If you are one of the millions of people in America experiencing the serious problem of weight gain and obesity … it is NOT your fault. Obesity is a disease.
According to Merriam Webster’s College Dictionary (10th edition), disease is defined as a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning. Based on this definition, obesity, like alcoholism, depression, and anxiety, is a disease. It impairs normal body functioning and is a precondition for diabetes, heart disease, low back pain, some types of cancer, and a variety of other diseases/disorders.
In fact, obesity has been officially recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association, an action that could put more emphasis on the health condition by doctors and insurance companies in order to minimize its effects.
There are definite medical patterns: hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter deficiencies and nutritional exhaustion that all contribute to obesity. Many of my obese patients have underlying medical issues that need to be addressed. That's one of the reasons I am so passionate about helping my patients lose weight.
Diets and exercise regimens often fail simply because these underlying medical issues have not been addressed. My approach is to evaluate a patient fully, including family history, hormone evaluation, nutrient status, and life inventory to understand where to begin in treating this disease. There is no quick cure for this deadly disease. It is a a complex entity with many causes.
Some of my patients have endocrine issues like thyroid malfunction or hyperfunctioning of the adrenal gland (Cushing's syndrome). For others, there are genetic factors that produce a tendency to overweight even with the consumption of what would be for most people an appropriate number of calories. But most often, obesity is caused by a combination of inactivity and overeating.
There is, to be sure, an important emotional component to overeating; often patients do it for comfort, out of habit, from boredom or for combating anxiety. Some use it as a defense against rejection. Overeating for some patients is a lifelong compulsion which is profoundly ingrained into their behavior. Many children are served inappropriate foods in much-too-large portions.
Individuals with obesity have an increased accumulation of fat not always attributable to eating too many calories or lacking physical activity. Individuals with obesity experience impaired metabolic pathways along with disordered signaling for hunger, satiety (the feeling of fullness), and fullness (the state of fullness).
For many, efforts to lose weight are met with unyielding resistance or disappointing weight regain because our bodies have a set-point. This is demonstrated by the follow-up body composition results of contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” As contestants lose even as much as 230 pounds, their body’s response is a slower and less efficient basal metabolic rate. This occurs in an effort to return the body to its previous condition of obesity; it’s a counter-effort by the body that makes weight gain easier and weight loss harder.
Set point theory suggests that your body weight is regulated at a predetermined or “preferred” range. While there are conflicting opinions on whether “set points” really do exist, the bulk of research seems to suggest that set point theory is legit. This means your body weight will always “settle” within a certain range.
So if that's the case, the questions is: can you change that range? The good news is "yes you can." Research shows you can, in fact, change your set point. As most of us have experienced though, it’s not an easy thing to do.
The pathology of obesity is vast and varies based on the cause of weight gain. There is not just one type or cause for obesity. Obesity sub-types include congenital, stress-induced, menopause-related, and MC4R-deficient, to name a few. Obesity is related to genetic, psychological, physical, metabolic, neurological, and hormonal impairments. It is intimately linked to heart disease, sleep apnea, and certain cancers. Obesity is one of the few diseases that can negatively influence social and interpersonal relationships.
Why obesity is a disease is becoming more evident as we increase our knowledge of fat mechanics. To successfully confront the obesity pandemic will require attacking the disease and its manifestations, not just its symptoms.
Studies show that more than 80 percent of our health care dollars in this country are spent needlessly on the management of multiple chronic medical diseases experienced by Americans that could be completely avoided The World Health Organization states that 90 percent of all Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, 80 percent of Cardiovascular Disease, and 30 percent of all Cancers could be eliminated by lifestyle changes and reduction of overweight and obesity.
Contrary to popular opinion, Overweight and Obesity are NOT a lack of will power, NOT a weakness and NOT a character flaw
attacking the disease and its manifestations, not just its symptoms.