Inspiring message of the day: obesity is not a disease and you do have free will

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According to a new study, it does more harm than good to label obesity a “disease.”  Shockingly, the study finds, when you tell people that they are victims and that they have no control over their physical condition, you ultimately discourage them from attempting to improve themselves.

So when the American Medical Association suddenly decided to throw science out the window and declare that body fat is a disease like cancer or malaria, they knowingly and purposefully stoked the feelings of helplessness that many of us already struggle with on a daily basis.

They also enriched themselves by ensuring that government health insurance plans would cover obesity treatments and diet pills, but I’m sure that was totally not a factor in their decision.

Beyond the findings of this survey, there are many other problems with calling obesity a disease. Here’s one: it isn’t true.

Obesity is not a disease.

Of course it isn’t.

Obesity might cause diseases, and there might be illnesses that make it easier to become obese, but obesity itself — the condition of having excessive amounts of body fat — is not a disease. Calling obesity a disease is like if I stab myself in the arm and then claim my bicep wound is an “illness.” Sure, the wound might become infected and cause a disease, and there might have been some psychological disorders at work which prompted me to knife myself in the first place, but the wound itself is simply a result of my actions.

Obesity, likewise, is a result.

It’s also a cause, but first it is a result. We eat and the body converts that food into fat. That’s how it works. To call that process “diseased” is to fundamentally rewrite the laws of physics. Some people have slower metabolisms and some people have thyroid issues, and those can be diseases, or symptoms of diseases, or the results of diseases,  but ALL people gain weight by eating. This is a fact. It is not a disease.

If the fat on my gut — which I rightfully earned from eating Hardees last week — can be called a disease, then I suppose the number 2 has a disease because every time I add it with another 2, I get 4.

Obesity is a problem. It’s a struggle. It’s a hardship. But it isn’t a disease. The Bubonic Plague was a disease. It killed 100 million people, and they never realized that rat fleas were to blame. But fat is different. Fat is not a mystery. You can’t “catch it” from parasites. You can’t become infected by it.

If obesity is a disease, then smoking is a disease. And so is drinking, and so is running blindfolded across the highway in the middle of the night.

We are a fat nation, this is true. But why? Well, because the average American spends over 34 hours a week watching TV. And because Dunkin’ Donuts had so much success when they market-tested their Donut Sandwich that now they’re taking it national. And because Taco Bell has a Doritos Taco, and it sells like crazy no matter how many Taco Bell employees are photographed defiling food in the back of the store. And because we are so hell-bent on instant gratification that diet pills (or “speed,” as most drug addicts call it) are a billion dollar industry. And because millions of people have milk shakes and cake for breakfast, but they feel OK about it because we call them “Frappuccinos” and “muffins.” And because Mountain Dew. And because funnel cake. And because most Americans haven’t done a crunch since middle school, not counting the Crunchwrap Supreme they ate this afternoon. And because we consume a ton of food a year while drinking 53 gallons of soda. And because microwaves. And because processed-and-packaged-and-wrapped-in-plastic food.

I don’t discount other serious factors that make it very difficult for some people to shed the pounds, but to label obesity a disease is to ignore ALL of the things I just listed.

I hear a lot about genetics, but people in the 19th century had genetics, didn’t they? Yet they didn’t have an obesity epidemic. You know what else they didn’t have back then? Cinnabon. Coincidence? Probably not.

Do my genetics stop me from exercising? Do my genetics sneak into my bedroom at night and inject sugar and grease into my bloodstream? I ate a double beef burger and fries for lunch this afternoon. Did my genetics make that choice?

Emphasis on choice.

I’m often told that some people “just can’t lose weight,” and that it “doesn’t matter what they do.” I’m sure some people have a much harder time losing weight, but can it be the case that there are human beings on this Earth who literally CAN’T? If obesity is genetic, then I suppose this would stand to reason. It’s a funny thing, though: I’ve never in my life heard of someone getting lost in the woods for five days, or locked in a cell in a POW camp, or coming down with a bad stomach virus and vomiting for 56 hours straight, and coming out of it having not lost any weight at all. Now, I’m not suggesting that we starve ourselves. But I am suggesting that starvation leads to weight loss for EVERYONE on the planet, which clearly proves that obesity is not simply a genetic issue. It proves that lack of food leads to less weight, which proves that more food leads to more weight.

See, we’ve done a horrible thing by turning every shortcoming and every personal struggle into a “clinical” issue, or a “disease” requiring surgery and medication. When we attempt to pawn our flaws off by pretending we are the victim — rather than the cause — of them, we severely diminish ourselves. We diminish ourselves by rejecting our own potential and dismissing the power of our own will.

We also insult the Lord Himself.

When God made human beings, He gave us an awesome gift. He bestowed on us an enormous power. He gave us a power so great that it makes each of us more significant, more impactful, and more essential than even the biggest stars in the sky. We can do things that no other creature on Earth can do, we have a capacity that goes beyond any other known entity in the entire physical universe.

We are set apart from all else.

We are set apart by our power to change. Our power to create. Our power to choose. Our power to use our will. Our free will.

My free will and my immortal soul are the things that make me more significant than a raccoon or a dung beetle. I am not a beast, and this is why. I am not a slave to instinct and programming. I have urges, but I can transcend them. I am weak, but I can be stronger. I can desire one thing, yet do another. I can want something, yet refuse it. I can long for gratification, yet delay it.

I can. I might not, but I can. I have that potential. You have that potential. Unlike an insect that simply is whatever it is and does whatever it does, and can never be more or do more that that, you and I can change. You and I can ascend or descend, improve or falter, succeed or fail. This is what makes us human.

I am accused of being a downer and a cynic, and this post will surely bring out those accusations all the more. But it isn’t true. I want so much out of life, and I truly desire for everyone to be fulfilled and to better themselves.

It’s modern philosophy that is negative and cynical. It’s the Freudian quackery that tempts us to retreat from our humanity, descend down to the level of a skunk or a snake, and embrace the cowardly and convenient notion that we have no control and no say over the things that we do and the sorts of people that we become.

We DO have control over our obesity. I know it is not a popular thing to say, but popular things are rarely worth saying at all.

Obesity is not a disease. To say otherwise is to toss sound science, medicine, biology, theology, and philosophy out the window. And what is left?

Nothing, really. Just an ugly and pointless world populated by animals and robots, where we all suffer, we are all helpless, and we are all victims. And then we die.

This is the picture many people paint — the world in which they wish to live.

And they call me the cynic?


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477 Responses to Inspiring message of the day: obesity is not a disease and you do have free will

  1. I do believe that some people are predisposed to be bigger and it is greater struggle for them to lose weight. However, even for said people, they ultimately have to decide and make a choice over what they eat and don’t, if they exercise or not, etc.

  2. rlcarterrn says:

    Great post! As a nurse I see people who are suffering from the consequences of obesity EVERY day. But I too believe that the VAST majority of obese people are obese b/c of POOR CHOICES, just as you said. It’s really quite empowering to realize that we have the power to lose weight & become healthier. Otherwise, we’re just stuck in this negative cycle that will never end. And yet we are crazy & offensive for saying this?

  3. August says:

    I always wonder why people discount history when they claim obesity is a disease or that they can’t lose weight. People a century or more ago spent their entire days in physical activity and we think somehow that we can have the same results–a lean, muscular body–by going to the gym 3-4 hours per week. People walked or rode horses everywhere they went (and horseback riding takes muscle–if you ever go for a ride and you aren’t seasoned, you will be very sore the next day), and they spent their days working hard, physically. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, taking care of their domestic farm animals, etc. That’s why obesity meant upper class, because those people did less work and spent more time sitting around. Now, we might have people who “work hard” but even standing in a kitchen cooking all day, maybe moving around, still doesn’t burn as many calories and walking the ten acres of your farm, mucking out stalls, churning your own butter.,. etc. Even those of us who work hard are quite sedentary compared to our 18th- and 19th-century counterparts.

    • Dee Jakes says:

      You are so on the right track August! I hadn’t stop to think about it from that angle! Thanks!

    • JMD says:

      Exactly right. And the lack of physical activity in modern society is only half the equation. Calories – that is, food – are available like never before in history. Throughout most of history your food options were limited to what you or your community could produce. Even in more advanced societies which were able to ship food long distances, the shipping was expensive and so real variety was restricted to the upper classes.

      Today we’ve learned how to produce food so abundantly and ship it so efficiently that we have an endless variety of options at very little cost. Of course I can buy fresh strawberries and oranges and bananas even though there’s been snow on the ground for the last five months. Of course a pound of any one of those things will cost me less than the minimum hourly wage. And beyond the fresh fruits and vegetables available year round, I can also get meat, dairy, baked goods, various forms of sugar and fat, and thousands of already-prepared meals right at my local grocery store.

      Not only can I buy raw ingredients and frozen dinners, but in under 10 minutes I can reach a dozen different establishments that will provide me with a hot, calorie-laden meal for, again, less than an hour’s income at minimum wage. For under 7 bucks I can get a cardboard container of fried chicken, a sack of burritos, or at least a dozen different types of hamburger – most with cheese and/or bacon and a side of fries.

      Most people a couple of generations ago spent their days walking and toiling, then came home and made a simple dinner with locally produced ingredients. Today any ordinary person can consume enough calories to sustain a small village with very little money and effort.

  4. Steven Chetelat says:

    Dude, reading your blog makes me sick. Well, fat, anyway, because I had never heard of a donut sandwich and now I have and I must have one and it’s your fault.

    • Andrew says:

      So true! Hey Matt, in your next post can you tell all the porn addicts where to get a new kind of porn that is even more addictive and morally decaying! I think my nearest Dunkin’ Doughnuts is 45 miles away…another wasted Saturday! Can’t wait for the weekend now! My life is so sad, only epic moments of pleasure make it worth living.

      • Dee Jakes says:

        Are you guys for real?

      • Kayla says:

        I totally believe at some level you learn to take personal responsibility for our own health even as a child. But realistically let’s look at where most people who are obese fall, they are in in the “low class” or are poverty stricken. Then they have kids, but while they are pregnant eat crap processed foods, because that is all they can afford, because fresh food is no subsidized in this country. Plenty of studies have shown what a mother eats during pregnancy can affect the health of the child, then they pass on the bad eating habits and then we get pissed because we have all these fat people but they cannot afford the healthy food majority of the time. So yes at some point there is a choice to choose whether you want to be fat or not, but again lets look at the school system. We create “healthier meals” in the cafeteria, but take away gym class? Who are the students who usually have to eat cafeteria food, low class families. If you have money your parent packs you a better lunch. In the United States we are more worried about being productive at work that we are stressed and anxious all the time and we decided to make the bad choice for our bodies because we are exhausted by the time we get home. I think there is someone to blame in every contributing part, the government for not subsidizing the fresh fruits and veggies, but instead to corn and cattleman, to the lack of exercise that people do not get because of work, or school etc… I think overall it is a epidemic of the combination of all those factors, but it begins with the nature vs. nurture. You learn from your parents. If your parents model bad eating habits never encouraging exercise but are ok with kids only watching TV or playing on the computer. What do you think the kids will do when they are grown? Yes there are kids who are very internally motivated who make the choice to change. Loosing weight is extremely overwhelming with all the information out in the world today. Their parents may have never been supportive or tried to help their children.Sometimes you never know which way is right or left. Not to mention we are not in a society any more where people are willing to help their neighbor. So to put the blame on free will or choice is ignorant on many levels.

        • MM says:

          I think before we blame someone else, we need to blame ourselves first. And to say that eating healthy is expensive is wrong. I’m a nutritionist, and one of our projects is to educate poor people to know how to cook so that they can still eat healthy and save money. But first, these poor people need to want to make their lives better and join the program. Call me an optimist, but I believe that this country would be a whole lot better if we recognize our faults more and try to change more, instead of thinking “i can’t change”, or “there are so many factors that I cant control”.

        • Megan says:

          The trouble with this line of thought is that again, it’s taking away the individual’s responsibility. Obesity is not the fault of the government or the schools – though I will concede it’s more likely the fault of parents than any of these – and saying it’s this complicated is overlooking the obvious. Obesity is still not a disease.

