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Is obesity a lifestyle choice or a disease?

There are calls to reclassify obesity as a disease amid growing concerns.

The Royal College of Physicians’ appeal comes after alarming new figures over sugar consumption were published.

Obesity should be recognised as a disease rather than a lifestyle choice in order to be better tackled by the health sector, industry officials have said.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said it was necessary to see those who are very overweight recognised by the Government in order to receive specialist care in an effort to combat obesity.

Obesity is thought to affect around one in every four adults in the UK, and roughly one in five children aged 10 to 11.

The call comes a day after Public Health England (PHE) found children have on average already consumed more sugar than the maximum amount recommended for an 18-year-old by the time they reach their 10th birthday.

And in adults, a recent report from Cancer Research UK said obesity was such a growing problem that it could overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in women by 2043.

Outlining plans to reclassify obesity as a disease, RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: “It is important to the health of the nation that we remove the stigma associated with obesity.

“It is not a lifestyle choice caused by individual greed, but a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences and social factors.

“It is governments, not individuals, which can have an impact on the food environment through regulation and taxation, and by controlling availability and affordability.

“Governments can also promote physical activity by ensuring that facilities are available to local communities, and through legislation and public health initiatives.”

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said any move recognising obesity as a disease would chime with international classification and was therefore “very welcome but 20 years overdue”.

But he said he was concerned some obese people would therefore “blame their genes” rather than change their diet.

He added: “What worries me greatly however is that obese people will now blame their genes for their condition and continue to feast on the food that made them fat.

According to PHE, in 2015 63% of adults were classed as being overweight (which requires a Body Mass Index of 25-29.9) or obese, where the BMI is 30 to 39.9.

The RCP said it wants to see obesity recognised as an ongoing chronic disease to allow the creation of formal healthcare policies to improve care both in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals, and so that significant and far-reaching preventative measures can be put in place.

As well as encouraging prevention, treatment and greater empathy with patients, the RCP wants “to see a change to public discourse about obesity, so that those with the condition are no longer blamed for it”.

What are your views?

Is obesity a lifestyle choice or a disease?

