Recently the AMA made a decision that’s likely to have long-reaching effects for fat folks everywhere. Going against the advice of it’s own committee, it’s done what it’s been a’hankerin’ to for years– it finally declared obesity to be a disease.
The War on Obesity (or more accurately described, the War on Fat People) has been the favorite toy mouse batted around by the media, corporations and politicians when they want to look like they’re trying to help people while simultaneously managing to still be assholes. They get to sit in judgment over a group of people who are lesser than them and, through a variety of methods, try to cure these helpless fatties. And by cure fatties I mean make them look like Stepford Wife copies of themselves. Because let’s be real – none of these people actually care about the health of fat people, including the AMA. But I’ll get to that in a second.
So we have this war on obesity, which is so terrifying that we’re forced to show seas of headless sagging waistlines on television, comparing fat bodies to things like terrorism, cancer, and tons of sources (funded by pharmaceutical companies and weight loss programs) will tell you that being obese is the actual worst thing ever. It’s killing everyone, and if these lardasses would just get off their butts and go jogging instead of shoveling Twinkies (RIP) into their mouths the entire crisis would be over. Obesity is a terrifying epidemic, despite the fact that for the twelfth year in a row the number of obese people hasn’t shown any significant increase.
Of course, this is overlooking the fact that several studies from totally disreputable sources like the American Heart Association have also uncovered what was coined as the “obesity paradox.”
While many may be incredulous, the largest body of evidence has found that fatness is not a risk factor for heart disease or premature death, even controlling for the effects of smoking. Ancel Keys and colleagues confirmed this nearly half a century ago upon examining 16 prospective studies in seven countries, as well as actual angiographic and autopsy examinations of 23,000 sets of coronary arteries which found no relationship between body fatness and the degree or progression of atherosclerotic build-up. And the most careful studies ever since have continued to support these findings.
True story. Being fat in and of itself is not in any way an indicator that you’re at a higher risk of heart disease. And fun fact, Ancel Keys? The inventor of the Body Mass Index scale, which was then sold as a way to determine someone’s health more cheaply and more quickly despite the fact that the formula he used was never intended to be used to determine health at all.
Which begs the question: why wouldn’t you have heard about these studies that seem to prove that obesity is not, in fact, the epidemic we think it is? That it is not in fact causing heart disease and cancer? That in fact, even more studies point to obesity as a symptom of other diseases rather than the cause of them? Why wouldn’t these claims, at the very least, be taken into consideration? Why aren’t they even a part of this global conversation we’re having about everyone’s bodies totally being our business? How many sentences can I get away with putting into one paragraph that all end with question marks?
Let’s start with the obvious: it’s been proven that doctors have an obvious bias against fat people. They don’t like looking at them, don’t like treating them, for reasons that have zero to do with their health. That is, we have a generation of doctors that have diagnosed you as soon as you walk in the door. No matter what you’ve walked in for, your doctor is going to push down their glasses and make a condescending remark about how you really need to lose some weight. I’ve personally had doctors tell me this right after telling me I have a perfect bill of health. The bottom line is if you’re fat, you have a really good chance of being treated like shit by your doctor no matter what your actual health is simply because doctors think fat people are icky. And the AMA is, of course, a community of doctors.
I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed that a lot of things make more sense when you start to follow the money, and in this I have to admire the brilliance of the so-called obesity crisis. Here you have a system that tells you that there’s an obesity crisis — something we’ve already acknowledged is contested at the very least by contradictory studies and findings that would seem to warrant that we do a little more research first — and the solution is all of these great weight loss programs. Pills, clubs, weight loss surgeries. And odds are good that your friendly doctor is going to recommend you go to one of their affiliates, or take a pill whose name you’ll find on the pen he’s jotting down your prescription with. They’re creating the problem they’re also getting paid to cure. They, along with the drug companies and programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, make more money with every obese client they diagnose as sick.
And the awesome thing about this “disease” is that it’s entirely your fault that you have it. Rather than do what we would for any other product that repeatedly failed to work the way dieting does long-term for the vast majority of it’s participants, we’re convinced that we have these mammoth bodies because we just aren’t trying hard enough to shake off our outer blubberous layers. And rather than have trained health professionals who examine our bodies and determine whether or not we’re ill in the first place, we have doctors with a bias against fat people who literally profit the longer they think we need to be cured. Doctors who don’t believe us when we tell them we’re active, give them a detailed accounting of what we eat, insisting that the only reason we’re fat is because we’re just so goddamn lazy.
These are the people who are running the AMA.
So! Against the advice of their own committee who sort of went “Uhh, but you guys don’t have any way to classify this except BMI that doesn’t really work,” the AMA in their infinite wisdom has declared obesity a disease. Let’s take a minute to look at the actual definition of a disease, as described in the Medical Dictionary of the US Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health:
A disease is an impairment of the normal state of the living animal or plant body or one of its parts that interrupts or modifies the performance of the vital functions, is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms, and is a response to environmental factors (as malnutrition, industrial hazards, or climate), to specific infective agents (as worms, bacteria, or viruses), to inherent defects of the organism (as genetic anomalies), or to combinations of these factors.