          My parents may teach me badly, but that doesn’t mean I have a disease. If they taught me to be an extreme racist, for example, no one today would allow me the excuse of saying I couldn’t help hating everyone of a different ethnicity because my parents were ignorant and taught that to me. It’s a poor excuse to say adult people are fat because their mothers couldn’t afford good food when they were growing up and that’s somehow society’s fault at large because we aren’t subsidizing vegetables.

          Honestly, everyone knows that the way you get fat is by eating. Period. No matter how poor, we all know that. To say someone doesn’t is an insult on the level of saying that being poor means your intelligence is inherently less than a rich person’s so you’re not as much of a person.

        • Kunoichi says:

          “Honestly, everyone knows that the way you get fat is by eating. Period. No matter how poor, we all know that. To say someone doesn’t is an insult on the level of saying that being poor means your intelligence is inherently less than a rich person’s so you’re not as much of a person.”

          Actually, what’s insulting is to assume that fat people are fat because they are too lazy to prevent themselves from becoming fat by *gasp* eating!!! Heaven forbid they actually *injest food*. Tell me. what do all those skinny rich people (because apparently there are no fat rich people?) do? Are they all breatharians?

          What you are basically saying is that, because “everyone knows” eating causes fatness, poor people who are fat are fat because they *choose* to be fat by daring to EAT. No, not over eating or being more sedentary. It has been repeatedly found that the differences in diet and exercise habits of fat and thin people are statistically insignificant. It just happens that some of us get fat, and some of us don’t. Never mind that so many people who are fat have dieted themselves that way, developing disordered eating patterns, wrecking their bodies and even going so far as to surgically destroy perfectly healthy digestive system, all in the name of trying to conform to a society that tells them their worth as human beings is directly related to the size of their a$$es.

          Do you have any realization how condescending and insulting your statement is? It’s a friggin’ slap in the face of people who get slapped in the face – both metaphorically and literally – all the time, because their body size somehow offends people. Thank you so much for adding to that abuse.

        • I think it’s pretty clear that @MM means consuming excess amounts of food is at the root of the problem, over anything else. Weight gain definitely has to do with the nature of your upbringing, but when it comes down to WHY the body puts on WIEGHT, it’s strictly how much food is going into it. Are there people with thyroid issues? Yes. DIabetes? Yes. Environmental influences? Yes. This list could go on, but you don’t cater to the lowest common denominator. The fact is that the majority of over weight people are that way because they eat a lot, or eat unhealthily. Now, are there many solid, good reasons for this? Sure, like having 8 kids and a job, etc.etc. I know that.
          However, there are people in these situations who still manage to eat healthy. It’s not about someone’s body offending me, it’s about HEALTH, and I don’t care how you argue it, an obese person is not healthy. End of story. And this IS something that can be helped due to diet and exercise. You really think that what you what you choose to eat and how active you choose to be has little to do with physical appearance? Really? Huh, it’s startling then that more Olympians don’t have pot bellies…
          I agree with @MM. While education about healthy eating is important, you still have to want to change. And while there’s a lot of info out there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that eggs in the morning are healthier than lucky charms.

          (Oh, and cheaper.)

  5. Momof3 says:

    For a huge portion of the population, there’s a LOT more to it than “eat less, move more.” It matters WHAT you eat, which used to be common knowledge until the USDA came along, but nobody teaches us that anymore. So overweight people who try to lose weight (and, really, are there many overweight people who HAVEN’T tried to lose weight?) and fail are forced to think of themselves as weak-willed or lazy, and that’s how naturally thin people view them, too. But it is just not that simple. Ever been around someone who eats more than you, but stays thin? Well, it works both ways. There are a lot of overweight people who eat less than you (and have a lot more willpower) and stay fat. And how depressing would that be?? Watch the documentary Fat Head, and/or Read Tom Naughton’s “Character vs. Chemisty” series on his blog, fathead-movie dot com. Or read _Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It_ by Gary Taubes. Or something by Dr. Michael Eades (blog or books). The official dietary advice we get these days (and have been getting since — oh, look at that, pretty much since so many more people started getting fat) is dead wrong, and it’s hurting people. And you’re right, Matt, that we don’t look at obesity the right way, but I’m afraid you’re not looking at it the right way, either. The fact that your fat cells respond to fewer calories and more exercise doesn’t mean everyone’s does. I hope you’ll do some research before you comment on this subject again, as I generally have (and prefer to have) a lot of respect for what you say.

    • Jackie Hogan says:

      So…you’re saying that Matt is right, yes? And then you are castigating him for saying it. He didn’t say it was easy, he made a point of saying some people are prone to a larger body weight than others. When all is said and done Matt is saying that we as individuals have free will and the choice to either eat the wrong things or study hard and learn what our bodies need to be healthy. Diabetics have to learn this and do this or they die. We were gifted with free will. All we have to to is learn to use it instead of what we are doing now as a nation.

      • Momof3 says:

        Castigating is a strong word, but okay. I’m actually castigating him for following the party line of “eat less, move more, it’s that simple” when it’s not that simple. The politics of dietary advice are wrong. The dietary advice given out by medical professionals is wrong, even for diabetics. (The official advice for diabetics, whose bodies cannot process carbohydrate, is to eat regular amounts of carbohydrate at every single meal, and carbohydrate snacks throughout the day. Um…) Not everyone’s body works the same. But unless someone happens to run across the truth, like I did, everyone who believes most doctors and makes the choice to “study hard” keeps trying the wrong tactic and shooting themselves in the foot. And then all the naturally-thin people call them lazy and weak-willed, and they believe it because they don’t know the truth. And that is counter-productive, and it is wrong. I hope you really want to understand, and will do some of the reading I suggested.

        • Jen says:

          Wow! Strong yes. Do you misunderstand the definition of freewill? Free will is the ability or discretion to choose; free choice. Now how you take care of your body is free will. If you skinny or fat you have the choice of what you put in your mouth. It can be good for you or be crap that just tastes really good. It is completely up to you.

          And the diabetics eating carbs… really? I sure hope you are joking.

          And truthfully you should always do your research and ask questions. Especially if it involves your health.

        • Charles says:

          Free will certainly exists…what many seem to misunderstand is that it’s limited. The phrase “everything is a choice” is misleading and dishonest.

          What constitutes choices does not always imply a “reasonable” choice.

          Lets take an extreme example to make this distinction clear. Each individual has minor to major variants of chemical and hormone production and receptions. These affect and effect choices and actions. The reigon of the brain that governs concscious choice can also be varied in ability, scope and functionality. All these factors play into “choice” as one makes a decision based on the nature of their brain chemisty and perceptions based upon education and such functions. A sociopath is incapable of valuing human life by the very nature of the abbooration in their brain. The chemical and electrical impulses that drive their ability for empathy are completely shut down, or performing at such a minimal capacity that it has no effect. Do you say they choose to be sociopaths? That they then choose to kill because they still have a choice? What about the fact that they are literally incapable of valuing life and therefore do not see the moral implications? When you choose to speed in your car you know you are violating the law. You know you should not violate the law but you do so anyway. This could be because you don’t realize that speeding drastically increases not only the rate of crashes but also the chance of fatality. You pay you speeding ticket and continue on. No one sees you as intently evil for it because its seen as a marginal offense. This is the way a sociopath feels about killing. They don’t comprehend that it’s “wrong” and so violate that law because, to them, it’s inconsequential and they have an urge to do it.

          The reason I toss this out there is that it’s as foolish to say a sociopath chooses to be damaged and commit murder as it is to say a person with chemical imbalances and emotional issues “chooses” to contine to be obese and suffer the pain and torment that comes with such things.

          It’s far more common than people pretend it is…that these individuals have issues emotionally…this stems from chemical imbalances….which distorts their perceptions to make “choices”. There is help for them….but labeling obesity as a “choice” is dishonest and a show of ignorance.

        • Charles says:

          Bah, aberration.

        • Jen says:

          Sorry to use your reply, but trying to reply to Charles. You again are using a psychological issue as an example. Eating disorders are psychological as well. There is the exception, but for the most part it is a disorder. And I cannot find any research backing your statment about diabetics eating carbs regularly. Do you have a link or were you using sarcasm?

        • Momof3 says:

          Jen, in reply to your second comment and question about diabetic dietary advice: google it. You’ll be hard pressed to find any dietary advice for diabetics that does not include carbohydrate at EVERY meal. They act like whole grains and fruits are not carbohydrate, but of course they are. And while the fiber might SLOW the spike of blood sugar, it does not eliminate the spike of blood sugar (it simply postpones it). And for diabetics, sugar is POISON in their system. The American Diabetes Association (I’m looking at their website) says to avoid “sugar,” but of course straight sugar is not the only carbohydrate, and every carbohydrate turns into sugar in the bloodstream. They, our official national organization to help diabetics, think a “limited” amount of carbs should be consumed at every meal by diabetics — they should just pay close attention to how many carbs so they can take the correct amount of their insulin or other drugs. Very, very few medical professionals recommend what would actually help diabetics be healthier without drugs, which would be to AVOID CARBOHYDRATES.

          Not every diabetic could forego prescription drugs, even if they switched to a no-carb diet, because some people’s bodies will convert protein into glucose, so they still end up with high blood sugar. But many could! As an anecdotal example, both of my parents are diabetic (type 2, diagnosed late in life), and I have always been a sugar addict (I snuck it and often was embarrassed by my inability to decline in public). A few years ago, when I started feeling terrible immediately after I ate the sugar that I couldn’t resist, I got a blood sugar monitor. My fasting blood sugar over a week varied from 110 – 118 (110 is officially “pre-diabetic”, and 120 is what gets you diagnosed as diabetic). My post-meal blood sugars got as high as 175 (conservative estimates believe damage happens above 120 (see bloodsugar101 dot com for more info), and anything post-meal over 150 raises most medical professionals’ eyebrows). I had recently watched the documentary Fat Head, and decided to cut out the carbs almost completely. I limited my carb intake to less than 20 per day. Amazingly (unless you know the science behind it), my blood sugar normalized — within one week, my fasting blood sugar hovered around 75. After meals it was around 110.

          I lost about 60 lbs eating low-carb, high-fat foods. I was never hungry. I had more energy, even though I never exercised. My intense sugar cravings were gone within a week. I rarely had to use any willpower or make hard choices.

          AND, for the most part, I no longer crave sugar or carbs of any kind. I can sit in front of a plate of my favorite cookies, as I did recently, and simply ignore them. Did my character change? Did I finally just exercise my willpower? Did I finally “truly try,” as commenter Adam (below) seems to think? No. I finally got the right information about what foods affect my biochemical cravings!

          It DOES come down to a choice I made, of course, to eat the right foods. But most overweight people (and diabetics) do not have the right information to make that choice! They try and try and try (contrary to Adam’s belief), but their intense biochemical cravings make it impossible to succeed over the long-term. Their hormones, because of the carbs they are eating, are in “fat-storage” mode. And it makes me so sad to see so many people who are lucky enough to be generally thin, or to have bodies that respond to simple caloric restriction, pile on in condemnation of people when they really just don’t have a clue what’s going on, and have bought in to the misinformation rampant in our “health” teachings.

          Sorry, I went a little off-topic there, Jen, but I hope I answered your question! 🙂

        • oldweller says:

          Thank you Momof3! You put into words exactly what I would have liked to say. I hope more people begin to understand the realities of what is going on with our “obesity epidemic”.

    • Mathew says:

      All excellent points

    • Adam says:

      “Eat less and move more” simply means that you have to take in less calories than you burn in order to lose weight. There are obviously better calories than others but the basic concept is the same. Fat people that say they have tried to lose weight and failed only failed because they ate too much or didn’t move enough to get the calorie deficit. They also fail because they burn 100 extra calories a day for weeks and then binge in a day and consume 2000 calories and destroy 20 days of work. Frustrating, yes, but still a by product of poor choices and lack of self control. There are probably a few exceptions but they are exremely rare.

