June 21, 2013
Obesity is A Disease?

Dang it, I caught the obesity. It must have been that time I went outside without my coat on. No wait, it must have been when I didn’t wash my hands after that arm wrestling competition. No no no…. It had to have been that time when I was sneezed on at that fast food place…

To be a disease or not be a disease.. that is a great question. has 3 definitions for "disease,"  one of which is the following: "a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors." Using this definition, obesity can clearly be classified as a disease. There are environmental factors (food, stress, etc.) that negatively affect the function on the body. The tricky part is that these environmental factors are not thrust upon us. We CHOOSE to place these environmental toxins in us and round us. This choice inlies the issue of using the word "disease."

When we think of a disease, we mostly think of things like malaria, tuberculosis, influenza and other similar afflictions. In these cases, individuals are afflicted. Something has invaded the body and has created illness, and therefore produces a disease, but what about obesity? Is there an obesity parasite? Obesity virus? Well, not that we know of. But there are other insidious villains that are out to get you!

Your brain is out to get you. We have the ability to choose what goes in our mouths. This is a conscious decision... we are not force-fed cake until we become obese. The brain is wired to find the most calorie dense, sweet, fatty, epic-carnival-style foods out there, and when you eat these foods, your brain screams, "HECK YES!!! More! Get more of that deliciousness." For more info about this, please refer to our "Reward Center Eating" videos.

Your overweight friends are out to get you. If you are trying to take care of your health and your friends are not, they will often try to sabotage your progress (even if are not intentionally trying to ruin you) so they don't feel so bad about not taking action. We discussed this in another post "You are a Fitness Superhero."

Your life is out to get you. How is your stress? Most of us have high stress in our lives. And who got you into that situation? Well, I sure didn't make you stressed. And why do you eat? Is it for fun, reward, or stress management? When food becomes a source of anything except fuel it becomes something we must identify and control. Mind you, maybe 1 in 1000 people eat food for the sole purpose of fuel. Most everyone also eats for a purpose other than fueling up the body.

All of the above topics are within our control and are not things that are involuntarily thrust upon us. They are not viruses, bacteria, or parasites. They are ours to command. They may be challenging to command, but it can be done. I think there should be a word other than disease that indicates that we are in control of our state of being. Smoking is not a disease, but nicotine is VERY addictive. Yet, there are some people who do not respond to nicotine as strongly as others do. Contrary to this, we have alcoholism (labeled a disease). Alcohol will get anyone drunk, but to some, it is an addictive substance. And now we are at obesity. We must eat, but we don't have to eat like crap. Still, some brains respond to hyperpalateable food with much stronger reactions than others. Yes, food can be addicting. What allows us to call one controllable health state as a disease and another just a choice? Have you ever tried to quit smoking? It takes an average smoker 6-8 attempts to quit. An alcoholic will go through at least that many attempts to quit. Well, what about food? How should we classify this?

Personally, I don't care how we classify it. The fact is that our weight and our weight-related health is completely within our control. Obesity is not a food issue. It is not an exercise issue. It is a habit issue. An emotional issue. It is an above-the-neck issue. The issue is in our own brain. Regardless of how we classify it, we have the ability to affect our health.

Own it, team. Your health is yours to control. 

Written by Clark Masterson

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