Thinking Differently about Obesity
We’ve been thinking a lot about obesity this year, and the fact that most of us - as well as the animals under our care, including in zoos and labs - continue to gain weight. According to the New York Times, “something about the environment is making many of us as fat as our genetic makeup permits.”
We won’t pause now to discuss epigenetics or hypothesize about chemicals that may modify hormonal signals guiding appetite, metabolism or body fat distribution. Instead, we’re taking time to share our actionable learnings for 2019 and beyond:
- Obesity is a chronic, progressing, relapsing disease. The reason BMI doesn’t equate to obesity is that many people with obesity are “in remission” and have a normal or near-normal BMI. Unfortunately, people with obesity are always at risk for re-gaining lost weight. (Employers, be mindful of your workplace “foodscape” this holiday season!)
- “Eat less, move more” doesn’t begin to capture the complexity of weight loss for those battling serious obesity – though eating well and moving more is a great way to sustain physical and emotional well-being, and is a component of weight management. (Try not to imply that behavior change is easy or by itself enough for most individuals struggling with their weight.)
- There are treatments, which are greatly under-utilized, that can help people achieve a healthy weight. (Take a look at your coverage policies for FDA-approved weight loss medications and bariatric surgery.)
- Shame and blame don’t work and, unintentionally, our communications about weight may project harmful bias. This works against program objectives; those who experience bias disengage and instead gain weight. (Seek input from weight bias experts or ask your own employees to review program marketing and materials; avoid headless and disrespectful body images.)
For further context see New Rules Apply: How Popular Culture, Implicit Bias and Scientific Evidence are Shaping the Weight of the Nation (video) and Treating Obesity: It’s Everyone’s Business (infographic).