      • Momof3 says:

        Sorry, Adam, but science has proven you wrong, and it’s not rare at all (remember, just because it’s not true for your body doesn’t mean it’s not true for others). There are studies showing that some overweight people’s bodies are truly resistant to losing weight. Do some of the reading I suggested if you’re truly interested in what’s real. And I really hope you are, and also that you will stop calling fat people liars. It reflects badly on you, in more ways than one.

        • Adam says:

          Resistent to losing weight? ALL overweight people’s bodies are resistant to losing weight. That is why it takes effort and not excuses. The science has proven that bodies are all different but the underlying premise that if you burn more than your body takes in, you will lose weight holds true ALL the time. There are many different ways to go about it and some are more difficult than others, but fat people need to pick one and make it work for them. Difficult, but possible for 99% of the population.

          Fat people are not liars, they are just not in touch with reality. They think they try but only when they are sucessful have they truly tried. Stop enabling them by giving them more excuses than they already have. Its a choice and obese people have chosen poorly.

        • Biochemical eh? So THAT’S why we’ve had an obesity epidemic all this time!
          Oh wait. We haven’t.
          And if it’s at a chemical level, then 1/3rd of the nation has a chemical imbalance within the brain? I highly doubt that.

      • Charles says:

        Fast fact.

        A calorie is a unit of measure to determine how much energy is required to heat water 1 degree.

        Another fast fact

        The human metabolism requires many simple and complex biological interactions and chemical reaction to “burn” these calories.

        The efficiency of said system relies on factors such as the presence of potassium, sodium and calcium (metals that is highly reactive with water and used in the burning process of calories.

        Calories are not all created equal. The required metabolic effort and potential for storing said calories as fat are very easily displayed in the effor required to metabolize protein and fructose. Protein required more “effort” therefore it actually used existing calories just to metabolize said calories.

        Our metabolism is driven by vast numbers of chemical reactions. Hormones being the primary “control” of such behaviors.

        Now…given this tiny snippet of the vast and varying aspects of our metabolism…I encourage you not to utter nonsense anymore.

        • Charles says:

          Metals that *are*….

        • Adam says:

          Yes, I already acknowledged that not all calories or the burning of calories is the same but the underlying premise remains the same: if you burn more than you consume, you will lose weight. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error, but fat people can lose weight without the complication that you have just spewed irrelevant to the discussion. Differences in Metabolic rates have long been used to rationalize obesity but it is simply an excuse. There are lists of food that contain better calories and walking/running/swimming will always burn calories. Fat people can make better food choices and get off the couch and they will lose weight. Stop enabling them with more excuses.

        • Charles says:

          Adam. Firstly, calculating the metabolism as you outlined is nearly impossible. Our metabolism varies by the hour. For some individuals it’s more pronounced than others. Our metabolism is also affected by temperature and season. It’s affected by sleep levels and mood…and a vast number of factors. Getting a truly fine tuned estimation for anyone with a greater metabolic range would take around five years of constant monitoring to even begin establishing a mean or median. Also, you need to consider brain chemisty. Depression and excessive stress often leads to increased appetite. These effects slow change the overall rate of consumption at such a slow percental increase that one barely notices their increase. It also leads to longer periods of fasting and greater amounts consumed at once. Our employment environment compounds this issue by crafting a lifestyle that often makes the six or more smaller meals a day a near impossiblity. Our bodies are not crafted for three meals a day. Some bodies can adapt..,others cannot. Without even considering the thyroid possiblity the odds are stacked against us from the start. And anyone with an even slightly out of whack metabolism can easily be tossed into a chaotic envrionment even more likely to cause weight gain. For a overweight person to lose weight it is suggested they lose no more than a few pounds a week or the run the risk of other health problems. Even an obese person who sheds problem pounds can sustain Illness or injury if they lose too much too fast. When one actually does the research you realize the calorie in calorie out line ignores these vast factors. The same as saying putting x amount of gas into a tank will get you x amount of miles every time.

          This is what is meant by calorie in calorie out being a fantasy. Over simplifying and ignoring the vast contributing factors does even less than your accused “enabling”. It causes depression and feelings of decrease self worth when one cannot figure out why the calorie counting isn’t working. Saying “it works for me” establishes only that it works for you. I have a nightmare of a metabolism. I eat constantly, am incredibly fit and am always hungry. I am only moderately active yet I can consume twice what my wife consumes and remain fit. I am one end of the extreme…there are others who fit the other. Where their caloric intake for survival and operation of vital functions is a hairs breath from the point of storing fat. And then there are the myriad of metabolic rates in between.

          You cannot treat metabolism as a constant. The only constant in metabolism is that it’s constantly changing.

        • Adam says:

          Charles, Just take an metabolic average. It is really quite simple. You can figure a daily average and a weekly average and you will be in the ball park. As the weeks go by you can adjust as necessary. Millions of people do it. It is similar to figuring gas mileage. With the hundreds of variables it still only flucuates by a few miles or so. You can still plan to make it to the store and back even though the gas burning equation is so complicated.

          Bottom Line: You are looking at an individual trees and missing the forest. You can figure an approximate metabolic rate plus or minus and then figure a calorie burning plan plus or minus and BAM, you have weight loss. Not a miracle.

        • Momof3 says:

          Thank you, Charles, I appreciate your chiming in on this little thread. 🙂 I hope your more-scientific information makes some of these commenters curious enough to do a little research for themselves, and to move beyond their over-simplification of this issue. I do wish more people who were “born on home plate” metabolically (as Tom Naughton says) would realize they didn’t actually hit a home run, and do less disparaging of those who weren’t so lucky.

          I’ll share a pertinent quote from fathead-movie dot com, Tom Naughton’s blog:

          “As an analogy, I could put a bunch of alcoholics in prison, limit them to two drinks per day, take blood samples to demonstrate that they were legally sober the whole time they were confined, and then declare that I’d proved the key to overcoming alcoholism is to JUST DRINK LESS. Show some character. Apply some self-discipline. Have a couple of beers and then stop, already. That’s all there is to it.

          Almost nobody would expect that advice to work. Most people grasp that when alcoholics get drunk even after promising themselves and anyone who will listen that they won’t, they’re giving in to powerful biochemical urges that normal drinkers don’t experience. Most people grasp that the only way an alcoholic could become a normal drinker would be to somehow make those biochemical urges go away — not to overpower them with willpower and character.

          But that’s what most conventional weight-loss advice is telling fat people to do – overpower a relentless biochemical drive with discipline and willpower.”

    • Matt fisher says:

      Eat less calories and you’ll lose weight mom of three….it works I promise. Keep trying

      • Momof3 says:

        I hope all of you who responded to my comment will see this (I’d hate to post it several times over 😉 ). I don’t actually need to lose weight anymore. I lost weight (~60 lbs) eating all I wanted of LCHF food, and not even exercising. At all. I don’t get hungry. It’s not about willpower anymore; I almost never want food that will have a detrimental effect on me. I can, for the first time in my sugar-addicted life, sit in front of a plate of my favorite cookies and be fine with not eating them. But that used to be impossible (and if you can’t understand what I mean there, be grateful — but try to be compassionate, too. It’s biochemical, not about character. My character hasn’t changed; my chemistry has). When I tried to eat less of high carb, low fat food, as most of our doctors and dieticians tell us, it was impossible to do for more than a few weeks. My cravings were through the roof, and my energy was lower than low. There is, of course, always some level of choice regarding what we eat, but to oversimplify it and refuse to recognize that our bodies are not closed systems, and that the number of calories we eat vs. the amount of exercise we perform is not the only thing that affects fat storage or fat usage, does a disservice to the complexity of our bodies and to the situation so many people find themselves in today after following the official advice of their doctors or nutritionists. If you’re actually interested in the truth of the matter (and I hope you are), as opposed to just wanting to relax into a “people are fat because they choose to be” mentality, read some of the blogs I mentioned.

        • Adryana says:

          I appreciate what you said momof3. It’s not that simple…I’ve had two great weight gains in my life-once at the start of puberty, and once after I hit my lowest ever weight of my adult life. Years later I was diagnosed with PCOS (not insulin resistance) and realized that it could possibly explain my weight gains (I wasn’t eating very much when I actually lost weight) and it annoys me that people think it’s simple…it’s not. The food companies are just trying to make money off the low fat and low sugar poison they produce. It’s all about WHAT we eat, not how much…I’ve currently lost about 5lbs just by eating healthier, whole foods most days of the week.

      • Kunoichi says:

        “Eat less calories and you’ll lose weight mom of three….it works I promise.”

        If that worked, I’d be anorexic.

        I’m not one to pay much attention to calories, as I’m just too busy running around, but every now and then I look back over my past week and figure it out. Most days, I am lucky if I manage 1000. I don’t eat anywhere near as much as I should, especially given my level of activity. Since, on average, a starvation diet is 1800 calories or less, I should be scrawny. Instead, I’m ZOMGDEATHFATZ!!!!!!!!!1! “morbidly obese.”

        Humans are not bunsen burners. Calories in/calories out is far too simplistic for such a complex system as the human body.

        • Matt fisher says:

          Of course everyone is different. A calorie for one person is not the same as a calorie for another……However, your fat storage is a reflection of the amount of calories youve STORED instead of USED over the years. I’m sure there is nothing I can do to convince you a very strict calories in/calories out mentality is a sure way to lose weight or that fad diets only work because they decrease your total calorie intake…but all that really matters is that you’re happy with yourself….whatever weight.

        • Kunoichi says:

          “your fat storage is a reflection of the amount of calories youve STORED instead of USED over the years. ”

          No, No it isn’t. That’s not even how our bioligy works. This sort of black and white mentaility is the sort of thing that leads not only to people developing eating disorders and destroying their health, but to medical professionals maltreating patients based on assumptions. If medical professionals would recognise that unnatural weight gain is a symptom of something else, rather than their patient being too stupid or lazy to starve themselves in an effort to force their bodies to confrom to societal preferances, a lot of illnesses that are being missed would actually get caught and treated on time. People are literally killing themselves trying to force their bodies to do something it can’t do, and dying becuase medical professionals are not treating their patients as patients, rather than stupid, lazy gluttons who don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

 has a few stories, but it’s also something I have encountered first hand, and through trying to help my husband recieve proper medical care. He has a number of health troubles, the worst of which are related to old injuries now causing crippling pain. He has no appetite because of the pain and has to force himself to eat, just to get at least a few nutrients in him, yet he is still fat. By your logic, calories in/calories out should result in the weight falling right off of him.

          He has had a chronic care nurse, specializing in pain care, acknowledge that he will not be able to control his blood sugars because of the pain (did you know that false high blood sugar readings are common, caused by such things as pain, stress, dehydration and fasting?). He has had a spine specialist who, after ruling out surgery as being too dangerous, acknowledge that he will probably not be able to lose weight, even if he can get control of his pain. Another doctor, specializing in spine and joint injuries, corrobrated all of this, yet his primary care giver will lecture him about his blood sugars and lack of weight loss, then throw more prescriptions at him. Thank God he has an amazing physiotherapist, but he’s already maxed out his insurance coverage for treatment.

          I also have a daughter who hardly eats for the simple fact that eating makes her sick. We know she’s lactose intolerant and soy intolerant, but an elimation diet has not been able to pin down why her insides ties into knots and she wants to throw up every time she eats. She is also very strong and physically active. In the last 5 years or so, she has gained weight. Given some of her symptoms, I suspect PCOS, but because she has seen how I and my husband have been treated, she refuses to go to a doctor. Why bother, when she like likely to be told she just needs to lose weight, and all her problems will magically disappear?

          “…but all that really matters is that you’re happy with yourself….whatever weight.”

          Gee. How bloody generous of you. So glad all us fat people who refuse to hate ourselves because society has a problem with the size and shape of our bodies and has judged us too stupid and lazy to “just eat less and exercise” can rest assured that you think it’s okay to be happy with ourselves – even if we are obviously too dumb to do anything about it.

        • Christina says:

          Kunoichi, RE your daughter – has she tried giving up wheat? I *thought* I was lactose intolerant until I gave up wheat, now it takes a LOT of milk to upset my stomach. Something about the wheat aggravates the lining so that so many other things become impossible to eat.

