If you have discussed a weight problem with Dr. Posner, he has most likely told you it’s not your fault. He is not the only one who knows this is true- this has been echoed by extensive research and the foremost experts in this field of medicine. Obesity was recognized as a chronic disease in 1998 and the way we have understood and discussed weight issues have evolved significantly since this time. Over the past 4 decades the US has seen a precipitous increase in the number of people who are overweight. Is it possible that a large portion of our society suddenly lost their resolve to be healthy and eat well? I believe other factors are at play which have more to do with disrupted metabolism and dangerous foods than disrupted willpower.
When healthcare officials realized that obesity was becoming a significant problem in America, we initially got the messaging all wrong. We failed to see that our environment had created widespread disruptions in metabolism and we asked people to make changes which further harmed their bodies. We encouraged people to eat highly processed foods and modified real foods based on hypotheses that proved to be false. And worst of all, as doctors we told people that being overweight was an issue of willpower and caused many individuals to live with shame and self-judgement that made solving their obesity problem more difficult.
Dr. Theodore Kyle gave one of my favorite lectures at the 2023 Obesity Medicine Conference last month highlighting how much the language we use around overweight and obesity matters. In order for any of us to address unhealthy weight, we must feel empowered and supported. As doctors it’s time for us to partner with our patients and find strategies to battle the disease of obesity and make it clear that we have a doctor-patient team fighting against the disease of obesity. Every person’s story with their body weight is unique and personal, and everyone’s needs are slightly different. I look forward each day to working with our incredible patients to heal their bodies and live the most vital lives possible to them!