575 people have already voted, what's your opinion? Lifestyle choice Disease

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Broholmer
15th Mar 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Lots of “in the good old days” type comments and judgmental “fat people are just lazy”, observations, in reality we live in a very different world from 50-60 years ago, look at most inner city streets crammed full with cars to see that many more people drive everywhere, many more households have both partners working full time, hence processed convenient food is much more common, children’s education and entertainment is now all based around electronics as opposed to physical games, lots more office based service industry type jobs than production or manual jobs, massive lifestyle differences and genetics leading to more overweight people, more education on what benefits health and what adversely affects health, from early school years, would be beneficial.
Janishall
5th Mar 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
People will always find excuses for being overweight and for not doing enough exercise. I don't think that will ever change but it makes me question why. I don't believe it is just laziness.
- Post war, people were more healthy. Food was limited and you learnt to feed your family. People have lost the ability to cook - too many easy options out there and no cookery lessons in school.
- Exercise shouldn't have to be joining the gym or joining a club. It should be something we do naturally. If you walk the children to school, they too learn that they can walk anywhere.
What stops us? Work, money, time, needing to have everything the advertisers throw at us. It's a vicious cycle. Maybe the thing people really need is permission to get off that treadmill, live with less perhaps and enjoy more.
ElisabethR
2nd Mar 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
It is wrong to label obesity as an illness. There are very few illnesses that lead to excessive weight gain. Usually the so called diet experts tell you it eating too much food or eating the wrong food that causes it. Definitely right to say its going to give people an excuse. My friend insists it is family stress that causes her to be overweight! Really? Oh yes I hardly eat a thing but look at me.....ho ho so when e
We go out to breakfast do I eat scrambled egg on toast and she has a large full English plus a pastry? We are all different of course but its still eating more than we need that makes us fat.
John Walsh
24th Feb 2019
-1
Thanks for voting!
Fat people are to blame for their fat bodies. People today are bone idle and eat far too much and don't exercise.
Back in the fifties people were far more energetic and fat idiots stood out like a sore thumb.
Women especially these days are lazy and slow. Many are also greedy and eat too much.
NatalieL6
13th Feb 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
I was fat as a child despite cycling 12 miles a day, and playing netball, and being outside a lot, so I must have been packing away an awful amount of poor quality food. As a teenager I lost lots of weight through not eating. Then in my twenties became a gym fanatic and ran 20 miles a week and worked out 4/5 times a week. Was slim, toned and fit. Then hit 40 and its been downhill all the way. Thyroid decided to pack up, broke my ankle and have loads of metal work which stops me from being able to walk very far. I have found it really hard to accept that I can't do what I used to regarding fitness. I find that I comfort eat which I know is stupid yet I still do it. I know that if I reduce the amount of carbs I eat I can lose some weight but I don't think I will ever get back down to my ideal weight. Que sera sera!
Stuart1946
10th Feb 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Obesity is a lifestyle that has been created by big business. They have produced so much processed food full of sugar that is very additive. The fast food industry has grown as fast as our waist lines. In the 1940's and 50's there were no fat people, look at old documentary films or Pathe news and you will see what I mean. I grew up on ration books and we grew a lot of vegetables and salad, we had fruit a little meat and cheese. We were fit and strong because we walked or had a bike to get to school or work. Its not easy to solve now because of all the changes in the way we live. For what its worth I say, eat fresh home cooked food, eat the rainbow of colour with fruit and veg. Move a lot more, walk, swim, ride a bike. Get out in the garden or join an allotment and grow food, its great exercise as well with the extra benefit of making real friends.
ElisabethR
2nd Mar 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Where were you living? granted there were fewer fat people about but Marilyn Monroe would be classified as obese nowadays at a size 16. Don't think my mother or her friends were skinny prob all a little rounded and my nan was cuddly. Most old people were heavy.
Is it generally that people are bigger so that the bigger ones are obese?
Little3
1 days ago
0
Thanks for voting!
I was born just as rationing ended. I'm afraid my mother included a lot of sugar in our diet, even back then. Later, I remember being tremendously impressed by the Yudkin book, 'Pure, White And Deadly'.

Many never seem to have questioned the place of sugar in our diet. When I look at the offerings on supermarket shelves, I could weep. And when I see parents and grandparents peddling sweeties to the young, I feel angry!
Bathx3
8th Feb 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
These Medics / scientists may have great expertise in their individual fields, but they lack any common sense.

If it was all down to genetics, then the world would have been full of fat people when I was young - over 50 years ago.

It is clearly lifestyle - lack of exercise, poor / excessive diet, and lack of self-control.
Yogafan
2nd Feb 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Everyone has choices.Being obese is'nt just caused by overeating.Its also caused by lack of exercise.People have become incredibly lazy.I'm late 50's,and have found my metablism has slowed down,so decided to increase my exercise regime.Today for example I went for a 1.5hr trek cross country in the snow.You HAVE to keep active.Too many people sit on their bums all day,watching tv,gaming,surfing the net.Choices people,choices.
biker babe
15th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
I wonder what would happen if the good old NHS
wasn’t there to pick up the pieces?
I feel for people who due to valid medical conditions find it hard to manage their weight, that’s a different story.
TracyJY
15th Jan 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
I believe it starts as a lifestyle which turns into a disease. We choose each mouthful of food we eat or as a child chosen for you. And as we grow if we are not taught the right choices we continue to eat without balance. Bad choices then become a habit and one which is difficult to change. Eventually food becomes a form of abuse and an almost impossible cycle to break
Alicia
14th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
It is the result of overeating, it is not caused by an illness just greed.
Diabetics are costing the NHS a fortune ! 🙁
GuyJ
14th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Neither choice options are appropriate, although for some it is a result of a medical condition such as an underactive Thyroid for instance.