        • Kunoichi says:

          Yes, thanks. Gluten is one of the first things we tried cutting. It made no difference. While some things bother her more than others (dairy and soy), she has yet to eat any food and not feel ill afterwards. :-/ I’m just glad she doesn’t have any actual food allergies.

        • Jen says:

          Kunoichi, I just was wondering with your daughter, Ha she had her gall bladder checked? I had some of the seem symptoms plus a few others and found out I had gall bladder disease. Since I had it removed I have been able to add dairy back into my diet.

          While everyone here is bitching about things there is a defense or point I would like to bring up. It is that some people are fat because they don’t eat and so when they do it goes straight to storage. So to add to this “eat less be more active” lifestyle, you must add in to add your less food at the same times (or close to it) every day. So, theoretically if you eat your meal routinely and not gorge yourself on it and keep your body on the move you WILL lose weight. This I am slowly learning is true. I have started doing this very thing and have dropped almost 15 pounds in just a few months. I still suck at breakfast but I am still working on a routine. And exercise can be just as simple as walking your dog the entire neighborhood every night. It really is not difficult. Unless you have a medical issue, you can watch a clock or set alarms as reminders and add exercising your dog, which the pup would surely appreciate because their bodies were also designed to move.

        • Kunoichi says:

          Nope, though it’s unlikely to be a gall bladder issue, though, based on lack of other symptoms.. Like I mentioned, she refuses to go to a doctor because she has seen how her dad and I have been treated. I even had to twist her arm to go to the clinic to get her foot checked (I think she broke a bone when she dropped a shelf it) and, when the wait got too long and they couldn’t tell her how much longer it would be, she eagerly left without ever getting checked and never went back. That foot still hurts.

          This is one of the consequences of how fat bodies are viewed. On the one hand, we now have “obesity” officially considered a disease, in and of itself, which is rediculous. On the other, we have the mythology that people are fat because of simplistic calories in/calorious out misinformation. Ultimately, though, it’s the attitude that fat bodies are bad that’s the problem. It presumes that we all should be the same; that there is such a thing as a “normal” body size that everyone is supposed to fit into. At a cultural level, people look at those with fat bodies and assume they know everything about them, from what, how and how often they eat to how much exercise they get to what their health is like, all based on appearance. “Fat” becomes synonymous with lazy, glutton, stupid, ugly, etc.

          Unfortunately, this also happens on a medical level and causes serious harm and even death. My daughter has spent a lot of years researching various health issues, from disease types to the history of medicine, pathology, anatomy, etc. She quite likely saved her father’s life, at 11 years old, because she pointed out something everyone else, including his doctor at the time, had either missed or dismissed. I have to share her reticence when it comes to medical care when I often find her to be more informed and up to date on medical knowledge than some doctors we’ve seen. :-/

    • Dee Jakes says:

      You have a point here but I don’t believe that is where the majority of people fit. Plus… if you know how your body works… it is your responsibility to do the necessary ‘work’ to keep it healthy. Garbage in… garbage out goes for more than just what goes in the mind.

    • Thank you so much for this response to Matt’s post! Since I read your response I started doing my own research and looked into the references you provided which lead me to Wheat Belly. I’m only a week into being wheat free but things have already improved. I would not have known about any of this if it had not been for you. I’ve been reducing calories and increasing physical activity for over a year with absolutely no results. I have hope for success for the first time in a long time. God bless!

  6. Kunoichi says:

    ” People a century or more ago spent their entire days in physical activity and we think somehow that we can have the same results–a lean, muscular body–”
    “the official dietary advice we get these days (and have been getting since — oh, look at that, pretty much since so many more people started getting fat) ”

    These are both distorted views of history. People a century ago had lean muscular bodies? Hardly. They were considerably less healthy, in general, than we are today, and the concepts of what was “fit” and “healthy” were quite different than they are now. That’s true of people 2 centuries ago, 10 centuries ago and longer. There has always been plenty of fat people, and even a cursory glance and realistic (vs idealistic) art from various periods show that the average person, regardless of wealth or status, that wasn’t in a famine situation was, by today’s standards, fat. Dietary advice, to lose or gain weight, exists throughout our history. Even Socrates gave dietary advice, and it was just as stupid then as what people give today. Humans have always tried to change their body shapes and, with few exceptions, always failed.

    “I am consistently amazed at how many “Christians” on this site constantly judge, judge, judge.”

    As far as I can tell, only one person brought up their Christianity, and it was in context of personal responsibility. You might want to take your prejudices and misrepresentations of Christianity elsewhere (guess what; Christians are supposed to judge; just not hypocritically). Also, in case it isn’t obvious, your statement about judgementalism is blatantly judgemental.

    • Victoria says:

      Wow do I read a little judging going on? Pot….meet kettle.

    • Curio says:

      You can only find one person proclaiming to be Christian on this entire site? Really?

      • Kunoichi says:

        No, I said that in going through the comments, I found only one person reference their Christianity, and it was in context of responsibility. If there are others that talked about their Christianity in the context of judgementalism, I didn’t see them.

  7. roxxy westbrook says:

    You are a really good guy, and I love your stuff, most of the time. Unfortunately, you got it wrong this time. It is not as simple as you make it sound. I am a former health care provider, and I keep up with the latest in science. There is a lot that goes into obesity, and your oversimplification of the matter is not helpful to anyone.

    I understand that your education does not include medicine, so what are you doing, besides giving your **opinion**???? I can’t believe anyone takes your post on obesity seriously. Here is what you need to do. Read.

    Read about how in utero environment can cause obesity. Read about how inflammation, not obesity, causes diabetes. Read about how environmental exposures affect obesity.

    Once again, I submit to you that you have oversimplified the story. Your opinion alone is not enough to make the case. And you also ought to know that part of the point of designating this a disease is, “…ensuring that government health insurance plans would cover obesity treatments…” But that is really just a cynical thing you did. You gave half the story. Obesity is expensive to treat. This makes it so that some of these things are covered.

    One more thing. You need to check out how obesity is related to childhood trauma and to sexual abuse. You will see, if you are intellectually honest, that you are blowing smoke about something you don’t understand. So be honest with your readers. Look this up, then get back to us. Love ya!

    • analyticalperspective says:

      Roxy, I’m in the profession of mental health and I appreciate your enlightenment. Good stuff. Glad to know you are in the world.

    • Adam says:

      Roxy, you are in the crowd that wants everyone to believe that obesity is some complicated epidemic that requires professionals when in reality, it is much simpler. There are a few extremely rare exceptions (which Matt acknowledged), but obesity is simply a mathematical result of too many calories taken in and not enough calories burned. The rate of calories burned is different for each person but can be figured (even for all the exceptions you mentioned). Obese people have a choice to consume less calories than they burn. Unfortunately, people like you enable them into thinking it is to complicated to understand and something completely beyond their control. You are the one doing the disservice and harming those you claim to be concerned about.

      • Charles says:

        Yup…lets forget the actual complexity and diversity of metabolic rates and behaviors of said bodies.

        • Adam says:

          No, lets not forget the actual complexity but lets stop using that complexity and metabolic rates as an additional excuse. Metabolic rates vary between genders, ages, and size but not as much as you suggest and are in no way a reason to prevent someone from losing weight if they want to. Fat people can figure out what their metabolic rate is accurately within a couple of hundred calories and then consume calories and exercise to a deficit. That part is simple to understand but difficult to achieve when someone has made excuses their whole life. Stop it fat people and choose better.

        • Charles says:

          They don’t vary that much? Are you serious? I consume, at minimum, 3500 calories per day. This is enough to keep me going and not feel starving all the time. Some people need to consume as little as 1500 calories a day. That’s a 2000 calorie difference. So…between my friend and myself our caloric requirements are equal to the daily requirements for an entire days consumption of the estimated “average”. Seems pretty significant to me.

        • Adam says:

          And yet with all the complexity, you figured you were at 3500 and someone else was at 1500. Each person can do the same thing and just needs to figure their own calorie burn average per day and then onsume accordingly. If you don’t lose weight, try burning more or consuming less. It is really much simpler than you are making it. There is some frustration involved in getting it right but it is completely possible even with a complicated metabolic rate.

      • Charles says:

        By the way…have you studied physics? What you describe is a pure input/output system….and impossibility in the universe.

        • analyticalperspective says:

          And I’m sending love waves to Charles.

        • Adam says:

          What I mentioned has nothing to do with pure input/output. We don’t use up 100% of the calories that we take in and those calories don’t translate into equal energy. All I am stating is that the human body is simply a machine that requires a certain number of calories to function. Provide the body with too much and it gets stored as fat, provide it with too little and the body starts to use the stores. Stop overcomplicating it and leave the physics discussion for something relevant. It doesn’t require a PHD and there are lots of variables that can easily be accounted for. Figure out the metabolic rate and consume less calories to lose weight.

        • Charles says:

          Wait….did you just say leave physics to where it’s relevant? You do realize physics describes everything about our universe? It’s always relevant.

    • Momof3 says:

      Great comment, Roxxy Westbrook. Thanks for sharing the truth.

  8. Lee says:

    I agree with you on the food thing Matt, but there are other conditions that cause a person to be overweight. The only reason I correct you is because you generalized in this article so it is not totally accurate. One condition that can cause obesity is thyroid malfunction. Usually doctors can get it under control but often times our thyroid and parathyroid get messed up. Mine has been since I was 20. I have a friend who has been thin all of her life and has gained 30 pounds in the last 6 months. She had a tumor removed from her parathyroid gland and they are trying to regulate everything for her but it has been very complicated. She is uncomfortable. The mind can get affected too. Just an FYI my brother!

  9. My genetics caused me to have diabetes by age 30, it sucks, I cannot process sugar (carbs, fruit, etc). Well it turns out, that as humans we can survive with out sugar. I know you still need a few grams of carbs daily, but most come anyways despite trying to avoid them. Is it hard to look for places where I can get a salad and steak; rather than steak and fries? Yes, but I know that I can choose what I eat. Am I still over my desired weight, yes, but I am not obese. I run and exercise and feel great. We do not loose our choice, but just choose poorly.

  10. nic says:

    It’s not as simple as “making the right food choices.” You may want to also consider how healthy food is a lot more expensive than unhealthy food, and how things like food deserts affect people’s diets.

    • jschmidt2013 says:

      Yes, it’s unfortunate that healthy, organic, grass-fed food is more expensive & harder to find in many areas. However, it’s a cop out to blame obesity on that!. One can eat a relatively healthy diet of rice & beans and fresh (or frozen) veges anywhere in our country. The problem is that it takes planning ahead & cooking, and most people are lazy, impulse buyers who are programmed to grab a quick bite. Too bad most schools cut home-ec years ago & kids aren’t being taught how to cook.

      • Charles says:

        And it is just as much a cop out to blame obesity on the straw-man you posit.

      • Kunoichi says:

        “most people are lazy, impulse buyers who are programmed to grab a quick bite.”
        I’m not sure I would agree that “most people” are lazy, though there certainly elements of that with some people (and laziness has nothing to do with weather or not people are fat or thin). In my experience, I would say that most people have neither the time nor the knowledge to cook for themselves. I speak as someone who is a from-scratch cooker who has had to seriously adjust my cooking due to changes in my family arrangements. Thankfully, I have two older children who have been able to take over most of the cooking duties, so we haven’t had to rely too much on quick or instant foods, and I *really* appreciate the new lunch boxes and bags that allow me to pack and transport food safely. I am fortunate in that I learned how to cook, usually without recipes, from my mother. I agree that the loss of home-ec is highly unfortunate, but that is more because so few parents are able to teach their kids how to cook at home, for one reason or another. Again, I was fortunate. I grew up on a farm, so I had both parents at home full time, and I learned for more from them than anywhere else. I was taught how to cook with whatever I had available and modify recipes as needed. School taught me how to use standarized measuring tools; until home ec classes, I’d never seen measuring spoons before! I’d already been cooking and baking for years, though, and many of my classmates never had. One didn’t even know how to peel a potato or spread cold butter without tearing apart her bread. I showed her how to soften the butter with the knife first. My mother certainly didn’t know that the crystalline structure of fat molecules where why it worked, but she’s the one who taught me how to do it.

