Obesity rates for adults in the U.S. have been rising since the 1960s, but only in June 2013 was obesity actually labeled as a disease.
Since June, doctors and health professionals can now bill insurance companies for an obese patient. This would be appropriate in weight or dietary counseling appointments.
Of course, in essence this is great for those that work with overweight and obese patients.By being able to call obesity a disease patients may be more likely to achieve their health goals!
A recent study published in the journal of Psychological Science directly contradicts the actual motivation behind classifying obesity as a disease. The study discovered that the “obesity is a disease” message seriously affected obese individuals’ perception of being able to change their weight.1
In a press release, the researchers said that the perception of obesity is powerful. As part of the study, some obese individuals were asked to read an article focused on the “obesity is a disease” message. After reading the article, these individuals were then asked about healthy lifestyles and offered a meal choice.
It was found that after reading the “obesity is a disease” message, obese participants were less likely to have the motivation to both change their diets and placed less importance on making healthy food choices.1
Weight became something that was not could not be changed after it was perceived to be a disease.
On a positive note, after reading that article obese and overweight individuals reported having a positive body image. Despite the negative consequences, promotion of this message could lead to less stigma of body image and promote health at every size.
More research needs to be done to determine other costs of the “obesity is a disease” message, but this study definitely shows a strong relationship between health outcomes and public health messaging.1
Takeaway: Do not underestimate the power of words. Food and health advertising is extremely powerful and billions of dollars is spent each year to reach the targeted audience.
Any messaging, including public health messages, can change how people perceive their own health and diets!
Obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., but there is a way to reduce it in our lifetime.
Eating healthier, exercising when you can and thinking about your overall wellness are ways to work healthy options into your lifestyle.
Don’t be discouraged! You can be healthy at any size!
Till next time!
1 Association of Physiological Science. Labeling Obesity as a Disease May Have Physiological Costs. Association of Physiological Science. N.p., 28 Jan. 2014. Web.