Should obesity be accepted, or should it be viewed as a disease?

By accepted I mean saying “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes from very small to very large”, accepting obesity as an alternative to being thin or medium sized, etc? Or should it be viewed as a disease, something medically wrong that measures should be taken to protect against?

Neither? There’s many, many layers of nuance between “eat all you want” and “go away fatty.” My answer would go towards the second one if you truly mean obese, and for personal health and healthcare reasons. But people who are on the husky side but not morbidly obese should be trusted to make their own decisions, and it doesn’t help if the ideal weight weight is unattainable for most people. Some people aren’t the perfect weight but okay with it, some want to lose weight but can’t or don’t know how to, while others have some physical or mental problem and may feel fine at 400 lbs. You can’t treat them all the same.

Ultimately, policy changes should be done (exercise in grade school?) I don’t know, something like that. The soda ban mentioned in the GD is a no-go for me though.

I voted that it’s a disease and should be discouraged. I don’t see any good in pretending that people’s expanding waistlines aren’t a public health issue. However, I also think that once a person becomes obese, the goal shouldn’t be to focus so much on becoming slim, but rather on reducing the risk of developing the diseases that are correlated with obesity. Since skinny people can also develop these kinds of diseases, it makes more sense to get people to focus on more direct indicators of health, such as blood sugar and blood pressure, rather than on variables with looser associations, such as BMI.

It should be treated as a disease; not as a moral fault. Especially since overeating is a common response to anxiety; treating a fat person like they are stupid or scum for being fat is likely to drive them to eat more.

Agreed. What they need is sympathy, compassion, and a support system more than anything. Judging and ridiculing does nothing but make it more difficult for them, and acceptance of obesity as an alternative body size fails to acknowledge the health problems that result from it.

I think it should be accepted. Much of the medical fear of obesity is just a mask for the social climate we live in. Fat people are considered sexually, morally and socially inferior to thin people, as a result we look for ways to become thin to avoid this stigma. The medicalization of obesity fits right into that. Anyone who thinks teenage girls want to lose 20 pounds because they don’t want a 40% higher risk of a heart attack in 2050 is lying to themselves. Most people who try to lose weight (but not all mind you) do so for social reasons, they just say it is for health reasons. There is a reason the vast majority (4:1 ratio, I think) of obesity operations are done on women, if it was for health you’d expect a 50/50 ratio of men and women. If people want to lose weight because they feel it’ll improve their self image or social life, that is fine. But we shouldn’t be mandating that lifestyle on everyone.

If anything being mildly overweight (BMI 25-30) is somewhat less dangerous than being 18-25 BMI if you are elderly. They aren’t sure why exactly. Part of it could be the extra cushioning of the fat. part of it could be the extra muscle you build to carry it around.

I believe it has been found that a lot of the CVD benefit of obesity surgery comes from its ability to put diabetes into remission, (a recent study found 30-50% reduction in CVD events, with the majority being due to the effects on diabetes). That is a laudable goal, but if you are obese and do not have diabetes (which describes me), what CVD health benefit is there to the surgery? It brings your readings (lipids, blood pressure) down, but does that translate into a better CVD outcome independent of blood sugar effects of obesity surgery?

I could go on on how the health effects can be exaggerated, the health benefits of weight loss can be exaggerated, and how more benign behaviors (poor sleep, poor social contacts, lack of moderate drinking, etc) are just as bad if not worse for your health. But I guess my point is that since we have so many social stigmas against obesity we medicalize it to justify the fact that nobody wants to be considered disgusting, lazy and unsexy. But we should be honest with ourselves if we are going to discuss the topic.

I vote let people live. If people want to lose weight, that is on them. If people want to be fat, that is fine too. Just like some people prefer high stress jobs and some like low stress. But we shouldn’t be trying to eliminate it. We need to separate the social aspects of obesity from the medical aspects (much much easier said than done). Let the medical aspects be treated as a disease (type II diabetes, sleep apnea, etc), let the social aspects be treated as lifestyle choice.