        One of the problems food banks encounter is that a lot of people don’t know what to do with staple ingredients, like flour and sugar. A friend I knew who had to rely on food banks was getting all sorts of unusual donations because, once they discovered she actually knew what to do with them, they gave her as much as they could. Most of the people they tried to help turned down these items simply because they had no idea how to use them. I had another friend who’s family had to rely on a monthly top-up from a food bank for a while. I was astonished at how much food a “top up” gave them, and even more astonished when I was later asked to take some things from their pantry they didn’t use. That’s when I found out that, among other things, they didn’t know how to cook rice. Who doesn’t know how to cook rice? The instructions are on the package!

        There is a serious lack of education around cooking, and food myths don’t help. There is a demonization of essential nutrients, like fat and carbs, and the “experts” often contradict each other. Biological misinformation is another problem. I had one woman try and tell me that we can convert fat into muscle. I thought she was speaking metaphorically at first, but no. She was adamant that we can physically convert fat cells into muscle cells. This is, of course, impossible but that’s what her late FIL, the doctor, told her, so she believe it.

        I think it’s problematic to dismiss entire goups of people as “lazy”, whether it’s because they don’t cook at home, or based on assumptions because of their body size. In my experience, people who don’t cook their own food do it more because they don’t know how to, or other factors render them unable to, and people who are fat are often the most active people I know, so assuming the are lazy is downright insulting.

        • jschmidt2013 says:

          I agree with you! What I meant by lazy is exactly what you describe – anybody with access to the internet can look up simple recipes or watch a youtube video about how to cook something, but they don’t because it’s easier to go through the drive-through. If I was needy & had received something unusual from the food bank I would put in the effort to figure out how to cook it! That’s what I mean by lazy – people will let things go to waste rather than put in the effort to use them. Someone could get up 10 minutes earlier to put beans in the crock pot (after planning the night before by soaking them) But they’re too lazy, or have their priorities screwed up.

  11. Charles says:

    I see a lot of positive and negative about certain ideas being tossed about here. There are a few issues, however.

    First…this study he references is little more than a collection of anecdotes with no real viable observations or controls. Did you know that the trend of percental increases in obesity showed no negative or positive correlation to the labeling of obesity as a disease? That the rate of increase is more accurately attributed to familial genetics and parenting behaviors in regards to feeding and encouraging active behaviors? Saying that calling obesity a disease (which, by the way, according to the actual medical definition it does fit the critera) causes people to be less prone to seek to change is an unsubstantiated claim snagged from a host of anecdotal guesses.

    Now…onto the next issue raised. Many people here see weight gain and loss as based on an input output system of calories. If you believe weight loss is based on a pure input/output then you know nothing of physics and reality. Nothing in the universe works on a pure input/output system without contributing and interrupting factors. Take a car for instance. If you put 5 gallons of gas in you should be able to go the same exact distance every single time you ever drive….anyone experience this? No? Here is why. The condition of the gas matters…the design of the engine…wind resistance….oil type and quality…coolant…fan belt condition…the list goes on and on. The same can be said for human bodies and weight. Weight is affected by genetics, food type and quality, hormones, activity level, sleep levels, mood, environment, body type..again…the list goes on and on. It is fine to suggest that for many that weight loss is a matter of control and responsibility. The issue comes in with determining who is the one who is irresponsible and who is the one being smashed by the myriad of factors. Do we look at the obese teenager who suffers from poor parental decisions and then lambast them for being irresponsible when they become obese adults? Should we not offer help and compassion? Because with the staggering rates of childhood obesity this is the very scenario producing many of our current overweight people. And, like a car, a body that was formed under mismanaged states and not properly maintained wont change simply by changing the fuel and running it more. By the time that child is an adult their body is pre conditioned for such behaviors and conditions. To reverse this requires a complete change of a lifestyle that was thrust upon them before they could make decisions. So..just as a parent who smokes around their child can give that child the disease of cancer…so too can they give that child the disease of obesity with improper raising behaviors.

    I do not doubt that there are obese people whom are so because of a lack of care and discipline. The problem comes when you decide, without any proper evidence, that this is the majority.

    Weight “problems” have existed, in record, since ainceint Greece. Pretending its a new issue that is unique to our time is simply based on ignorance. The issue has been simply compounded by modern society….it was not created by it….nor by any labeling of disease.

    • Charles says:

      Oh…and of course the exercise ideas. I have known several obese people in my life. Each person was trying to lose weight….this was made extremely difficult as after just about 20 mins of walking they were in tears from pain. I have no issue with my tax dollars going to provide these people with pills to help shed the pounds and make walking and exercise an experience of enjoyment rather than a torment.

      • analyticalperspective says:

        Thank you for the practical and logical application. I run half-marathons and I have two obese friends who can smoke…as in run fast…a full marathon. Their bodies just won’t drop the weight, but their hearts are healthy.

        • Charles says:

          I worked in a distribution center. We worked 12 hour shifts of constant activity. Some of the guys had other physical jobs on top of that…and still some of them had guts and excess weight. I laugh when people say individuals like that aren’t active enough.

        • analyticalperspective says:

          They just don’t “know.”

  12. Kunoichi says:

    I think part of the problem overall is that we have some weird ideas as to what “fat” and “obese” even looks like.

    Here are a few links I think people might find useful. (scroll down to the “greatest hits” list in the right had column for some really good posts) (sadly, this site is not updated anymore, but it’s chock full of myth-busting information)

  13. Aaron says:

    Matt – I agree, largely, with your balanced treatment of the subject of obesity. I wanted to lend my perspective.

    As a former “success story” who lost 100 lbs through exercise and dietary modification who then became a statistic (when I gained it all back and more over the next 10 years), I certainly agree that obese people can lose the weight. With enough determination, we can keep it off, too, as I did for 3-4 years before injuries and depression drove me back to my former ways. Losing the weight and keeping it off was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it was a full-time obsession for me, and in the end I couldn’t keep it up. I’ve been off the wagon for the most part ever since.

    I don’t know what causes so many people to become obese. I know that as a child I was terrible at sports, and much preferred to stay indoors and read or play with Legos than to run around. To this day, I can’t say I’ve ever felt “stir crazy” or can relate to the idea of “enjoying” a run. To exert physical force, for me, has always been a deliberate and determined act of my will against my nature (even when I worked out 6 days a week and ran 2 miles a day). Maybe this is the case for everyone, and I am just whining. I certainly would prefer to be an active person, but have never been one. I can only relate my own experience.

    I also have a nearly insatiable appetite, and I rarely find myself laying off the chips or refusing a second helping. “I’m full” isn’t a phrase I am sure I understand. I feel like eating all the time, and I usually continue to eat until the food is gone.

    I don’t know if others have the same inclinations, maybe everyone does and I’m just weak. Certainly for most of my life I’ve been told I’m lazy and that I need to try harder. I’ve also spent most of my life beating myself up for not measuring up to my own expectations.

    I just know that’s my experience, and I know my inability to consistently overcome my tendencies has led to more problems and disappointment than if I exercised more and ate less. Yet I fail over and over again.

    Obesity might not be a disease, but it’s a cross. Obese people are less attractive, generally less popular, have fewer opportunities, are often paid less, have endured childhood bullying, are in poorer health, are more likely to be depressed, are embarrassed when they don’t fit on airplane or stadium seats, and generally have a poorer quality of life in general. We are aware of these problems just as acutely as we are of the health problems, and perhaps it’s a small comfort to some obese people to think that maybe, somehow, the blame for our condition doesn’t rest solely on ourselves.

    Personally, I choose not to dwell on the blame one way or the other. After a lifetime of being bullied, criticized, and overlooked, it took losing 100 pounds and experiencing life as a thin person to realize that I am a worthwhile person. No matter what I weigh, God cherishes me. I pray daily for the strength to exercise and eat right, but I don’t let my failures cloud me from what I have accomplished and what I want to achieve.

    • Charles says:

      What you decribe actually sounds much like a glad “deformity” while not common it’s far from a rarity. This gland problem exists in vary degrees in many people. It would explain the never feeling full issue.

      I would suggest seeing a doctor and describing your lack of desire for physical activity and your appetite. A insatiable appetite in “normal” individuals is usually attributed to a high metabolism which leads to increased activity levels. Gland problems often lead to increases appetite and low drive for physical activity.

      There are treatments for this, if in fact it is what you have.

    • Momof3 says:

      Aaron, I just finished reading some comments and replies on Tom Naughton’s blog, fathead-movie dot com. I hope you will go read the article on his home page today, “Character vs Chemistry Part Three,” as well as some of the comments, especially the comments by “Jake” and Tom’s replies. There’s a really good one from today, Feb 5 at 9:03am. Tom is describing pretty much exactly what you seem to be talking about. Just having someone understand and explain is a huge help for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.

      I am so thankful that you know the love of God regardless of your physical condition. In our culture, that is a very difficult thing to accept for many people.

  14. Matt, I typically sit and read your posts with a smile on my face and raising my arm in complete agreement. But sir, this post concerns me. Being a man who has struggled with weight his entire life, obesity itself may not be a disease, but addiction to food certainly is. It consumes my mind, soul and body. If I exert control and take care of myself, I end up with the shakes, nervous, overwhelmed and scared. It isn’t as simple as just saying no. It isn’t just “wanting” to take care of myself. I have resorted, after 20 years of a food addiction roller coaster, to get gastric bypass surgery in hopes I can save my own life. I have two amazing little girls that I insist on being around for…..and even with that…..I struggle every single day with keeping the wrong food out of my mouth. Alcoholics can stop drinking and stay away. Drug addicts can stop using. Sex addicts can stop watching pornography and visiting prostitutes. I cannot stop eating Matt. Believe me, if I could I would. I am not making excuses for myself. Yes, I ate the food and yes I got fat. No one forced anything down my throat and I won’t sue McDonald’s for their caloric content. But please, don’t down play the scary and tumultuous struggle I have with food by saying it is all about self control…..because while that does play a part, there is so so much more involved. Thanks for being who you are Matt……we need more people like you!

    • Charles says:

      While it may not be worth much…you have my genuine sympathy. I overcame my alcoholism and have been sober for quite some time. And you are right…that is because I can avoid consuming any alcohol. Because I know that my first drink won’t be my last. People don’t realize that, often, by the time a person reaches obesity they have developed an actual brain chemistry related addiction to food. And any use of the cause of said addiction vastly increases the chances of relapse. You cannot avoid your addiction…I do hope you find a way out. Best wishes.

    • Christina says:

      Your post sounds very similar to what is described here:

      “I’ll make it through a better part of the day and eventually give in. The most I have made it is 3 days. I get crabby, dizzy, lightheaded, and feel tired & weak.”

      The explanation: “She is addicted to the gliadin opiate in wheat. There is no way to become no longer addicted . . . except to stop eating it.” He goes on to give some suggestions.

      I went wheat-free about two years ago and maintain it pretty rigorously (apart from my mom’s home-ground, sprouted, non-modified wheat on holidays) and it has helped me a lot. If someone is interested in doing this I suggest to just focus on not eating wheat and allow yourself to eat pretty much anything else (try to stay on the healthier side with lots of good fats (eggs, olive oil, hummus, avocados, coconut oil, meat) and even sugar (dark chocolate, fruits, etc) on hand).

  15. Cathy Baylor says:

    Oxytocin is a hormone that makes you love your children. Testosterone is a hormone that makes you want to have sex. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you sleepy. Leptin and Grehlin affect your appetite. SO. If those appetite affecting hormones are out of whack, and you eat too much, it isn’t necessarily your choice. You are driven by a physical unbalance in your body. Don’t like that others choose to eat? Do you think it would be easy for you to quit “chosing” to have sex? It’s worth thinking about.

