An illness that affects a person, animal or plant: a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally. This is how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an illness. A body mass index [BMI] of 30 or above. 

This is how organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define obesity. The two are related — obesity, which is otherwise described as having an excess amount of body fat, is a condition that prevents the mind and/or body from working normally.

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

Philip Bergeron / Graphic Design Editor

There are countless negative effects that having extra fat can have. These range from increased blood pressure and cholesterol to having an escalated heart rate when doing simple tasks. It is obvious that this condition is not ideal and that it has become an extreme issue in America. According to the CDC, over 30 percent of Americans were obese in 2012. This number has plateaued over the last couple of years, but is much larger than previous years. However, America is working to solve this issue.

Last year, the American Medical Association adopted ten new policies, one of which was that obesity is officially a disease. “Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D. said in a press release from June 2013.

“The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes, which are often linked to obesity.”

Something needs to be done — people need more help with battling obesity. But is deeming that they have a disease the best way to accomplish this? By definition, some may say obesity is a disease. However, it should not be considered one. For starters, the term obese is ambiguous and the same goes for the word overweight. In today’s society, the two are thrown around on a daily basis by people classified into all four BMI categories: underweight, normal, overweight and obese.

However, these classifications are not very accurate. Female college athletes are commonly classified as overweight when using the BMI calculation, because it is based solely on height and weight.

It does not take many factors into consideration. Muscle weighs more than fat, but BMI does not know that. Females have more fat than males, but BMI does not acknowledge this. The older a person gets, the more body fat they tend to have, but for BMI this does not matter.

Therefore, it is difficult to claim somebody has a disease when the definition of the condition is so vague. Additionally, in most cases, a disease cannot be helped. Aside from medical treatment, most diseases cannot be treated by lifestyle changes. An excess of fat occurs when energy in (calories) exceeds energy out (exercise), so when too many calories go into the body and not enough exercise is performed, fat builds up within the body.

Obesity can often be reversed by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. In some cases, such as genetic obesity, these choices may not always make someone lose 100 pounds, but they will help the person become healthier.

It is apparent that obesity is an issue in America and the actions being taken to solve this issue look promising. However, saying that these people have a disease is not going to help them get healthier. The term just lingers in the mind and de-motivates. Obesity is something that can be overcome and Americans need to be motivating afflicted people instead of bringing them down. Not everyone who is obese became that way because they sat on the couch eating potato chips for ten years.

Life experiences, like pregnancy, stressful jobs and much more, all take a toll on the human body and sometimes weight gain happens. America needs to keep an open mind and help people feel better about themselves. Obesity is not a disease. Not only can it be reversed and helped by lifestyle changes, but deeming someone as obese is vague in itself. Obesity is a temporary state that can be changed. It may be easier for some and more difficult for others, but these people are not diseased — just in need of a little help.


Diana Pimer can be contacted at

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