Obesity is not a choice.
It's January, and with the start of a new year comes the mindset of a "new me"... which, more often than not, involves losing substantial amounts of weight in order to get "beach body ready" for the summer. As gross as this is, it's sadly nothing new - it happens every year, without fail. But this year, there's been an interesting story that's caught my attention...
Over the last two nights, I've seen the same story crop up on ITV Meridian, sharing the dangers of Fitbits and how dangerous counting calories is and how all of this can lead to anorexia, a horrific eating disorder that affects many people, but in particular young women. ITV shared that a special programme had been made about the dangers of calorie counting and Fitbits to help share knowledge and I thought what a good thing it was that rather than just push weight loss in January, a media outlet was also sharing the dangers of losing weight in unhealthy ways.
On the same day I saw this story on ITV, I saw the other story, the one that caught my eye. The one that claimed that obesity - another eating disorder - is a choice, and not a disease.
Wow. Is that really what people think?
I have a lot of thoughts on this, and after discussing it with Jonny and explaining why it was wrong to call obesity a choice, I knew I had to dump my thoughts on it on to the blog to help people understand why obesity is a disease.
Let's start by comparing anorexia and obesity.
If obesity is a choice, why isn't anorexia considered in the same light? If you're choosing to eat, surely you're choosing to starve too?
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, someone who used to give her lunch away to friends and skip as many meals as possible in a bid to be 'skinny', I can tell you now that it's not a choice, and I'm sure many other people suffering with eating disorders (either anorexia or obesity, or something else) would agree and would tell you the same.
There is a difference between skipping a few meals and having anorexia. There is a difference between gorging on food now and again and suffering from obesity. This is exactly the same as there being a difference between liking your books in alphabetical order and having OCD. Does that make sense?
Obesity is a disease because it's not just about eating more food than is good for you. It's about the fact that something has happened to make your brain tell you that you need to eat that food. People eat in response to loneliness, bullying, grief - all sorts of reasons! Similarly, anorexia is more than just "not eating". It's about that voice in your head telling you not to eat because you'll get fat if you do, not to eat because there'll be repercussions if you do. So on, and so on.
Anorexia and obesity are more than just how much or how little is being eaten. It's about the frame of mind that took that person to that place. It's about why it's happening. It's about more than just getting slimmer or getting fatter. There are all sorts of complications alongside it - because eating disorders are very complex!
Why is anorexia considered a disease and obesity isn't?
This one is simple, and it's an answer that will probably stir a few people up but it's true - and it's about time people's eyes were opened to it.
People are willing to accept anorexia as a disease because it's about being slimmer. It's about losing weight, it's about trying to be a mentally ill person's idea of perfect. It's about doing what many of us feel we have to do on a daily basis because the media tell us that's how we will achieve the perfect body. Because it's slim bodies we are seeing, we are willing to accept that anorexia is a disease. After all, the world and it's mother wants to be slim.
People don't want to accept obesity as a disease because it's about being fat. It's about being what society says you should not be, it's about being what society shuns and says is ugly, disgusting, grotesque. People see someone fat and they stop caring. People call obese people a strain on the NHS - yet surely, with that mindset, anorexia is too?
Both anorexia and obesity are eating disorders and both of them are medically defined as diseases. If you think obesity is a choice but anorexia is a disease, you need to educate yourself on the two. They are the same, they are both illnesses, diseases.
Keep your energy consistent and just admit you have a problem with fat people.
Is obesity actually a disease though?
Yes, yes and yes. 100 times yes. Obesity is a disease!
By definition, a disease is:
"A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury"
Which means that yes, obesity - and anorexia - are both diseases by definition.
Furthermore, eating disorders are considered to be mental health problems, and actually have the highest mortality rate of all mental health problems. People with eating disorders need help - do you really think someone would choose to put themselves through that? Do you think people choose to be depressed or anxious? No. It's the same for each and every mental health problem; none of it is a choice. It's the same with all diseases, they're not a choice.
Obesity is not a choice.
The real issue lies with fat people, it's as simple as that. People will use any given opportunity to criticise fat people, to deny fat people a right to just live their life, to condemn fat people rather than sympathise with them or support them. If people really felt this strongly about obesity being a choice, for whatever reason, they would have to use that same energy when speaking about anorexia, along with other mental health problems and diseases - because by definition, they are all the same!
Starving yourself to the point of being actually anorexic is not a choice. Gorging on food to the point of actually suffering from obesity is not a choice. Eating disorders are not choices.
Obesity is no more of a choice than anorexia. It's no more of a choice than alcoholism or drug addiction. No one chooses to have their mind completely taken over and destroyed by an eating disorder. No one chooses to have their mental health completely turned inside out and upside down, resulting in them having an eating disorder. No one in their right mind would choose that kind of life, and to suggest that any kind of mental health problem, eating disorder or disease is a choice is incredibly naive.
Obesity is a growing epidemic, we keep being told that... but is anyone actually taking the time to consider why?
Could it be that because almost all diets result in people actually gaining weight, rather than losing?
Could it be that, in a world that puts so much pressure on us to look and be a certain way, actually it's making people feel worse, leading to an eating disorder that goes against the grain?
Could it be because people rely on food for comfort and in a world that is full of so much hardship and sadness, eating makes so many people feel better?
You know what - there's probably a whole host of reasons. But rather than find out why, we're sitting here telling people who are suffering from a mental illness that what they're going through is a fucking choice. To be honest, it's absurd. Heartless, insensitive and absurd.
I'm not here to be told otherwise. If you comment about how obesity is a choice, I'm not going to waste my time responding because everything I could want to possibly say about obesity not being a choice is right here in this post. I'm not going to take abuse about it either - people who are nasty to me or to anyone else when commenting on this will simply be removed and blocked.
It's 2019. Time to wake up and open your eyes to what's really going on.
*Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. All info sourced to write this comes from my own experience of my disordered eating - both depriving myself of food and binging on food - as well as research from a number of articles on Google. I do not claim to know everything by any means about eating disorders or obesity and if someone with more experience in the field has info I need to share or rectify, please get in touch. Finally, I am not talking about obese people who are called obese judging by BMI - as we all know this is an age old measurement that should not be believed. I am talking about those people who are clinically obese and therefore suffer from other health related side effects and mental health problems. Hope that makes sense!*