  16. Jessica McCranie says:

    I find this all very interesting. What many people are not addressing here is the mental health aspect of this issue. You say that obesity (and I am not talking about someone who is maybe 15-30 lbs overweight who gets labeled obese here, but true life-long obesity- the person who tries but never looses, or looses lots of weight but then gains it all back) is not a disease, but it is. White sugar and HFCS along with many of the other chemicals put into food these days were not around during the time of our forefathers. These are new chemicals they never had to deal with. These chemicals have literally been designed to cause humans to become addicted to them. In fact sugar alone has been found to be more addictive than cocaine, It causes a euphoric effect that triggers dopamine, the chemical that controls pleasure in the brain. Add that to some of the other additives in the food meant to hook you, and the emotional problem causing you to stuff yourself in the first place and you have a real addiction problem just as severe as alcoholism or drug addiction.

    Is there still a need for personal responsibility in all this? Absolutely. Like any other addict, people with food addictions, whether they be anorexia, bulimia, or over-eating need real medical and PSYCHOLOGICAL help and treatment to deal with the underlying causes that are making them indulge in this pleasure seeking behavior in order to help them stop. The worst part for eating disorders is, unlike drugs or alcohol, you cannot “just quit” you must eat to live, so you can never get away from your “drug of choice”.

    How do I know this? I am a recovering Bulimic/binge eater. I also have the pleasure of having health issues such as having had thyroid cancer that went un-diagnosed so I kept gaining weight only making the issue worse as I worked out 7 days a week, 3 hours a day. I then went to eating almost nothing, vomiting up what I did and still exercising and couldn’t get the weight off, so I went to just binge eating whatever I wanted, and vomiting it up.

    I stopped all that several years ago, and actually went to eating a very healthy diet. But the weight wouldn’t come off. At this point, I had my thyroid removed, had been dx with Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis and several other things. In my depression I started to back slide into eating lots of sugary items in my diet. Even though I don’t over eat, I do not eat nutrient dense items, I eat junk. Why do I do this? I am a recovering food addict, and I have issues I am working out. I attend meeting at Celebrate Recovery because I know I am powerless to make any changes without the help of God, but I never stop trying.

    So why do I say all this? I get what you are trying to say: You are tired of there being no personal responsibility in our country, and I am too! But honestly, on this one I think you are wrong. We need to go after the food industry and the government and attack them for feeding us poison! For crying out loud my DOGS food is healthier than most of the crap on the shelves that people eat! It has no preservatives, sugars, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, MSG etc. in it! If we followed suit with other countries to make it illegal to put poison in the food we eat, we would cut out cancer rates, diabetes rates, and obesity rates. People could STILL eat what they wanted, just without poison in it. Products would come up with a way to make their product without the crap in it, the way they do for other countries!

    I also don’t think “pushing pills” on obesity is the way to go- they need to set them up with counselors and dietitians and recovery groups like they would for any other eating disorder. Because it is all about “one day at a time”.

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  18. Jessica says:

    Do you guys know that about 30% of Americans use their ovens for storage space?

    That’s near 30% of over 200 million people. That’s a lot of people not cooking home-made food with their ovens. So what are they instead eating?

    • Jessica says:

      Also I believe it’s correct to say obesity itself is not a disease. More appropriately it should be considered a side effect of mental and physical health issues, because those seem to be what cause it. A serious side effect, mind you, that should be managed in a healthy way (whatever that might mean for the individual).

    • Christina says:

      I’m one of those 30% who use my oven as storage space, as my mother did before me…before she got a rack to hang her cast iron cookware. Just because someone stores something in the oven (like 3 cast iron frying pans in my case) doesn’t mean they don’t use it. Although admittedly I’m more of a cook (stove top and/or crock pot) than a baker.

      • Allie ONeal says:

        That’s a really good example of a statistic that doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. i also learned to use mine for storage from my mother, and what I cook on my stovetop is usually healthier than what I bake. For example, making soup from scratch on the stove, versus baking cupcakes in the oven.

    • Kunoichi says:

      “That’s a lot of people not cooking home-made food with their ovens. So what are they instead eating?”

      All sorts of things. I don’t use my oven anywhere near as much as my stove top, and I cook pretty much everything from scratch (I admit; I don’t make my own pasta). When I lived in a house with an oven that had terrible hot and cold spots making it impossible to bake properly, I did very well for years, never using it.

      Why assume that, because people don’t necessarily use their ovens (which is another assumption, since using an oven for storage does not mean they never use it) means they aren’t cooking home made meals? Especially with all the other appliances available today.

  19. Angela says:

    Matt, you really should do more research before posting stuff like this. Obesity is far more compex than you seem to realize, and you are posing a false dichotomy here. Saying something is a disease does not mean that the condition cannot be changed and we should all throw up our hands in surrender. No, obesity is not an inescapable fate for most people, and it can be treated or prevented. So can many other diseases. People are NOT all at equal risk for obesity. It is completely false to claim that thin people are thin because they posses superior self control and fat people are just lazy gluttons in search of excuses. 70% of body fat variation in the US is genetic. Only 30% is attributable to diet and lifestyle. Here is a quick explanation of the interaction of genetics and environment on weight gain from an actual scientist who researches obesity.

  20. erica says:

    I love that your blog really is…..SO TRUE! Every article I have read so far is true but so many will fight against it. But I love that someone is actually saying the truth! Way to go and keep it up!

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  22. Ashlyn says:

    I do believe that you are slightly overlooking the fact that some diseases might CAUSE obesity… that no matter what some people do they cannot lose weight. Because of a disease that the Lord has seen fit to let them live with…

  23. Food Addicts says:

    Many people find help in Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Some of us have been diagnosed as morbidly obese while others are undereaters. Among us are those who were severely bulimic, who have harmed themselves with compulsive exercise, or whose quality of life was impaired by constant obsession with food or weight. We tend to be people who, in the long-term, have failed at every solution we tried, including therapy, support groups, diets, fasting, exercise, and in-patient treatment programs.

    FA has over 500 meetings throughout the United States in large and small cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Internationally, FA currently has groups in England, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. If you would like more information about FA, please check out our website at www [dot] foodaddicts [dot] org. If there aren’t any meetings in your area, you can contact the office by emailing fa at foodaddicts [dot] org, where someone will help you.

  24. Leslie says:

    Has anyone thought to consider that the food industry is part of the problem? Processed food is cheap, healthy food is expensive. Tons of foods have artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup or just a bunch of unhealthy ingredients. The way our society works is you have to have money to afford to be healthy and fit. It isn’t impossible but it takes way more effort for someone with a low income to eat healthy and exercise.

    • deelilynn says:

      I am actually surprised that anyone would find these results a surprise …

    • Kunoichi says:

      What a terrible example – the article itself mentioned numerous areas that renders this “study” useless. What a shoddy mess.
      “The authors concluded that, using a variety of different techniques to analyze the date on daily and basal energy expenditures of people since the 1980s, this study found no indication that physical activity has declined in North America or Europe.

      In fact, the trends “were actually in the opposite direction, suggesting levels of activity energy expenditure may have actually increased over this time interval,” the authors concluded.”


      ” The longest and most intensive clinical study which closely followed growing children for the first 17 years of their life, for example, found that no matter what the children ate during childhood or adolescence, they naturally grew up to be a wide range of weights. While there were great differences in the children’s diets, they were unrelated to their weights. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that, while all healthy kids ate and drank more as they grew older, there was no correlation between their varying diets and their weight status or their mother’s weight status. Fat mothers weren’t feeding their children more, nor were the fat children eating measurably different from the thin kids, either. ”


      • deelilynn says:

        Sorry Kunoichi, but I only bothered to read the first link because the other two links are probably more of the same baloney. The conclusions in the first link were based on a study of less than 400 people in North America (where the population is over 300 million) and that is laughable 😦

        • Kunoichi says:

          So you’ll reject a properly done study of a few people in favour of one that is a self-reported government survey that is poorly done – and ignore the rest of the article as well as the other ones that include a 17 year study.


        • deelilynn says:

          I didn’t ignore the rest of that article which, besides using a ridiculously low amount of people for the studies, was also chock full of mainly ridiculous comparisons, opinion and theory. I’ve read almost all of your comments here so I know you are quite knowledgeable about obesity so I am certain you are also aware of all the other studies (which use a large mass of population) that back up government findings. If you can find one that used a reasonable cross percentage of the US population and scientifically shows the government and other studies are wrong then I’ll take the studies you posted here seriously.

          Also, I am 60 years old and don’t live in a fish bowl. I’ve seen obesity grow greatly in this country since I was a child and personally know very many people now who are quite overweight or obese and know their daily physical expenditures are no where near the energy output there used to be or should be.

        • Kunoichi says:

          “so I am certain you are also aware of all the other studies (which use a large mass of population)”
          Yes, I am quite aware of quite a lot of studies, of varying quality, but since you didn’t bother looking at the other links and brush off it all off so dramatically, I doubt you’ll believe me when I continue to say that well done studies REPEATEDLY show that there is no statistically significant difference in the diet and exercise habits of fat people and thin people. That changes when people start to diet for weight loss. It is the dieting industry, and the disordered relationship with food and our bodies it creates, that is killing us, not being fat.

          As for studies, one of the most frustrating things is to read a research paper that demonstrates how current conventional wisdom is wrong (e.g. finding that being fat is not actually unhealthy, in and of itself, or that calorie restrictive diets actually cause more harm than good, etc.), in their conclusions, the researchers will actually write things like, “while our research proved our hypothesis wrong by showing larger body sizes are associated with positive health outcomes, while weight loss is associated with negative health outcomes, people should still try to lose weight for health reasons.” Or a paper will go on about how “losing weight reduces the risk of X” without mentioning that the outcome is well within the error margin, therefore statistically insignificant, while ignoring the that the same study found higher weight showed a risk reduction in other areas, sometimes by amounts greater than the margin of error.

          “Also, I am 60 years old and don’t live in a fish bowl. I’ve seen obesity grow greatly in this country since I was a child and personally know very many people now who are quite overweight or obese and know their daily physical expenditures are no where near the energy output there used to be or should be.”

          So, because you are a whole 15 years older than I am, your anecdotal evidence justifies rejecting facts you don’t agree with? How omnipotent of you, to actually know the energy outputs of all those people. You should go into medicine. You could find out what’s wrong with people, just by looking at them. How miraculous!

          How’s this for anecdotal evidence. I grew up on a farm 2 sticks ahead of the stone ages. We grew almost all our own food, as did all of our neighbours, who were also farmers. Guess what? There were lots of fat people, including my parents, who are now 82 and 90. Granted, a lot of people back then would be considered fat only by today’s ridiculous use of the BMI to measure fatness (did you know that millions of people suddenly became obese overnight, without ever gaining a pound, simply because the arbitrary lines in the BMI were changed back in 1998?). They were also pretty darn healthy. In fact, within my own family, my fat ancestors were the only ones who lived long enough for me to know them; their thinner contemporaries all died young. Among my relatives still living, the strongest and healthiest are all fat. Of the few thin ones still alive, they’re all battling things like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The only one that isn’t is a chain smoking alcoholic. Go figure.

          For most of my life, I have been actively and enthusiastically a student of the diet and lifestyles of humans throughout history and across continents and cultures. I am more interested in learning how ordinary people lived, what they ate, what they wore and what activities they took part in than in historical events, such as famous battles or people. I especially enjoy reading old cookbooks and trying to recreate historical recipes, though many use ingredients that are either extinct, or we have no idea what they were in modern terms. People have this bizarre notion that, in past generations, people ate so much “healthier” than we do now, with “healthy” defined by whatever the latest food fad of the day happens to be. Things we now consider unhealthy, they used lots of, like salt, sugar/honey and fat. These were recognized as essential to our diets, and they continue to be, even if they’re demonized now. People who ate only local foods did so because they couldn’t afford otherwise, or had no access to imported foods, and it often lead to malnutrition, if not outright starvation. Their activity levels were also not all that much greater than our modern levels of activity, and in many cases far less, as we have replaced activities no longer common with others that, for the most part, didn’t exist until now.

          The only reason things like heart disease and cancer appears to be so much higher now than in the past is because most people didn’t live long enough to develop them. There have always been people of all shapes and sizes, and when they weren’t busy trying to survive during catastrophic events, people have always been trying to change their body shapes and sizes – sometimes to be bigger, sometimes to be smaller – all in the name of “health” and cultural ideas of what is or isn’t attractive.