We don't tend to have a choice in our lifestyle but there is a choice in what we eat.

Work for instance, especially if you have an office job, is a major contributor to us being unhealthy add a poor diet on top if that and you can see the result.

In my opinion our employers should be encouraging health in the workforce as a healthy employee is productive.

Life outside of work doesn't always allow us the time to find opportunities to remain healthy.

Technology and related modern culture are also a factor in today's world, tho attempts are being made to make people more active.

We are designed to be active and today's environment doesn't necessarily allow it for all thus resulting in an increasing amount of obesity.
JanetA130
14th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
I was never overweight until my thyroid went under active, I have now been diagnosed with Dercums disease which also causes weight gain , I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle
Captnjack1395
13th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Having taken part in a world health organization (WHO) survey into obesity in men in Scotland in 2001 the conclusion was that although diet and exercise played a small part the underlying cause of obesity was genetic, however it is to easy to blame the likes of fast food and sugar etc.
MaryF79
14th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Agree that it is 50% genetic,as it was in my case until Itook active steps to change my lifestyle,avoid sugar and exercise more.
SandraH58
13th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
It's a lifestyle choice. I have battled with my weight since I was a child. I have successfully lost over 7 stone with a weight loss group but the weight piles back on if I take my eye off the ball. We need re-educating with regards to food. Healthy food needs to be made more affordable and supermarkets need to stop displaying high fat/sugar goods as soon as you walk in the door.....& these are always very cheap compared to fresh fruit etc.
MaryF79
13th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
I think it is a Lifestyle choice to overeat and not a disease.
jeanmark
14th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Oh dear MaryF, if only it was that simple.
Raindrop
12th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
It`s a shame that children today cannot just get out and play safely instead of sitting around indoors playing video games or texting each other.You cannot eat a bar of chocolate whilst riding a bike e.g. Also diet is a parental responsibility. Children do not cook their meals parents do. Schools could reintroduce healthy cookery classes too. Something needs to be done about obesity to ease the NHS as well and prolong life not shorten it.
MaryF79
13th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Quite agree, Raindrop.
Guildford Gal
12th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
I believe there's a genetic component to obesity but not all obese people have the gene. Whether obesity is a stand alone illness - my preferred word - or not, is hard to distinguish. Obesity is often connected to psychological issues like comfort eating due to depression or loneliness., or even as a reward/treat. When money is an issue it's cheaper to keep everyone happy at home with fast food and nibbles too. Sugar is addictive so like with cigarettes/alcohol you get cravings which some can manage more easily than others.

I've always had a weight issue from a child, my brother and sister didn't but I yo yo dieted so I kept it to about a max of 2 stone overweight. Now I'm 8 stone overweight I have an autoimmune disorders, the medication for which makes me both hungry and tired. When you're tired your body will crave carbs. I feel like I have a bottomless pit for a stomach. Plus I don't get out to exercise. Stress also causes cortisol to be released that helps to prevent fat being broken down, plus insulin stores fat which makes it hard for diabetics. Hormone imbalances will also cause fat storage, menopause for example.

Ours bodies are different, we are all unique, so leave it to the experts to decide who needs NHS assistance. Obesity is like cancer, it will kill us in the end, and some of us we need help to beat it
lindz64
11th Jan 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
I passed a young woman recently coming out of Greggs, pushing a toddler in his pushchair and as she was pushing a sausage roll into his chubby hand, she said "eat your dinner"!! What? The young adults now probably don't know how to cook, not having been taught by their elders. I feel so sorry for this generation growing up now. Perhaps more should be done to teach healthy eating/cooking instead of giving convenient labels! It's a lifestyle choice, but it can be reversed
McGilchrist
11th Jan 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
I never had a problem with weight as I led a busy active life running Hotels where food was always available.
Now retired and living alone I find it difficult not to comfort eat and realise there are many reasons for people not controlling their weight. Many of them physiological and therefore difficult to deal with.
Pauline52
11th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
There are many reasons for obesity, most of which are entirely in the control of the individual. Some people have deep seated problems and need extra help; most just need to get a grip of themselves!