We can take this piece by piece. First we have this:
A disease is an impairment of the normal state of the living animal or plant body or one of its parts that interrupts or modifies the performance of the vital functions,
Plenty of people are naturally fat. It’s how they’re born, it’s how they live, it’s how they die. Even most anti-fat folks agree, though they’ll state that these folks are in the minority. And considering that fat in and of itself doesn’t physically impair a person’s ability to do anything (did you know that fat people perform in the Olympics?), it can hardly be described as an impairment.
is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms,
This is where some more of that “war on obesity” brilliance comes in– the only distinguishing sign or symptom of obesity is obesity itself. It’s like me deciding that being a redhead makes you fat and using the fact that I’m fat and a redhead as proof. In order for it to be a disease it has to have symptoms that aren’t the disease itself, which obesity totally can’t do. No disease can be conclusively linked to obesity– the opposite is true, in fact. Most studies show obesity as a symptom of various diseases, such as diabetes and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome even though the medical association would have you believe it’s the other way around.
and is a response to environmental factors (as malnutrition, industrial hazards, or climate), to specific infective agents (as worms, bacteria, or viruses), to inherent defects of the organism (as genetic anomalies), or to combinations of these factors.
Look, another thing that isn’t true about obesity! Are you sensing a trend? Fun fact: you cannot get infected with fatness. You cannot go vacationing in South America, drink the water, and come back with a case of Fat. Just like there aren’t any symptoms of obesity there aren’t any specific causes of obesity, at least none that have been defined or identified. Tons of theories, no actual proof. And for all the money being thrown into the black hole that is the mega weight loss industry you’d think they’d have found one by now.
Obesity isn’t a disease, except now it is because the AMA said so. The AMA who has been in the pockets of big pharmaceutics companies for a long time now. Would you be surprised to hear that this announcement comes alongside the news that two new weight-loss drugs have been released?
Two new obesity drugs — Qsymia from Vivus, and Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai — have entered the market in the last year.
Qsymia has not sold well for a variety of reasons, including poor reimbursement and distribution restrictions imposed because of concerns that the drug can cause birth defects. Those restrictions are now being relaxed. Belviq went on sale only about a week ago, so it is too early to tell how it is doing.
To hell with birth defects, you’ll be thin! And that’s what’s important. It’s hard to sexually objectify someone who’s a fatty, after all, and that’s what our medical and weight loss communities are about. How hot are you? Are you hot enough for a bikini? Do you have a summer bod yet? Have you earned the right to wear shorts and a sleeveless top this vacation season?
Because really, let’s take this down another level. Let’s talk about how even if all of the above wasn’t true — even if obesity is the worst thing to happen to us and is terrorism and cancer and bringing your children to an 11:00 PM showing of an R rated movie all in one — can we collectively agree that calling my body a disease is a dick move? You can’t separate obesity from fat bodies; we’ve already covered that it’s the only symptom for this newly minted disease in the first place.
This is also bound to cause a whole slew of problems for fat people who already have eating disorders in the first place. And no, I don’t mean the ones where they binge eat. Fat folks often end up with eating disorders because we’re praised for having them even moreso than skinny people are. How many times have you heard a coworker praise themselves or someone else for skipping a meal? How many commercials do you see on TV of thin, pretty women opting to have a meal-replacement shake instead of actual food? No one cares why or how healthily we lose the weight, all they care about is the actual losing part. There are dozens and dozens of stories where people had actual life-threatening conditions in which sudden and rapid weight loss was a symptom and instead of being alarmed and going to a doctor, they proudly announced to the world that they’d lost twenty pounds in the last two weeks. Your body rapidly dropping weight is dangerous as hell, but look what pops up into Google if you try to look it up:
So what we’re now collectively deciding is that certain bodies are inherently, by virtue of their size and no other criteria whatsoever, sick.
Let that sink in.
Sickness is now determined solely on how you look. If you look too big to be healthy by a society that bases it’s definition of “healthy weight” on Victoria’s Secret models and weigh in accordingly, you’re now diseased.
I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: this war on obesity and all these concerned people who are just looking out for our health don’t actually give a shit. If it was our health they were looking out for they’d be screening everyone, since we really don’t know what causes cancer, diabetes, heart disease. We don’t even know if there is one determinable cause or if it’s just a horrible genetic crap shoot. But fat people look gross, so now we’ve been given the honorary title of Walking Diseases.
All you need to do is look around to know that obesity is an enormous problem in this country.
Good to know that medical degrees come with invulnerability from prejudices and the ability to diagnose a disease at a glance. Or, you know. That doctors just hate fat people.
* A quick edit to say I am definitely not trying to stigmatize diseases or people with diseases either, though in my re-read I can absolutely see how it comes across that way. Having a disease sucks, and no one with a disease deserves crappy treatment here. What I should have made clearer in this article is that I’m against us categorizing body types specifically as diseases– the process of looking at someone and deciding that they must be sick/unhealthy was already a thing, and the AMA just made it official. It’s no better than deciding that because someone doesn’t look disabled that they must not be, which is also a really shitty judgment to make. So please, definitely don’t use this to make people with diseases feel crappier about themselves. And I deeply apologize to anyone I may have made feel that way with the way I worded this article.