    • Jillian says:

      “For the obese, the study confirms what has been known for some time — they are stuck in a “vicious cycle” of inactivity and weight gain, said Archer.”

      Ding ding ding!

      • analyticalperspective says:

        It’s difficult for me to work out on a regular basis, but I do it because I am compelled to stay healthy. It’s still difficult so I know it must be even more difficult for those who are not compelled to stay healthy to desired to stay healthy. And I think it’s a personality type thing; some are more conscientious than others.

  25. Winter says:

    Matt, I love all your blogs but this one I have to take issue with.

    Obesity is called a “disease” just as drug/alcohol addiction is called a “disease”.

    “As Dr. Volkow, Director of NIDA explains, “People say if you consider drug addiction a disease, you are taking the responsibility away from the drug addict. But that’s wrong. If we say a person has heart disease, are we eliminating their responsibility? No. We’re having them exercise. We want them to eat less, stop smoking. The fact that we have a disease recognizes that there are changes, in this case, in the brain” (Duenwald, 2003).” This is from the article entitled: “The Changed Brain: Addiction is a Brain Disease”, which you can find here:

    The definition of disease: “dis·ease
    noun diˈzēz
    1.a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, esp. one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.

    I have been a certified alcohol and drug counselor and a mental health worker in Oregon. I have never used drugs or alcohol so I had to learn about this whole situation from an educational perspective rather than a personal experience one. It was hard for me to agree to call addictions a “disease” for the very concern mentioned in your blog and the article I quoted above. I didn’t want to take any responsibility away from the user. But if you think of it in strictly medical terms, indeed it meets all the qualifications to be considered a disease, as does obesity. Research has been coming out more and more how over eating addiction is very similar and works on some of the same neurotransmitters as drugs do, causing the same sort of addiction results.

    I implore you to perhaps reconsider this blog and to either remove it or update it with accurate information. Your own statement of, “If obesity is a disease, then smoking is a disease. And so is drinking, …” is evidence that the information is not correct. You say, if obesity is a disease, then smoking and drinking is a disease…yes, exactly. They are. It’s called the disease of addiction. Nicotine and alcohol addiction to be exact. Of course, you are speaking of smoking “in excess” and drinking “in excess” because you can’t be obese unless you eat “in excess” right?

    This is not meant as any form of attack, but with the years of research I have done on this topic for a paper I wrote in my Masters program and with personal family life experiences I have had, I have found that obesity is the last discrimination that EVERYONE can engage in and it’s laughed at and accepted. Instead of being met with the same sort of veracity of treatment that drug addicts are met with, obese people are left to “self-help” methods and told to just “put the fork down”. Change can only happen with educating the public on facts.

    And I just want to clarify, I am not at all saying that ALL obese people fall into the area of addiction, just as not all drinkers rise to the level of alcoholics. I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to say ALL obesity is a matter of addiction.

    • mommyx4boys says:

      I’m sorry but i have to disagree with you i am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and it is not a disease. i wish everyone would stop saying it is bbecause that helps addicts to keep using and they don’t have to accept the blame they just blame (the disease ) i know because i used thhis excuse several times myself. thankfully i stopped blaming using the tired excuses and i have been clean almost three years

      • Winter says:

        If you are a recovering alcoholic then you SHOULD agree. That is the model which is taught to addiction counselors. It is a disease model. As I said, I don’t really like that model because, like you, I felt it took the blame away from the addict. But by the medical definition of disease, it DOES fill those requirements to be considered a disease. We both can not like it, but facts are facts.

        What I used to do while treating addicts was make sure to reinforce the idea that you CAN’T use the ‘I have a disease, I can’t help it’ excuse with me or with others and exactly WHY that wasn’t acceptable. I am very big on accountability. I much prefer addictions counseling over mental health counseling for that very reason. Mental health counselors (in my opinion) coddle and hand hold waaaayyy too much and try to take the accountability away from the client, even though there are A LOT of areas where accountability is valid and could be used.

        I hope things are still going well for you. Thanks for sharing 🙂

        • mommyx4boys says:

          I know that medically they say it is a disease i just have a hard time understanding why they call everything a disease now if you over eat its a disease drink a lot its a disease under eat its a disease unhappy with your choices in life well that’s depression and its a disease. I don’t know i mean when i finally got tired of killing myself and hurting my loved ones i put down the drink and pills seperated myself from everyone who i ever did either with and that was it i still craved it for a long time but i was in control of wether or not i did it. When i think of a disease i think of stuff you can not control like cancer you can’t get tired of having cancer and just stop but with addictions you can. Anyway thanks for the conversation and for not being rude or hateful . So many people on these comments are

  26. Important article. Was partly the inspiration for my blog post:

  27. Marie says:

    I agree with Winter. I normally appreciate most of what you have to say, but this article was more difficult. Perhaps because it hit close to home. Perhaps I read it hearing that oh-too-familiar tone of shame that I have heard since second grade. I understand that challenging people to stop and think is one of your goals. It has taken me this long to read this particular post fully and decide to respond. I do not know, Matt, if you have ever struggled with weight. I have. And I am now taking responsibility for my choices and have made very many changes towards that end after 2 types of cancer and increasing internal malfunctions, particularly of hormone regulation. I have realized that, yes, my choices to eat out of the frosting jar, or drinking Mountain Dew has brought me to this point. However, I am also a product of my environment in the sense that I did not buy that food. My parents bought that food. It wasn’t until I was an adult and faced with some major health events that I began to take control. Just like with drugs and poor education, I am a victim of my upbringing and surroundings. I grew up thinking I was bad because I was fat, but no one did anything to help me, besides ridicule me. Realizing that I did the best I could with what I had available to me, and loving myself the way I am has been a big help in realizing that I am worth saving. I do not think people should be “happy” about being obese, unless that truly, truly makes them happy (which I personally can’t comprehend), but I do think that screaming at people, like on the Biggest Loser, is a completely wrong way to address weight issues. Just like screaming at a child to learn how to potty isn’t very effective. Some people, like myself, have very deep issues that do need to be dealt with, but as Winter said, just putting down the fork isn’t going to work. Eating too much does NOT equal weighing too much, not always. There are too many variables. That is an overgeneralization. Addiction is a disease of the mind, not the body. Growing up in horrid conditions can inhibit and stifle the mind and the soul from developing properly and healthfully. Diseased THINKING is what needs to be healed, before change can take place. Part of that diseased thinking is, as you said, the need to take responsibility, but it is also the need to realize we can do something about it and we are worth doing something about it. Flatly telling a person, you are fat because you eat too much will leave many people stuck in that hole they are in. Society also needs to stand up against corporations and big business that propel false claims about what is safe and healthy. The way some foods are allowed to be labeled is appalling and blatantly misleading. My mother THOUGHT she was feeding us good food. There was nothing obvious that Hamburger Helper, Wonder Bread sandwiches and Kool-aid were going to be detrimental to our health in very stark ways down the line. McDonald’s did not start out using horrid ingredients. There was nothing obvious, I think, to most people 30 years ago that picking up a bucket of KFC would lead to a family epidemic of obesity, infertility and cancer. These places, combined with the “help” of the FDA, changed their formulas and cut corners to save money by using cheaper subsidized ingredients. How is the general public to know? Now. Years later. I know there were people 30 years ago concerned about this growing trend of eating out, but most people certainly did not give it a second thought that these products were anything less than what they would make at home. Thankfully, the number of people questioning the food supply has grown louder and more intense especially as the rate of disease, obesity and allergies grows. And what about food deserts? People just don’t know about or have access everywhere to good food. They need to be educated about food, how to grow food, how to provide for themselves, because the government isn’t going to do it and if they do, it’s for the benefit of the government and not for the benefit of society as a whole. All of this is why I am now a HUGE supporter of labeling, or better yet, banning GMOs and the education of true health, which begins at home at the table, from the garden. I also am an avid supporter of traditional foods like lard. Sure the average age was lower 200 years ago, but that could hardly be blamed on animal fats, but rather a high infant mortality rate due to unsanitary conditions, a high stress life working hard to survive; for the pioneers, the new environment with harsh winters and hot summers, as well as new diseases in a strange new country and rough terrain. I am certain that lard biscuits and lots of meat, dairy, and butter is what helped us survive in this “New World”. True medicine is in the prevention, not the treatment.

  28. Pingback: Weekend Knowledge Dump- March 14, 2014 | Active Response Training

  29. JustAFatKid says:

    “If obesity is a disease, then smoking is a disease. And so is drinking, and so is running blindfolded across the highway in the middle of the night.”

    I’m not sure you understand neuroscience and the disease of addiction. Anything that increases dopamine levels can be addictive. Smoking and drinking both do. Guess what else does? Food. Genetic component: those with more dopamine receptors are less likely to become addicted. Those with fewer DA receptors have a higher probability of becoming addicted to substances that increase DA levels. It’s not quite as simple as a choice. There are those that can overcome addiction but it’s not as easy as “Yep I’m not going to drink/smoke/over eat/ do the meth anymore.” It takes support, changing a lifestyle, and sometimes medication to deal with the disease of addiction. It is one of the biggest struggles that anyone could have to face, especially since they are starting the game several DA receptors behind the rest of the population. It is something that is hard to understand if you haven’t been through it.
    With respect to over-eating and a stagnant lifestyle, if being healthy wasn’t not taught to you as a child, as an adult it is something even harder to do. Just as if you had started smoking early it makes it even harder to quit.

    I think you over simplified it quite a bit.

    Just something to think about.

    • Jen says:

      It is the disorder of addiction. You can call it disease, but it is a disorder. Your way of thinking calls it a disease to make it okay to continue the behavior. We need to all retrain our brains to guide ourselves to healthier addictions.

      Now there is medical reasons for obesity, but saying everyone who is fat is diseased is wrong. Obesity is either the result of an actual medical disease or the result of an eating disorder. For those with a medical issue I pray they can fix it. For those who have an eating disorder I do also pray they get help. BUT, I know those with the eating disorder can retrain their brains can fix their problems and can get help medically for it as well. With today’s science breakthroughs and medical options as well as finding the right mentality for the effected by their eating disorder. So, bottom line is with doctors and therapists you can be fixed. I won’t even go into how important it is for a human to move their body and not just for obesity. So, quit making excuses why and get up and tackle your over eating disorder with every option offered to you and overcome your obesity. Yes, it is that easy. I am doing it.

      • You and others making comments like this need to understand the definition of “chronic disease” (because addiction is considered a “chronic disease” as can be obesity).

        You can have the general term of: “Chronic disease has been defined as illness that is prolonged in duration, does not often resolve spontaneously, and is rarely cured completely. Chronic diseases are complex and varied in terms of their nature, how they are caused and the extent of their impact on the community. While some chronic diseases make large contributions to premature death, others contribute more to disability. Features common to most chronic diseases include:
        complex causality, with multiple factors leading to their onset
        a long development period, for which may there may be no symptoms
        a prolonged course of illness, perhaps leading to other health complications
        associated functional impairment or disability.”

        But if you look it up via addiction, then you get this: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Addiction affects neurotransmission and interactions within reward structures of the brain, including the nucleus accumbens, anterior cingulate cortex, basal forebrain and amygdala, such that motivational hierarchies are altered and addictive behaviors, which may or may not include alcohol and other drug use, supplant healthy, self-care related behaviors. Addiction also affects neurotransmission and interactions between cortical and hippocampal circuits and brain reward structures, such that the memory of previous exposures to rewards (such as food, sex, alcohol and other drugs) leads to a biological and behavioral response to external cues, in turn triggering craving and/or engagement in addictive behaviors.

        Addiction is characterized by:
        Inability to consistently Abstain;
        Impairment in Behavioral control;
        Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences;
        Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships; and
        A dysfunctional Emotional response.”
        (ABCDE: Abstain, Behavioral control, Craving, Diminished recognition, Emotional response)

        This is why obesity as a result of eating can be described as an addiction.