If that sounds judgemental, well - maybe it is. I was equally hard on myself. I was obese and now I’m not. I knew - as most people know - that it was my fault and my problem to deal with. All these unhealthy foods and drinks don’t jump off the supermarket shelves and force their way down your throat!

Equally, in the vast majority of cases, child obesity is the fault and responsibility of the parents.

I agree that there needs to be a move to deal with this ever growing problem but to classify it as a disease just provides an excuse for failing to eat properly. To my mind, the push needs to be in educating people about how to choose and prepare sensible nourishment, and the consequences of not doing so. Even then, many will choose the unhealthy alternative (as I did for some time!)
PeterM74
11th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Obesity in children is a number of factors, these include junk food, we we were children junk food was fish and chips, that pretty much was it, also sweets and “treats” were not everyday occurrences they were what it says, treats.
We also didn’t sit around on phones, iPads etc, we were out playing and running around. Until parents stop giving sweets etc all the time, just because their child is whinging this will continue to happen and kids will get fatter and more unhealthy
BridgetR3
10th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
The reason someone becomes obese is not always clear cut, yes it's caused by taking in more fuel than is used but there can many different reasons that why that happens ,greed and laziness is just one. Once someone is in the cycle of overeating it's hard to break so like with smoking individual s often need help and support to break that cycle .attending weight loss groups is not always an option due to cost. Taking a long term approach to tackle the issue will save the health service money in the future.
JeanetteL5
10th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
It is not a disease or a choice. It is an addiction. Food is as addictive as smoking or drugs once you are addicted it is very hard to break the habit. I have tried most years some years I win for a while. Then bang after a few thinner years you are back to gaining and you just can't stop. We don't choose this option. If I could choose an option I would be thinner.
joan boakes
10th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
In my opinion obesity is a lifestyle choice. I accept that genetics may give people a predisposition to become obese. I think this probably applies to me as I weighed about 8 1/2 stone from the age of 17 until I was 33 and had a fourth child. My metabolism seemed to change then in common with many of my family members and whereas previously I could eat pretty much anything I liked I can't do that now without gaining weight. I also have cravings for food. I am 66 years old and last year had reached the weight of 13 st 10 pounds. I have put myself on a diet and joined a Pilates group and the weight is dropping off. I find it quite hard with all the temptations of easy ready meals and snack type food that is so readily available in the shops. Also I live a very busy life and it is tempting to buy ready made food. It is a fact that if you eat less calories than you burn you will lose weight. I think it would be a big mistake for obesity to be classified as a disease. The government would do better to address the food products being sold but not do the same as they have with sugary drinks which is to raise the price but allow manufacturers to fill the drinks with sweeteners which I think in tbemselved are more harmful than sugar. Also they should look at subsidising exercise for example swimming and Pilates and gym.
lindz64
11th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
I agree wholeheartedly about sweeteners. I wrote to Robinson's and Muller over a year ago, asking why they're still using Aspartame in their products. Robinson's didn't bother to reply, Muller said that Aspartame was now safe. I sent them 2 A4 pages from the Internet disproving that and asked for their comments.... nothing! You would have thought that they would have fought their corner if they were so confident. Can't turn our backs on big business, even at the cost of harming the public
Lynden13
10th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
For 99% of the population who are obese it is a simple matter of too many calories going in and not enough being used up. The problem is compounded by parents who are obese teaching their children by example and over-feeding them.
Lack of teaching both at home and in schools on healthy cooking and eating is also helping to compound the problem.
Surfer Pete
9th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
There is a simple equation in play here:

If you put more calories in your mouth than you burn you will put on weight.

