Recently, the AMA ruled that obesity is a disease, and with that ruling all the old stereotypes and discussions have come out of the woodwork. I’ll say here that I have spent the last part of my adult life overweight-at least according to medical standards. Whether that makes me obese, I am not sure.
I am a voluptuous woman. I have always been full figured, all of my life. It is who I am, although I did not always weigh what I weigh now. I have never, in my life been a size six or two or ten even. I’ve also always had a C sized cup if not more, not to give too much information. When I was twenty three and joined the US Army, I ran for an hour every morning (in combat boots on cement, mind you). I ate healthy food (yes, army mess halls had good food). I was still a size sixteen on a good day, and nothing was going to change that. The second half of my army service was done at Walter Reed Medical center. I remained a sixteen at best and still worked full time, did PT daily and had an active lifestyle. No one in my life including my supervisors ever suggesting there was anything wrong.
For me, pregnancy, while joyous, was not the glowing thing it is to some. I had various issues with both pregnancies, and both times gained weight-which never seemed to go off no matter what I did. I was still healthy and active. After the birth of my thirty year old, I ran an in home day care center where I cared for up to ten children from six am to five pm. We ran, we played, and I worked, got down on the floor. As a result my household had to have all of its meals approved by the USDA during the week .We ate extremely healthily with two servings of fruits and vegetables at lunch and dinner and so on and so forth. On the weekend I hiked, coaches sports, helped my husband at work. My second pregnancy required something close to bed rest, and my boredom was sated by eating and watching day time television (why I now never watch daytime TV, even in a news crisis).
After my C section and recovery I was back up again, active as usual, chasing after an active toddler and being the after school home to a group of ten year olds. As life progressed, it remained more active. Golf, hiking, day to day business kept me active mentally and physically. While some of the weight dropped off immediately after returning to my normal life style, much did not. I found this very frustrating at first, especially as my husband was six feet, 130 at his heaviest, never worked out and ate (literally) everything he wanted including a chocolate milkshake before bed all of his adult life. His position required us to go to different private and city clubs each m month where the chef on call would try to out cook the previous chef. Invariably I would only be able to eat a third, and my husband would finish what I could not. He wore a size thirty pant at his heaviest. Thankfully, he knew that he was blessed by genetics and metabolism. I eventually decided I would remain who I was, and be happy with that person. I remained that way for many years, during which time I climbed church bell towers, climbed European mountains and ate the food of every country-all while being overweight. I did not however, gain weight. Ever. My weight post pregnancy recovery was constant for twenty years. The only times I have ever gained weight were short periods. I simply was unable to lose weight-no matter what I did.
When my husband died, I went through a deep period of depression. For six months I ate all day and spent money all day. At the end of that time, I fortunately “snapped out of it” and slowly returned to my normal life style. Since I was still depressed, I decided to join a diet program. For the fee of three thousand dollars a year, plus two hundred dollars a month, I could eat prepackaged food-and still have to purchase dairy products and fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis. I existed on between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred calories, exercised daily…………and lost 70 pounds over more than three years! During my diet I ate nothing approaching normal food, and since I still lived with others, got to watch them eat regular food during that time. At the end of that period, I screamed a huge NO, many times over.
That life was not for me. I now continue to eat primarily healthy foods-including both vegetables and salads at meals, nuts , olive oil, a small glass of red wine daily, and desserts-almost daily. I exercise regularly by walking or doing water aerobics ( where I can maintain high intensity for a full hour). . Last week I climbed up the mountain sized hill at the renaissance fair.While I had to ice my knee the next day, my heart was just fine, as was the rest of my physical being. My blood pressure is 120 over eighty. When I travel, I walk back roads, cobblestones, I do everything that others do with the exception of climbing stairs (thanks to a my knee injury it is forbidden). My days are filled with sewing, quilting, working in the garden. Soon they will be filled with minor home improvements as we move and replant and paint and the like. The only times I have been hospitalized were for childbirth and a D and C until my stress (not heart) attack at sixty Overweight? Absolutely. Sick? I don't happen to think so.
On one level I understand the logic, I truly do. The AMA wishes to make certain procedures more affordable under insurance. In theory I think this is a good idea. The thing is thought, that the other primary purpose of making other designated conditions diseases was to reduce the stigma. I don't see this happening here, if only because being overweight is simply so visible. Unfortunately, I see this diagnosis as an opportunity to line the pockets of folks in the diet surgery and diet industry -both of which are poorly regulated by the AMA or anyone else, for that matter. And frankly there are way to many doctors out there who blame every single illness an overweight person might have on that weight-ignoring other factors. I have a damaged knee-not from my weight, however, but from running on cement in combat boots for ten years and falling down the stairs. Too often already a doctor simply says "lose weight" or "eat less" no matter the complaint.
Is weight related to health? In many cases it is, and I do not mean to downplay that in any way! It is however, just one aspect, and to assume that the non heavy are necessarily healthier would be a mistake. Is the skinny guy who runs on the sidewalk and has to have multiple knee surgeries healthier. The guy who smokes? The guy in the suit who stops on the way home for two drinks every night or walks in the door and has a cocktail? The skinny guy who never exercises and simply relies on his skinniness for health?
Or is it, again, just that overweight people are more visible? Recently, at an online place I visit, a contributor posted a picture of Kim Kardashian-fully pregnant and probably overweight according to medical standards as well, but looking happy and healthy. She was eating an ice cream cone. The person noted: " I'mnot sure in her condition I would be seen eating the ice cream". Really? Are we not allowed to behave and eat normally just because we are overweight? Will we visually micro manage what everyone is eating and correlate that to their weight? I eat ice cream cones. I also eat salads twice a day, drink low fat milk, have fruit for snacks and prefer fish for my protein.
So be it.