Sunday, March 02, 2003
I Am Obese
posted by Julie |
What a word, what a word.
One of the things I hated most about being overweight was this word. I hated all the character assumptions that came with it. (You know, obese=dumb, =lazy, =unproductive, =poor self esteem, =don't get me started.)
I hated being part, wittingly or not, of an ongoing debate over whether obesity, itself, should be thought of as a disease, a disorder, or our species' healthy and natural response to the sudden constant availability of food when the whole of our evolutionary history adapted us to intermittent periods of feeding and starvation.
(People who tend to develop fat stores quickly would be the evolutionary winners in that scenario.)
I hated contributing to the obesity statistics, reported in incomplete, unhelpful, and stereotype supporting ways by unknowing representatives of the general media.
For 20 years, at a dead run between business appointments and social obligations, I might glance over my shoulder at the height-weight charts as I climbed them, noting my progress as I moved from overweight to obese to…
Now, there's a pretty expression.
It was hitting this special level of obesity, combined with exhibiting those morbid symptoms of heart disease and diabetes, along with a host of other problems, that forced me to radically change my life and devote a huge amount of time and resources to losing weight, placing my health higher in priority than my job and social pressures.
I saw all of those words again on my way down the weight chart. I was delighted to cross back over into plain Obesity, tickled pink when I reached a mere Overweight, and delirious to be able to call myself Average.
But now, after maintaining my weight loss for more than a year, I find that it's obesity I identify most closely with. The tendency toward obesity isn't a condition you lose when you lose the fat. I struggle with disorders or diseases that lead to obesity -- a stressful life, metabolic resistance, exposure to myriad toxins. I have to work hard to stay on top of my natural tendency to become obese. I keep a vigil against weight gain every day.
So, if I am still struggling with obesity, does that make me obese? An obese person? I mean, of course not according to Mr. Webster, or my mirror. But a person who struggles with diabetes is still a diabetic, even when the disease is under control. If you have lupus, the disease can go into remission, but you haven't been cured. You are still a person with Lupus.
Today I'm more inclined to embrace this word. The big O. Well, okay, the other big O. Unless you're thinking of Oprah, in which case, the Other, Other big O.
I'd rather embrace it and work to take the shame out of it, and work to educate people who draw all sorts of ridiculous conclusions about the character of obese people than to reject the word completely.
So, I am obese. An averagely weighted obese person.
American Obesity Society Stance
Is Obesity a Disease?
International Obesity Task Force
Center for Disease Control on Overweight and Obesity