It should be viewed as a medical problem and those who are seeking a cure should be given help with treatment. Also research should continue as to why some people have weight issues and others with similar eating habits and lifestyles don’t.

And people who have no desire to lose weight should be left along and not berated or belittled.

The problem is definitional: Too many people who are not obese think they are fat, and too many people who are dangerously obese think they are healthy.

But if your weight is giving you diabetes, or putting a lot of strain on your joints, yeah, the weight is an issue. (It may be symptomatic of drinking to excess, or smoking, which can be the bigger issues; but it is dangerous in its own right at some point.)

I think people who don’t realize other people’s weight is none of their business have a disease that should be prevented or helped.

I partially agree. A single person’s weight is none of my business. The rising number of obese people, however, is something that will impact me (and all of us) directly.

This poll posits a theory of disease that doesn’t make sense in the real world.

All disease is biological. We all have individual risk factors, and we all make individual choices that contribute to our risk factors.

All disease is social. We all live in a society that puts us at risk to or protects us from disease. A society with a high proclivity toward multiple unprotected sexual relationships, for example, is going to be at increased risk for HIV. A society with few regulations on chemicals might be at increased risk for cancer.

All disease is political. Political and power structures determine a lot of our social risk factors.

These things cannot be disentangled. Diseases exist in a system.

In any case, I think it make more sense to focus on the social and political risk factors of obesity, rather than the individual ones. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to shrug it off or say “Eh, some people are just obese.” Levels of childhood obesity, especially, are something to really worry about. Children are generally not making a lot of individual choices, but many obese children will end up having to manage obesity for the rest of their lives. We can do better than that.

Unless they fall on you, what would be the direct impact?

Health insurance premiums. The sicker people are, the more frequently they use health care services, and then insurance rates increase for everyone.

Sicker workers means lower productivity. That translates into unhappy employers, coworkers, and customers.

Sicker children means more days of school lost and more under-educated people.

We live in a society.

If that’s true, they should pay higher rates. So should all the fit people participating in dangerous sports activities, and people who are thin but still don’t exercise, and people who drink too much, and people who consume too much salt, and people who don’t wash their hands often enough, and people who drive too fast, and people who eat bagels (lots of people end up in the ER after slicing incidents), and the list goes on.

There is no need for people’s weight to be anything but a private concern.

Social isolation is a huge health risk factor. So is poor sleep. So is poor stress management. So is poverty. I’m sure there are tons of other lifestyle factors that decrease human health and cause all of the above.

But we don’t have the huge social pressures on those issues, so they are mostly ignored.

If an insurer decided to target the top three lifestyle-related risk factors and obesity was one of them, how would you feel about that?

The “all or nothing!” argument isn’t a compelling one, sorry.

See my response to TriPolar.

I agree with you that our society is rife with unhealthiness apart from obesity. But it’s hard to argue that obesity isn’t often a manifestation of this societal unhealthiness. Poor sleep + poor stress management often result in obesity. Lack of exercise + poor diet => obesity.

I’m not in favor of targeting anyone. But it’s wrong to say that obesity affects no one but the individual. That’s not true.

Obese people are of course unhealthy. Being unhealthy does not make you:

-Ugly, repulsive, sexually undesirable
-Rude, nasty, stupid, crass, a bad person
-Worthy of ridicule, a joke, not to be taken seriously
-Lazy, incapable of caring for yourself

To understand that obesity doesn’t automatically mean a person is any of those things - to me, that’s what it means to be accepting. I don’t think it’s sensible to pretend that a debilitating medical condition isn’t what it is, or isn’t harmful.

I would prefer that public health care be more limited because of just this problem. I agree that in fact it has become a public problem because of cost, but I don’t agree that it needs to be. I’m also not convinced that even if considered a high priority in public policy that a significant reduction in health care costs would result.

Do you have some evidence that obesity is a debilitating medical condition? If that were the case, and the statistics about the incidence of obesity are correct, then I don’t see how this country to continues to operate with so many people so severely crippled by their weight.