Is Obesity a Disease in the Contemporary World?

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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What should you blame for that extra weight you’re carrying? Studies show that the answer can be increasingly complex. There are valid reasons biologically for extra weight such as hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing’s disease, and some anti-depressants. “Some groups such as the Fat Acceptance at Every Size movement and the International Size Acceptance Association, have expressed concerns that defining obesity as a disease allows others to further separate and classify persons as obese.” (Nall) We can not simply consider obesity as a disease, it reflects poor diet decisions, biological make-up, inactivity levels, frequency of eating, and access to low quality food, high in carbohydrates, and psychological factors of the particular individual.

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Even with all these factors, there are several people who have succeeded against the odds by becoming active, changing their diet, coping with stress better, and demanding healthier food resources.

The term disease as a definition is too ambiguous and vague to be helpful when considering the use of the word to describe obesity. In 2008, The Obesity Society endeavoured to clarify the term only to discover that they couldn’t. It turned out being too complicated and immeasurable (Nall) When even the experts cannot define disease; Putting obesity into this category without clear requirements is hard to accept. Labeling it can have serious consequences. “Some medical experts express concern that calling obesity a disease can foster a culture of personal irresponsibility. Doctors often want their patients to take an active role in their health. Some worry classifying obesity as a disease may affect how people treat their health of think of their options or abilities.” (Nall).

Are your poor diet decisions killing you? In America, our diet typically comprises mostly mass produced packaged food and/or fast food. Though these meals may be convenient in our constantly busy lives, it has really affected the state of health that our country is in. Worldwide, 45% of children between 6 months and 2 years rarely eat fruits and vegetables, and 60% don’t eat eggs, dairy, fish, or meat (Sidhu). This accumulates children’s diets at a young age to never have the desire to eat healthy foods. This displays how obesity is a lifestyle issue, not a disease. School-going adolescents that are in the low to middle-income countries, 42% of them consume carbonated sugary soft drinks at least once a day and 46% eat fast food at least once a week (Sidhu). Those rates go up to 62% and 49% for high-income countries (Sidhu). If they are only ever exposed to processed foods, that is what they will indulge in throughout life. Only feeding your body these sugary/fatty foods deprives them from all the vitamins and nutrients that are packed into fruits, vegetables, etc. Around 40 million children are overweight or obese (Sidhu).

While diet may be an easier option for some demographics, there might be some neighborhoods that don’t have those resources. USDA defines food deserts as part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas; This is largely due to lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. (American Nutrition Association). People who live in food deserts grow gardens so that they can provide healthy foods for their families.

How does metabolism affect your weight status? Joe Rupp, from Fit & Functional, explains metabolism like this, ?Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories it takes for your body to perform its basic functions. It affects how much energy your body needs to do its job and helps determine the number of calories you’ll burn each day.” Metabolic diseases affect the likeliness of the individual to develop obesity. Those with low metabolisms are more prone to become obese. This is because the lower your metabolism is, the fewer calories you burn causing you to store them as fat. This is despite how “healthy” or “unhealthy” your diet is. Calories are calories in terms of metabolism.

Do your hobbies require any physical effort? “Evidence suggests that physically active children are more likely to mature into physically active adults.” (BetterHealth). Although there are cases where they prove this to be false, mostly the correlation is strong. Keeping your children active will overall lead them to a healthier adulthood. Sometimes it can be hard to convince your child to be active. “Parents can encourage their children to play sports in many ways, including role modeling.” (BetterHealth). Taking part in a sport with your child can really help motivate them to become involved. For example, you can have days in the week dedicated to spending time outside with your family. Instead of spending your Saturday morning in the living room watching TV, go play a game of kickball in the backyard or go to your local park and take a walk. “Reducing physical inactivity is just as important as increasing physical activity.” (BetterHealth). You might think you’re spending enough time being active, but if you should be aiming for at least 60 minutes of active time and a maximum of 2 hours a day of TV/electronics.

How does inactivity affect obesity? According to the Mayo Clinic, when you become inactive, you gain weight, making it harder to participate in physical activities overall, causing you to gain more weight. This is a vicious cycle. The average American spends more of their time sleeping or lying around doing nothing rather than being active. Inactivity is a choice even if it’s easier to make that choice in modern day America. We make this choice easier with access to Netflix, food delivery/take-out food, pick-up at Walmart, etc. An example of breaking that cycle was a response from entertainment, such as the recently popular app Pokemon Go. They designed this app to get people up and moving around. This shows disparity to get people more active.

Stress eating is very real and very dangerous. According to Susan Torres, stress correlates with human eating patterns, meaning it could be a cause of obesity. Stress can also cause people to under eat depending on the individual under stress. The power of stress over a person’s eating habits is very clear. Stress is not a disease, so obesity is not a disease. “Stress-induced eating may be one factor contributing to the development of obesity.” (Torres). Torres is not explicitly saying that stress eating is the main cause of obesity, but simply that it could be a strong factor.

In conclusion, if we as a society don’t focus on our health as a society in terms of weight, we will face much bigger problems in our future. The opinion that obesity is a disease is arguable, but the support behind obesity not being a disease is much stronger. Despite both sides of the argument, obesity is a serious issue that needs a light shone on it. We can not just sit around and expect it to resolve on its own. Big steps need to be taken and they need to be taken soon. 

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Is Obesity a Disease in the Contemporary World?. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from