        The information and a more in depth discussion about it is here:

        Now that I’ve stated the factual information involved here, let me explain that while I was in the process of becoming an addictions counselor, I had a really hard time trying to define addiction as a disease because I suffer from an actual medical disease that is beyond my control. My feeling was (and still is to some degree) that I didn’t choose to be ill but addicts chose to use, even if you can only count the first time as that choice, it still was a choice. My black and white view of the issue has some gray now but I do still feel little sympathy for addicts.

        However, food addiction is a much more complicated situation. Where an addict of drugs and alcohol needs to abstain from the substance as well as situations, people and locations related to that drug, a food addict HAS to use their “substance” daily in order to live and how can they avoid situations (i.e., breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.), people (their family during a sit down dinner) or locations (uh…EVERYWHERE?) in order to get better?

        I hope everyone who reads my post and wants to attack it actually reads it through to see what I am saying. I really don’t have much sympathy for those that choose to have addictions. But the food issue is not as easy as “put the fork down” or “it’s a disorder not a disease” especially since it DOES change neurtransmitters in the brain.

        By the way, did you know the CDC considers cancer and arthritis (among other diseases) as “chronic diseases”? Should we blame the cancer patient or patient suffering from arthritis for that as well?

        Try to imagine this: You have a person that, since even before they were born, their mother was using crack. After being born, the mother continues to feed that baby crack well into when they are at least old enough to make up their own mind on where to buy the crack, how much to buy, when to use it, etc. because using the crack is a family tradition. So while the child may choose to either not have any that day, or choose to have more or choose a different variety, they are still involved with their mother, the person who provided their crack during the time they couldn’t choose for themselves. Could we blame that child for their drug use or do we say they never had a chance and give them all the help we can?

        Food can be considered the same way. Before a baby is born, their genetic make-up is created. But more than that, the type of food the mother eats can affect the growth of that baby. Then, after being born, the baby is completely dependent upon its parents until it is old enough to choose to eat things or not, to buy certain foods or not, etc. But yet, we attack not only children but adults for their weight, blaming them for their “gluttony” rather than realizing, “hey, they most likely were NEVER taught how to eat right, how to stay healthy, how to exercise, how to have a great self-esteem and self-worth to motivate them to be the best they can be for themselves”.

        Instead, insults and callous disgust is thrown their way, self-help books geared towards their wallets fill the bookshelves because the publishers know these people are desperate for change and doctors automatically assume that if you’re overweight, then YOU, the obese person, just don’t get it or are lazy. “Just take in less calories”, they say to you, as if you were really that stupid. Hell, a majority of the obese people out there probably know more about calories, metabolism, etc. than the dietitians their doctors refer them to! It’s very easy to teach, it’s not easy to do.

        But drug, alcohol and even gambling addictions? Oh there are inpatient services available EVERYWHERE and insurance PAYS for it often times. Inpatient services for obesity, hello? ::Crickets chirp:: forget about it. They barely exist and the few there are, insurance doesn’t pay.

        This world is backwards. What should be happening is there should be empathy for obesity patients, inpatient treatment available in every major city with insurance paying for it and the drug addicts should have to fight for services…why? Because it was the drug/alcohol addict’s CHOICE to try that drug. I get the whole thing of, “but what if they were raised by crap parents, in a crap household and were never taught how to deal with their feelings so they used drugs to escape?” Ok, then why is that empathetic statement acceptable if the drug of choice was pot or meth or alcohol but that empathy vanishes if the drug of choice was food?

        If anyone is interested, there is a great journal article on called “Obesity as a chronic disease: modern medical and lifestyle management” where it says in the abstract, “Obesity is a chronic disease with a multifactorial etiology including genetics, environment, metabolism, lifestyle, and behavioral components. A chronic disease treatment model involving both lifestyle interventions and, when appropriate, additional medical therapies delivered by an interdisciplinary team including physicians, dietitians, exercise specialists, and behavior therapists offers the best chance for effective obesity treatment.” You can find it here:

        Also, I found a letter written in 2012 to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC that starts by saying, “On behalf of the leading healthcare professional and patient organizations whose members are directly affected by obesity – either as an affected individual or as a healthcare professional or researcher who treats or examines this serious chronic disease, we urge the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect patient access to medically necessary obesity prevention and treatment services. Specifically, we request that HHS define management of obesity and metabolic disorders as part of “chronic disease management” within Item #9 Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management.” You can find that here:

        Here is the bottom line when it comes to the treatment drug/alcohol addicts receive from both the medical community and people in general, versus obese people. Using drugs or alcohol was, at some point a choice made by the individual, no matter their circumstances. Just because their drug of choice is a deadly substance (ever seen what’s in meth?) only seems to make them more stupid for choosing to use since…oh I don’t know, how many of us say to ourselves, “hey, I think it’d be GREAT to shoot drano in my veins today. Oh, I hope they have the version of meth that has brake fluid in it too! That will have a wonderful aroma as it’s being mixed with the water while getting it ready to inject it!” The single event of choosing to use was the start of their downward spiral.

        However, you can’t really say that about obese people. You can’t really pinpoint the precise moment at which they suddenly changed. You can’t say, “I remember back younder, when I sat down to grandma’s pecan pie, I just suddenly decided to eat the whole thing! And that was when I became obese!” Honestly, I just don’t remember any sweets dealer coming up to any thin person with a cheese cake saying, “This will be the best high for you, come on, try it!” and when the thin person takes a bite BAM! Instant obese person.

        When you can show me that situation, then I’ll say, “It’s that obese person’s fault!”

        By the way, if you want a frustrating experience, check this link out: This is a message board that addicts use to give other addicts advice on HOW TO USE. I am still shocked in this day and age of knowledge and information that people can still choose to use these horrible drugs. I mean, if these idiots can get on line to post questions on how to use, how come they can’t Google “what can meth do to me”?????

        • Jen says:

          Say what you will. I come from a family of addicts to various things and they are all just addicts. The result from their lust for what they are addicted to can kill them, but not without a doubt. I know from the recovering addicts in the family that you choose the lust for whatever you are addicted to over everything else. It does not choose you like as in cancer or a heart condition. It can be the causing spark to different diseases depending on what your desire is. But… the addiction itself is NOT a disease. The doctors have designated our way of thinking to calling it a disease so insurance companies will pay for the treatments. This is stemming from my opinion of what I experience in my family and in my life. I too had an addiction as a teen. I too have to remind my brain everyday that I do not want my old addiction to control my life and my thinking ever again. So yes, I find it a cop out and an excuse that people addicted today are saying it is not their fault it is a disease. They do have control of their bodies and therefore have control over what they do with them. Now tell me someone got cancer because they were addicted to smoking then I will feel bad for them, but the smoking they had control over and chose not to control it. Someone who is addicted to sugar has a very high risk of getting diabetes, but the addiction to the sugar itself is not the disease. Of course, this is my opinion formed from being an addict myself and choosing to take control of my life back. Also from living in and around multiple addicts of varying addictions. Do I hold any hatred towards any of them? No! Do I believe their addictions are a disease? No! Do I want to help them? Yes! Do I want to give them an excuse to carry on in their stupor? No! I hope to let my family members and friends know that they do have the power to walk away. I want to let them know that their addiction is not happening to them and they can take control.

          You may post as many website with medical definitions as possible, but as a recovering addict I will not change my mind.

        • So Jen it may not have been clear with you (even though I said it at least twice in my post) that I do not believe in giving addicts an excuse, that I found it hard to agree that their addiction was a “disease”. I didn’t want them to use it as an excuse either. However, my point was, the very MEDICAL definition is that it DOES fulfill the requirements for a disease and the reason it’s important to know this (as a clinician), is to know the type of treatment to use and potential outcome of that treatment.

          For example, remember back when they used to give antibiotics for nearly everything, including the common cold, and it wasn’t until science got better did we realize that taking antibiotics for the common cold was a waste? This situation could apply as an analogy for terming addiction as a “disease”. If you don’t give it the proper label, then how do you know what type of treatment to provide, what types of behaviors you may encounter (i.e., prolapse, relapse, etc.), what dangers there would be in stopping cold for a pot user versus an heavy alcoholic (as you probably know the dangers for a pot user is…nothing, whereas if someone is a heavy enough alcoholic, they could die if they suddenly go cold turkey), and so on. So while you may not LIKE that it is called a disease, from a clinical perspective, it is. It follows every guideline that defines a disease. That’s where the saying, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck…it’s a duck” comes in. Let me reiterate:

          Features common to most chronic diseases include:
          complex causality, with multiple factors leading to their onset
          a long development period, for which there may be no symptoms
          a prolonged course of illness, perhaps leading to other health complications
          associated functional impairment or disability.

          Therefore, by THIS medical definition, addiction (including to food) is a chronic disease. You can hate the facts, want to stick your fingers in your ears and close your eyes to it, but that won’t change facts.

          I am glad that you overcame your addictions and I always felt that it just takes a strong person to do such a thing. It’s why I prefer being an addictions counselor to a mental health counselor. There is a lot more accountability required with addictions versus mental health. I have experienced counselors doing a lot more hand-holding and excuse making in the mental health field and that doesn’t sit well with me.

          But the bottom line is, you nor others seem to address the fact that if a child is raised with poor eating habits from the day they were conceived (i.e., genetics) and then from the moment they are born the parents continue to model bad eating habits and feed the children poorly, how do we suddenly expect that child – now turned adult with years of poor eating habits (and probably poor exercise habits as well such as being thrust in front of a TV or a computer game) to suddenly wake up one day as an adult and say, “I know EXACTLY what I need to do to get healthy and I can do it all by myself!” The point I am trying to make is…they CAN’T. It is why I believe there should be more empathy for obese people who struggle with their relationship with food and that there should be MORE help for them rather than more help for drug users.

          For a person who is an addict to get help, it’s a matter of simply finding a treatment site that will accept their insurance and off they go. For an obese person to get some sort of help with obesity, the average coverage is perhaps some sort of surgical procedure and to do that there are SO many steps and it takes time to be approved and often times there are denials first, appeals and then finally perhaps approvals of certain types of surgeries allowed (even if they aren’t the best ones available). Another issue with this is WHY does it always have to be surgery? If they could open up new methods of treatment, if people stopped with their prejudices that it’s just a matter of eating less and you’ll be fine, then perhaps obesity could be treated by treating the UNDERLYING causes of it, which are generally the same sorts of mental issues that drug addicts have and begin to use for. Ultimately, drug/alcohol/food users use it to change the way they feel. That is the most basic of basic concepts taught to all addiction counselors. The only different factor (which makes obesity even harder to treat, I believe) is that it is something started from infancy and others in our lives (our care takers, family members, etc.) perpetuate and even enhance the problem.

          I think the ideal treatment would be a place to go such as what drugs addicts have access to. A place where the obese person can live at for however long their treatment is, get counseling, support, taught how to eat properly, taught what to shop for and how to prepare the food, taught how to exercise, have coaches to help each one on their individual journey to recovery, and to help each individual find out why they overeat. What damage are they compensating for (just as drug/alcohol users do).

          But if we don’t do that, then at the very least, it would be helpful for insurance to pay for support groups (Weight Watchers) and food from companies that can make and send the food to the patient (Jenny Craig, etc.) which would be very helpful for those who are trying to learn how to eat right and would benefit from both group support and others providing meals to them. Until they have learned enough to cook on their own, at least they won’t have to worry about being faced with preparing food (their substance of addiction) on their own throughout the day.

  30. unknown says:

    so what about this girl’s case,be careful how you guys judge because many obesity problem are also medical condition,why not also study their cases.instead of judging them harshly like that…

  31. this guy says:

    I agree with most said. What I like is that you base many of your arguments on science and fact ….. all the way up until “When God made human beings, He gave us an awesome gift. He bestowed on us an enormous power. He gave us a power so great that it makes each of us more significant, more impactful, and more essential than even the biggest stars in the sky. We can do things that no other creature on Earth can do, we have a capacity that goes beyond any other known entity in the entire physical universe.” To use another quote from the piece doesn’t this “…. toss sound science, medicine, biology, theology, and philosophy out the window.”

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