Lifestyle vs. Disease: The Real Truth About Obesity

Obesity is not a lifestyle choice. It puts people at risk for serious correlated illnesses like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancers and reduced psychological well-being. As such, in 2015, the Canadian Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a chronic disease requiring treatment and prevention efforts.

What’s more, research has identified a number of obesity risk factors at play, including genetics, physical activity, diet, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, immigration and environmental factors. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all explanation as to why some people live with chronic weight management issues while others don’t.

With all the existing research and information on the disease, obesity continues to be stigmatized in Canada.

According to a Leger survey, 86 per cent of Canadians believe that obesity is a result of personal choices related to physical activity and food intake. The survey also found that 55 per cent of Canadians believe that people living with obesity lack self-discipline.

“People living with obesity are highly stigmatized in our society and are known to suffer from inequalities in employment, education and healthcare, often as a direct result of weight discrimination,” says Brad Hussey, Communications Director for the Canadian Obesity Network. “We should be accepting body diversity rather than alienating so many Canadians because of their medical condition.”

Blame, fat-shaming and labelling is not an effective way to help the 6.5 million Canadian adults living with obesity. Weight bias can lead to serious psychological consequences like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body judgement and suicidal tendencies.

A collective effort is needed to address obesity as a chronic medical condition, instead of judging people living with it. This starts with:

  • Promoting physical and psychological health, as opposed to extreme weight loss or dieting;
  • Removing judgement and understanding that a person’s weight does not define them;
  • Challenging weight bias and stigma, and remembering that there are factors at play beyond diet, exercise and self-discipline; and
  • Using people first language: Adam has obesity. NOT, Adam is obese.

If you’re living with obesity, contact your doctor to discuss an individual treatment plan that offers realistic and sustainable strategies to ensure successful chronic weight loss and management.


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