Someone Tell the American Medical Association that I’m Not a Disease

I woke up this morning to learn I have a disease. Or, rather, that I AM a disease.

No, I did not receive a phone call from a doctor with some upsetting test results. I am exactly the same as I was yesterday, except the American Medical Association has decided to classify the body I have been living in for 29 years as diseased. Why? Simply because I am fat.

“Obesity” (which I put in quotes because, since it’s calculated using the outdated BMI system, I consider it to be an abstract, arbitrary, and fake classification), they say, should be called a disease so we can have better “treatment options.” In case you weren’t aware, “treatment options” means “weight loss.” Or “ew, fatty, stop being so fat.”

Except, you know, the diet industry literally makes billions of dollars every year. The medical establishment already treats fat people horribly, many doctors are downright abusive and act like we are non-compliant, insolent children if we stick up for ourselves. They ignore the fact that practically no one keeps weight off (there’s a 95 percent long-term failure rate), even after resorting to extremes like surgery.

Let’s take this headline, from Forbes, into account:

Screenshot from Forbes of a headline reading "AMA's Obesity-As-Disease Vote Should Boost Diet Drugs"

That says it all to me. This is a way for drug companies to claim legitimacy as they waste time and resources to develop more diet pills that ultimately will have no more long term “success” (if you consider thinness a success) than anything already out there. They will divert scientists and efforts from researching things that actually plague us, like cancer, AIDS, and other diseases, or actual nutritional woes like world hunger.

On Twitter, there is a hashtag gaining some speed: #IAmNotADisease. It really shouldn’t be necessary to start a social media campaign to point out that fat people are human beings, not walking illnesses, and that we deserve to be treated as such. But there are a few great tweets being sent:

Tweet by Michelle (@fat nutritionist) reading "I am a fat person. I represent, in part, some of the wonderfully adaptive biodiversity of the human species. And #IAmNotADisease

Tweet by Amanda Levitt (@FatBodyPolitics) reading "The ruling of fat as a disease is not about health but corporate profit and greed. It always has been. #iamnotadisease"

Tweet by Brian Stuart (@red3blog) reading "Problem isn't that diseases make you bad. It is using "diseased" as a cudgel to shame, stigmatize, and abuse. #iamnotadisease"

The medical establishment needs to stop pathologizing body types and start promoting health at every size and basic human dignity. Let’s focus on actual diseases instead of creating new ones where none exist.

This post originally appeared on my personal blog, Reluctantly Adultish.

By [E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

11 replies on “Someone Tell the American Medical Association that I’m Not a Disease”

You know what I hate? I work out regularly and I eat healthy (ish, lol, I’ll be honest, I still love my fast food once or twice a week) and yet you know what I hear? That because of a little belly fat I’m gonna die sooner than my thinner peers. That because I don’t fit my suggested BMI, which I could’ve sworn was debunked), it doesn’t matter how active I am or how much high-caloric food I’ve cut down, how great my resting heart rate is, I’m a walking time bomb because I’m not skinny.

I agree with Brian’s point. Disease shouldn’t be synonymous to ‘lesser being’.

And sane people know that it’s healthy eating and healthy exercise that keeps a person (here’s that word again:) healthy. Not diet pills or anything similar. AMA should get rid of those and install some cheaper healthier food and exercise options (for those that want, of course. Being a free human being means having the option to decide on your size and health).

“Let’s focus on actual diseases instead of creating new ones where none exist.”

Hmm. My concern here is that there will be the creation of a “them and us” attitude. There is a lot of debate of many “diseases” as it is. Some people dispute whether many mental illnesses are really illnesses, for instance. There are also a lot of “diseases” already that are, for many intents and purposes, superficial in impact but there they are as classification. I’d also say, I kind of take issue with the “I am not a disease” concept. There are a lot of people out there with diseases and condition, that does not mean any of them “are” their disease or condition.

There are plenty of diseases out there that need research and funding. But the money is in dieting, so classifying body types as diseases means that’s where research will go. It’s not “us and them” it’s “don’t divert funding from people that need it to make a buck.”

My husband doesn’t separate his mind from who he is, but having a “diseased” mind doesn’t make him a disease. That’s the whole principle behind saying (for instance) that a person has Schizophrenia instead of saying they are a Schizophrenic.

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