What goes in your mouth and how active you decide to be is a lifestyle choice.

It's not always easy and it takes willpower - especially at our age!
Suze q
9th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Obesity is very much a lifestyle choice we choose what we eat and how much exercise we do it is quite simple if you eat too much and the fat or sugar content is high and have a sedentary lifestyle then you are going to gain weight willpower has to be strong so that healthy choices can be made
BobM7
11th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
I am in my late 60s. I have to take medications which have side effects of weight gain. I also suffer from arthritis in my hips. and I have severe mobility problems. I am morbidly obese. The solution is to have both hips replaced, but because of my BMI I can't get the op on the NHS. It's a Catch 22 situation. There are many obese people with similar circumstances. It is recognised now that food adiction is a mental health problem. So it's not at all as straightforward as you suggest.
Suze q
11th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
There are always exceptions to the rule. I still must point out that for the majority of the population obesity is a lifestyle choice. I agree certain medications can cause weight gain but this has to be weighed up against your health. I see so many young people and children who are obese and in this day and age it is ridiculous. When I was growing up obesity was not an issue as it is today. Lifestyle has changed and there is more help available nowadays to address the obesity crisis .
Lionel
8th Jan 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
While these so called 'experts' working for quangos continue to advocate the Body Mass Index as a yardstick for determining obesity there can be no truly effective measures against true and verifiable obesity. Why? Because BMI measures the mass of the body and compares it to an ideal weight.

But by what means is that ideal weight determined, and since when does a one size fit all system work? It doesn't. And as Jeanmark so rightly points out the life styles forced on so many working people deny them the chance to moderate their diet. Instead they eat to fill bellies only. That's entirely understandable.

Taxation is not the way forward. In fact to allow the State to get involved takes us a step even closer to Big Brother. Aren't we close enough now? Do we really want the State to allow us certain foods and disallow others?

Having been in the food industry I wouldn't touch a ready meal or any packet food. Meal Deals are a suicide note. MacDonald's and others just boost the obesity epidemic. Unlike Europeans we Brits love our cheap food, even if it's killing us. But that is just my view.

No amount of advice or publicity will impact on certain well populated groups of people. But, judging by our local supermarkets, that's where the rump of the problem lies. I'm sorry to say, this problem is going nowhere because so many people don't want to change.

Wherever possible we must all take responsibility for ourselves, no matter our way of life.
Billythequiche
9th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Well reasoned and I worked in the food industry too. When the watchword was FAT, removing a lot of it caused loss of flavour and "mouth feel". Some substitutions were less than ideal. Keeping in mind "let him without sin cast the first stone", perhaps we should not be too quick to point the finger. It is hard to separate the week from the glutinous. Like smoking, the habit is hard and unpleasant to break; I smoked for more than 45 years and quitting was the hardest thing I ever did. In a way, our generation had it simpler. constant, outdoor exercise when we were kids and for some. hard, physical work later. Add to that, limits on the total amount of food you could afford and the only fast/processed food was from the local chippie.
The fast food outlets are an easy target, but when you look at the spurious claims such as : Low Fat, Low Calorie, No Added Sugar by leading manufacturers and retailers, they are no better than snake oil salesman.
I agree with taxing high sugar drinks to help protect children but I fear it will be many years before a long term, socially induced solution arrives. We knew smoking was a killer in the fifties and look how long it was before social pressures made the majority quit.
A modest, short term aid would be to enforce a a simple, single guide on all food sold or served. The traffic light system is a good example.

Apropos of nothing, I was thinking about you the other night. I was watching the shepherdess from the North Yorks Dales. Wow. That family could teach us a lot about healthy lifestyles.Their values make you question your own. I am now checking out her books.
Lionel
9th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
The matter of FAT on meat caused havoc in the livestock business. I was in pigs during the transition time. We were recommended growth promoters so the animals would put on more muscle tissue and less fat. All well and good until about 15% of Cutters in the first batch either threw a fatal heart attack or became so nervous and fretful they fought each other to the death. Messy!

