I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk Inc. to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
I have written about my weight, body image and health numerous times in this space.
It’s something that has been an issue for me since I had my first son in 2001.
As I’m getting older, reaching a healthy weight has become even more important to me and the idea of treating obesity as a disease requires a stronger partnership from my medical providers.
But, sometimes they make it hard.
The last time I went to my doctor and asked him for help treating obesity he said, “Have you tried a treadmill?”
I laughed, because that’s what I usually do when I’m embarrassed, and then I got in my car and cried.
Of course I’ve tried a f*cking treadmill. And an elliptical. And Zumba. And one of those happy, fun stationary bike things that made my crotch hurt for a week.
I wanted to march right back into his office and say that to his face.
But, I didn’t.
Because it was the same fat shaming, this is your fault for being lazy and loving cinnamon rolls, message I’d been hearing for years.
So, I took my sad self home and laid on my couch watching Netflix and feeling defeated and doomed to live in a body I don’t love because it doesn’t love me.
Could I have hit the treadmill and told myself I was going to show him and all the other fat shaming people of the world that I could get fit if I worked hard enough?
I could’ve tried.
But, after years and years of exercising so much I had little time for any other things in my life (literally, worked out multiple times a day and only ate weight loss bars and still never EVER met my goal weight) and not seeing the results other people saw, I can admit, I was discouraged.
It wasn’t until I started working with Med-IQ a couple of years ago that I really started to reframe how I think about my obesity.
After a recent meeting with Dr. Stanford, Obesity Medicine Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, I’ve learned even more about the disease of obesity and how it should be treated.
Want to share your experience with obesity and enter to win $100? Complete this survey.
Treating Obesity as a Disease: 5 Things I Know For Sure About Obesity
Obesity is a disease.
Like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the countless other medical issues people seek treatment for daily, obesity is a disease that requires treatment from a medical professional.
It has taken me a long time to accept this.
The idea that it’s not just me, that I didn’t do something wrong to deserve obesity, and that it’s not something I have because I’m lazy, unmotivated, dumb or lacking willpower is hard to internalize when the day to day messages we receive speak to the contrary.
The countless posts from celebrities who “snap back” after babies and from those who share their “all-natural” weight loss remedies that celebrate them losing weight with just a small change in diet, drinking a bunch of water and adding a little exercise helped me spend the last 19 years thinking I was a lazy failure who couldn’t lose the baby weight because I wasn’t trying hard enough.
In reality, obesity has a lot to do with your genetics, hormones, age and body type – all things we can’t control. And, just like any other disease you might seek treatment for, treating obesity should involve a variety of things, including individualized health plans, medication and surgery among other things, none of which you should feel bad about.
I am finally ready to seek real treatment for my obesity.
I found a doctor who specializes in obesity treatment and I’m hopeful that she will be the partner I need to win this fight. If she’s not, I’m informed enough now that I know I can keep looking until I find one who is.
If you’re ready to seek treatment for obesity too, here are some things you need to know.
Obesity is not your fault.
Really, the entire idea of blame and fault should be removed from the obesity discussion.
Doctors don’t treat addiction by constantly telling addicts they’re the problem. They don’t give up on people with kidney disease if the first medication they prescribe doesn’t quite fix things. They don’t shame and blame people with heart disease or make them feel like they ate their way to a heart attack.
Your doctor shouldn’t make you feel this way about obesity either.
Get yourself a doctor who understands that you are not the problem and your disease needs to be treated as such.
Surgery is not a lest resort.
And neither are medications.
So many times we are made to feel like needing medical interventions to treat obesity is a sign of failure when, in reality, it’s just part of treating obesity like the disease that it is.
Naturally, as is the case with any disease, you may try a host of other treatments before deciding on surgery – diets, exercise routines, medications, etc. – but, at the end of the day, surgery is something that may be the best course of treatment for your case regardless of the various treatment options you’ve explored previously.
Medication and surgery should be considered as one of the many tools at your doctor’s disposal for treating your disease no matter where you are in your weight loss journey.
Your doctor should support you.
And, if they’re not, then you need a new doctor.
I have gone to countless medical professionals about my weight and each of them have approached the topic in a way that made me feel shame.
From, “Have you tried using a treadmill,” to “you’re not that fat,” my desire to lose weight has consistently been met with negative responses from the medical professionals in my life.
I urge you to find someone who understands that obesity is a disease. You need to feel comfortable advocating for yourself, but you also need to know you have a healthcare provider who is willing to collaborate with you and offer real solutions to your obesity.
You want someone who is willing and able to create a long-term healthcare plan that involves a variety of treatments specifically for you without making you feel like you’re a failure.
There’s no one way to treat obesity.
Yes, some people can walk three miles a day and lose 20 pounds in a month. Others of us will not be able to shed a single pound with just adding exercise.
“Exercise, for most people, eventually leads to weight maintenance NOT weight loss” – Dr. Standford Obesity Medicine Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital
Similarly, some people can reduce their calories and note dramatic weight loss while other people’s body’s, for a variety of reasons, may react differently causing them to gain weight when they do this.
This is me.
I’ve spent more days than I care to admit to laying on the floor without energy to move or work out because I was following a diet that required me to eat under 1000 calories a day (I got down to 800 once and still didn’t lose much weight).
Don’t be discouraged if reducing your calories or a rigorous workout routine isn’t the answer for you. There are countless ways to treat obesity and none is better or more noble than any other.
Your doctor should help you find the treatment that works best for you.
If you’d like to learn more about treating obesity as a disease and how you can advocate for yourself with your doctor, I encourage you to watch the live interview with Dr. Stanford here: MedIQCME.
Enter to Win
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate.
Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about the challenges you have experienced when trying to lose and maintain weight and any strategies that you have used, which will help us develop future educational initiatives.
Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 6 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.