Treating Obesity as a Disease and Not as a Fault of Character … Making Progress Here!

This article talks about treating obesity as a disease and not as a fault of character … I’m so glad to see we are making progress here.

This make so much sense to me. I love that someone, quoted in the article, mentioned that many people are successful in every area of their lives, except for being unable to prevent unwanted weight gain. When I read that, I also thought about how some of these very same people may already be following a nutritious diet and getting enough exercise, and they may already have a very nice life-work balance worked out. Sure, theoretically, they could do vigorous exercise for five hours a day and burn off the unwanted weight, but this would negatively impact their life … meaning, less time to spend with family or friends or working on their art or music or whatever other sedentary tasks that might be important to them.

Taking time away from these other important activities, to exercise instead, wouldn’t benefit people in this case, aside from the concept of trying to shed the unwanted pounds. Granted, exercise is helpful for boosting one’s mood and preventing diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments. That being said, it’s quite easy for a person to be getting ENOUGH exercise for general health, but not enough exercise to keep off unwanted weight gain. If a person is already doing enough exercise for general health, it would be sad for them to be feel compelled to disrupt their successful work-life balance, just to lose the unwanted pounds … if there is another way.

The concept of pills that can treat obesity more effectively than diet and exercise, and without harmful side effects, is very encouraging. What do you think?

I’m very lucky that I’ve never been obese. However, I do gain weight easily. Over the years, my weight can fluctuate 30 pounds up or down. Partly it can be due to diet, but mostly I feel it is due to how much exercise I am or am not able to fit into my day. I imagine that is pretty common, and it underscores how much exercise affects a person’s weight.

Meanwhile, I’m very aware of what a time commitment exercise is, and how that can adversely affect a person’s life in general. I remember my brother saying how our dad would miss out on special family times because he couldn’t miss his workout, and he was obsessed with keeping his waist a certain size. Sure, exercise totally works, but at what cost? Beyond the amount of exercise needed for general health, spending more time exercising can take away from other things that are important in a person’s life. All of us only have so many hours in a day.

Right now I’m back on the exercise wagon, and that’s great, until the inevitable point in the future when I fall off the wagon again. Apparently I’m blessed with good genetics that have so far prevented me from becoming obese during the times when I’m more sedentary (even gaining 30 pounds, I’ve only reached the point of being “overweight,” not obese). Of course, I can totally become obese if I continue on the trajectory, when I’m in the “weight gain” mode. However, as a 48-year-old who has never been obese, it’s apparently not as easy for me to become obese, as it is for my friends and family members who have been obese since they were in the early 20’s. I see how active my obese friends and family members, and I see how much they eat … plenty of times, they are being MORE ACTIVE than me, and eating LESS FOOD than me … and yet they are obese, and I’m either merely “overweight” or considered to be not overweight at all.

All if this is to say, it upsets me a lot when people frame obesity as a fault of character or a lack of will power on the part of the person affected. For me, it’s clear that there is SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON HERE. Otherwise, it makes no sense for my hard-working and kick-ass friends and family members to be obese when I am not. (I’m also hard-working and kick-ass, but not more so than they are.)

I’m hopeful about this idea that obesity could be a disease that can be remedied with chemistry. I’ve also heard that a person’s gut bacteria can also play a role. I’ve heard that if they take the intestinal flora from someone like myself, who doesn’t struggle with weight to the point of becoming obese, and transplant it in the intestine of someone who does struggle with obesity, it can make a difference. Does anyone here know if there is any truth to that? Have there been scientific studies supporting those claims?

4 thoughts on “Treating Obesity as a Disease and Not as a Fault of Character … Making Progress Here!

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  1. There was a case of a woman who got c-diff and received a fecal transplant from her overweight daughter and then she herself became overweight. But who knows really? Could the woman, after probably months or years of dealing with an *awful* intestinal illness had a lowered metabolism for a bit and also was really hungry and felt the need to eat more after the bout with c-diff? Because I’m sure with c-diff, she was losing weight and probably very quickly, which would both lower her BMR for the time being and make her hungrier when she recovered. I think there’s so many reasons she could have gained weight. I don’t know if there’s ever been any successful weight loss after receiving a fecal transplant of someone who hasn’t struggled with excess weight. Seems like if it was super hopeful, we’d hear more about it.

  2. I’m always a little bit defensive about gut bacteria stuff too because I’ve seen this touted as some magical cure for autism or THE cause of it. And like with many things we humans deal with, correlation does not equal causation. Autism and digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea and the like) do TEND to go hand in hand, but my son has no issues like that. But he has always eaten a healthy, varied diet with fiber and prebiotics. The one thing that doesn’t seem to be an issue for him is food. He has a couple of texture issues but not to the degree of it affecting much. Like no big deal mushrooms and cooked zucchini aren’t his favorites. He’ll still eat kimchi, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus, bell peppers, etc. and LOVES pretty much any fruit. But for many autistic people, food variety and textures can be a BIG deal, and I’m guessing that probably has more do with gut microbiome than bacteria making someone autistic.

    And here’s a study, unfortunately not a big one, that didn’t show fecal transplant helping weight loss: I feel like, not that i’m a scientist or anything (LMAO) that maybe gut bacteria could maybe help a little, I think maybe some bacteria are better at breaking down carbs, fats, etc. but I don’t know if it’s ever going to be the thing that is ultimately responsible for someone dropping 10s to 100s of pounds, but take my opinion with a grain of salt.

  3. Thanks for the information. Yes, I don’t know if there’s anything to the fecal transplant idea. I have a feeling it’s quackery. But it seems there is something different about me that helps to prevent me from becoming drastically overweight, or obese, compared to many of my friends and family members. And I wonder what that is?

    On the other hand, I also see women who are super skinny compared to me, and they stay that way their whole life. So there is something different about them compared to me, which makes them super skinny when I am not.

    1. I mean, it’s super complex. Like genetically, I am not prone to struggle with my weight. In fact, I should weigh less than the average person if you looked at my DNA. I don’t have any gene that you could point to that says, “This person is likely to be overweight.” I do think mine is pretty much 100% external forces, and I think I pretty much know what it is. It’s nothing dark or super traumatic for me. My grandmother, who grew up very poor and had to go hungry A LOT, was, I’m sure, traumatized by that. I remember being very little, I want to say 3, and sitting down for dinner and feeling so unhungry and not wanting to eat and my grandmother being so worried about it, telling me I had to eat something, I HAD TO BE HUNGRY. I wasn’t. But I thought I was going to get sick if I didn’t eat so I’d eat when I wasn’t hungry. And voila, I got used to eating more than I wanted/needed. For me, it’s not like a binge. I don’t emotionally eat, in fact if something bad is happening to me, I have no appetite. It’s just that I don’t feel full until I’ve had a little too much and it adds up eventually. I don’t think I’ll ever become morbidly or super morbidly obese, but I struggle, and I think I always will, with filling full when I should. But some people develop binge eating disorder as a response to something traumatic, and from what I’ve heard, binges generally happen in secret. Some people like fattier/sugary foods more than others and we live in an environment that makes it really easy to get. Our food system has definitely outpaced evolution. It’s just been in the last few decades we’ve had access to calorically-dense food around the clock. It was, until very recently, more advantageous to eat whenever you could and to eat as much as you could because who knows when you’d get your next meal. Then there’s people who led very active lifestyles so ate a lot but continued to eat that once their activity level dropped. So that’s why I think, and I think obesity experts generally say something like this, there isn’t and will never be a universal cure for it.

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