who are 10-20 pounds overweight. These are people like myself who’ve been hundreds of pounds over the acceptable level. You don’t get to be 100+ pounds over weight over night.. The fact is there is a REASON why a person would systematically destroy their body. You don’t just wake up one day and all of sudden you’re 600 lbs. There was a process and a reason. Subscribing a pill won’t fix that.

It also made me angry because this doctor is allowing obese patients to rely on medicine and not themselves to change. I think the author of the article said it best.

In addition to my own experience, I’ve been (and continue to be) concerned that if obesity is fully medicalized, obese patients will shift all responsibility to their physicians for weight loss and for treatment of medical conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that are associated with obesity.

In discussing the issue with my personal physician, I found she shared these concerns. If, for example, patients felt they could indulge themselves at will and then have their physician prescribe a pill for weight loss and another pill to treat the medical problems arising from obesity, what incentives would there be for adopting a healthier lifestyle? And lest you think I am pointing a finger at others, I’m describing myself. Certainly had such an option been available to me, I would have considered using a medical solution rather than making the more difficult lifestyle changes.

Read that last sentence again and then think about why a person is obese. Do you really think a pill is the answer? It takes YEARS to become severely over weight. In fact it took me about 6 years to gain 100 lbs. (18 months to lose it) Think about how long it would take to gain 600. My reasons stemmed from laziness, the love of fatty foods and more laziness. It didn’t want to exercise. I loved carbs. I loved my soda. I wanted to eat and eat some more. Watching TV while eating a large bowl of pasta was more important to me than living longer. That was my personal reasons but I fear they are more common than not.

If you are reading this and are considered obese ask yourself why and how you got there. If it’s genetic then you know you must fight that much harder. The key is not making it an excuse to remain unhealthy. If it’s because of some emotional distress you suffered years ago, then seek out help to overcome it. Is it laziness? Stubbornness? Whatever the reason, you need to come to grip with it so you can begin to change your life. Using excuses as a crutch will do nothing. If you want a pill to fix your problem then you have already failed. There has to be a mental switch before the physical change can come.

And if you’re reading this and you aren’t obese, I would ask you to reevaluate the way you view other people, especially those over weight. Not everyone is obese because of laziness. There are many outside factors that play into a person’s weight, even your own. (you may be thin not cause you exercise but because your metabolism is naturally faster) If we as a country want to put an end to obesity, the first step is how we treat it and in my opinion a pill is the worst possible solution. Also, judging a person or teasing them for being “fat” doesn’t help the situation at all.

To sum up, I don’t believe that Obesity is a medical condition for 99% of those diagnosed but one that stems from emotional problems and poor choices. The only way to treat and cure obesity is not with a pill or surgery but with finding out the reasons why a person has chosen to treat their bodies in such a way and start there.

[1] http://www.diabetesmonitor.com/other/dictionary/glossary-of-terms.htm

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carole-carson/is-obesity-a-character-fl_b_831143.html?show_comment_id=80205310#comment_80205310


6 thoughts on “Obesity: Emotional, Mental or Medical Condition?

  1. As a person that used to weigh 345 pounds (5 feet, 8 inches tall), this really resonated with me in many ways. For one, I used to hate the BMI as well. However, I now weight 169 pounds (wearing a size 10 or 12 clothes)and am still considered moderately overweight. While most people would look at me and think that is crazy, I can actually see the few areas of fat I have and see the 8-9 pounds that would make me BMI healthy if I lost them. Now, considering the fact I lost 176 pounds, an currently less than half my former self, and am healthly when you measure my body fat, I’m not likely to strive to lose those extra pounds. If it happens, it does.

    I know what you mean about not all people are overweight or obese due to laziness, but the truth is that the majority of them are. Everyone I know that is overweight or obese is so because they are too lazy to cook, too lazy to exercise, etc. Lazy may not be the word they use but simply put, they’ve chosen not to make health a priority in life. We’re all so busy working that we don’t feel we have time to exercise, or cook a decent meal, and when food does taste good, we don’t want to waste the money so we keep eating or just eat to soothe our moods. I know that’s why I was fat and everyone else I know tells me that’s why they’re fat. I agree that finding some pill to solve the problem is a very bad idea. It took me 17 years to get that big and 2 years to take it off. Honestly, I still eat what I want (only likely a smaller portion or in balance with healthier food) and working out daily has changed my stress levels, makes me feel better and gives me more energy. I now ask myself why I was so lazy as I can’t imagine being that person again. I think if people worked on losing weight, committed themselves to it and tried various methods (thus finding the perfect one for themselves) that our society might be less overweight. We’re just too busy doing too many other things.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I agree 100%. My point is that each person needs to find out why they gained the weight. There’s a reason and if someone can find said reason, overcoming it is much easier.

      Its more about coming to the understanding you ARE lazy then actually being lazy. If that makes sense. Most people refuse to admit their faults, which keeps them from ever changing.

  2. for me it was eating to much. The lazy part does and does not apply. I worked 60+ hours a week and had a baby. I ate what I could fast and when I could not I would graze on unhealthy stuff all day long. I also have a love affair with beer. When I would get off of a 12 hour day, I’ d go home and eat and then drink three heavy beers right before bed. Since I started getting back in shape on Jan.3rd I’ve gone from 281lbs to 238lbs. I just said I don’t care how busy I am I’m going to get a work out in. I also decided that I could cheat a little on weekends but during the week I would really think about what it was I was eating. On the weekends I get some exercise like bike riding with the family or hardcore gardening, landscaping. The thing that helped me the most was that I knew I could do it. In 2005 I went from 300lbs to 180lbs. I was 300lb because I loved to eat, smoke pot eat some more, watch cartoons, play video games and then eat some more. I did very little and ate alot. So when I filled out the survey I clicked that because that was my own experience.
    I too find BMI to be total bullhit. My wii fit says I will be healthy when I hit 169lb. I have news for that wii, I will never no mater how hard I try get to 169lbs. I’m 6′ with broad shoulders and a good amount of mussel mass (even now that it’s a little hidden under some plumbness ). By the bmi scale every linebacker and running back at bama would be unhealthy. I’m by no means saying that I’m an elite athlete but it goes to show how flawed it is. I do know that not everyone’s reasons are from laziness and eating to much and people need to stop and think before they make judgments but for me I was the laziest worst eating man in the tri county area.

    • 169 lbs! Thats stupid crazy. At 6’2” it says i should be around 190. Impossible. My goal is 225 and even then ill somewhat take it from there. 190 and id look like death…

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