Vets suggested using non-opiate based tranquillisers. That stuff was expensive and made the pig herd totally unprofitable in the quantities we needed. Yet we couldn't sell fat livestock at markets. Feed compounders came to the rescue. We were offered a new mix which included small doses of both growth promoters and a little tranquilliser at a slightly enhanced price. That worked! But the market price for Cutters (pork pigs) needed to rise. Consumers squealed and the door was opened for much cheaper German pork imports. Today the bulk of our pork is German or Polish.

I can't disagree with anything you say about obesity. But I do fear further State intervention in our lives. Like smoking, the trickle down effect could be a winner yet by making it socially acceptable to be well over weight we would negate any such remedial action. Overweight women flaunting their near naked bodies in the national press as an advert for their life style and being well paid for it does nothing to help us all come to grips with the epidemic.

For me fast food of all kinds remains the demon. Surely, food is first to nourish our bodies and minds and only then to fill bellies. Of course nicies like cake and biscuits are included but we can't thrive on just nicies. Fast food is to me just nicies, very seldom eaten, if at all.

Yet, being a pragmatist, I know people will do as they want (I do) and hang the consequences. Perhaps if more people could see how convenience food is prepared there would be a vomiting epidemic. I had to turn away from a processed meat line and it takes an awful lot to make me throw up.

I'll PM you about Yorkshire Billy.
Billythequiche
10th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Know what you mean Lionel, I once had a 2 day visit to Bernard Matthews' production site.
Sorry, as a late-comer to on-line communication, I have no idea how to send or receive a "pm".
The grandkids would fall about laughing.
Margaret Hart
8th Jan 2019
0
Thanks for voting!
Until I was 60 I had always been like a stick inset butisuddenly had all my medication changed and I started gaming weight. By the time I was 70 I was 4 inches shorter, I was doublethe weight with a large bust even though I hadn’t had a bust until I was 60:and I went up one shoe size. It has been horrific - I never imagined anything like it could happen as I believed it was all down to what we eat and I’ve always eaten healthy food and still do. I know now that you can’t judge people by the way they look as there could definitely be a serious reason.
jeanmark
8th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
The question is possibly a little too simplistic as obesity is caused by a number of factors. If you take away certain genetic causes such as Prader-Willi and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, there will still be other influences that may lead to a problem. There will always be those who believe that health and nutritional diets are the answer and yet many foods falling under this umbrella are more expensive. I certainly couldn't have coped with a large family, be working on a low income and be expected to come home - having shopped around for 'healthy' food -and prepare nice healthy meals for them all - I certainly know there were times that coming home after a busy and stressful 12 hour shift, food was the last thing on mind, nutritional otherwise!

Until food manufacturers and supermarkets provide good healthy products at a reasonable price, we will continue to have problems. Lets not judge the individual parent, who may have little choice in what they buy and maybe (this could be a radical thought), 'domestic science' should be re-introduced into the school curriculum (rather than an after school activity) so young people leaving school will have some idea of what is good, cheap, nutritious and quick to prepare.
MrsPat
8th Jan 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
I have always been chubby and eat more or less what I please as well. I would say that this question is not easy to answer. There are some people who are more prone to being fat and others thin. What is obvious is the amount of surgery and fatty food all around us and the lack of exercise we do now compared to say 100 years ago before cars were invested. Put all that together and hey presto you have an obese society. Simple really.
Marley444
8th Jan 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
I think there is not a clear cut answer to this question. For years I have said that the food industry and the regulations surrounding it do not help to promote a healthy lifestyle. No one is born obese so lifestyle must have an influence on how we turn out. Self control is essential in life, and some of us have more of it than others. Education is also important from a young age about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise. I feel obesity is originated from lifestyle choices but the outcome of an unhealthy lifestyle can cause obesity, which ultimately causes ill health.

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