Sunday, August 6, 2017

Obesity = a chronic illness?

I was YouTube browsing the other day and got on a string of TED talks. As often happens on YouTube, you start on one type of video and soon end up in a totally different area of the internet. I finally got to a TED talk that was titled How to Lose 50 Pounds and Keep Them Off. Intrigued, I clicked.

You see, I have lost 50 pounds. I've lost more than 50 pounds at least three times in my adult life. It takes me maybe 5-6 months to make such progress. But keeping those pounds off, that's a whole different story.

The talk wasn't revolutionary or anything. He did not reveal any magic way to keep weight off. But it did give me something to consider. Essentially, the speaker said the way we view obesity has to change. Instead of looking at weight as something you just lose once through diet, he says you have to treat obesity like a chronic illness. Once you have it, it never just "goes away".

If a person has a chronic illness, they are constantly going to be monitored for the rest of their life regarding that illness. Even if they are able to get their numbers stabilized or minimize the side-effects, they live their life knowing they having asthma, arthritis, hypertension, etc. Obese people should behave the same way even if they lose the weight and therefore get their obesity "under control".

It will never be under control the same way it will be for someone who never put the weight on. The sooner an obese or previously obese person can accept that, the sooner they can start to take steps to treat it that way. Labeling obesity a chronic illness does not mean the person is doomed to live a life trapped in their overweight and unhealthy body. But it does mean they have to be on their toes for the rest of their life -- treating their condition like they would if they had epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. Having a false sense of security that obesity was "conquered" could quickly mean a relapse. Obesity is "long-lasting and difficult to eradicate... persisting for a long time or constantly recurring" as the definition for chronic suggests.

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