When Obesity Is The Disease

On April 2, 2002, the Internal Revenue Service ruled that treatments for obesity qualified for tax deductions, with this justification:

Obesity is medically accepted to be a disease in its own right. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, describes obesity as a “complex, multifactorial chronic disease.” Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults (1998), page vii.

That government bureaucrats held forth other bureaucrats’ opinions as the summary of “medical acceptance” should surprise no one.

In July 2004, Medicare changed its long-held policy towards obesity—removing language that declared obesity not a disease, and beginning to cover treatments such as bariatric surgery.

The (partially) private sector took nine years to concur with the wholly public sector, but in 2013, the American Medical Association officially classified obesity as a disease.

“Obesity is a disease” implies that obesity happens to you. It implies that the human body’s procedure for handling superfluous calories—storing them as adipose tissue—is a disease.

When obesity is a disease, then food preferences are not choices, but predestinations.

The breakdown of the family unit must not be a factor in poor eating habits. The lack of wives and mothers willing to cook meals “from scratch” for husbands and children is irrelevant to the high sales of pre-packaged and “fast food.” And we must reject this sound reasoning:

Family and social meals are among the most powerful teachers of self-control in the human repertoire. They teach that the appetite of the moment is not, or rather ought not to be, the sole determinant of one’s behavior. The pattern of grazing or foraging independently of everyone else teaches precisely the opposite lesson. It is hardly surprising that those who do not experience family or social meals early in life exhibit the lack of self-control that underlies so much modern social pathology in the midst of plenty.

When obesity is a disease, we are reminded often how some medical conditions lead to weight gain. (Never mind that some medical conditions lead to weight loss: Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, etc.) The weight gain is not a sign or symptom of a deeper problem, the weight gain is the problem.

The prevalence of fat people, and the attitude towards obesity, has several parallels for the popularity of, and opposition for, Donald Trump. (I do not relish bringing up Donald Trump, primarily because he loves the center of attention.)

To begin, the lack of ideological or philosophical substance in this human windsock is similar to the lack of nutrients in popular types of edible calories. (When that Toaster Pastries package claims the contents are a “Good Source” of vitamins and minerals, it is deceitful advertising.)

Second, like those who consider someone’s paunch a disease, some people have honed in on Donald Trump as if he were the problem in America. Their motto: “Never Trump!”

In 2012, Mitt Romney said this about Donald Trump:

Being in Donald Trump’s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement… Donald Trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works to create jobs for the American people. He’s done it here in Nevada. He’s done it across the country. … I spent my life in the private sector. Not quite as successful as this guy. But successful nonetheless.

By 2016, Romney’s sugar high had crashed—as he expressed the disdain and paranoia that many harbor for Trump:

If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminshed. [...] But wait, you say, isn’t he a huge business success that knows what he’s talking about? No, he isn’t. His bankruptcies have crushed small business and the men and women who worked for them. [...]

Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities, the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.

America is a country where an absurd, greedy bully can succeed and make billions; where political candidates welcome his funding and his endorsements—but if he himself wants to be the president, he must be stopped!

It is true that Trump would have a bad effect were he president. As George Orwell wrote:

[A]n effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.

Nonetheless, Donald Trump is not the fullness of the problem. Yes, he is crooked, reprobate and vulgar. Millions of Americans are also crooked, reprobate, and vulgar.

He refers to women as objects for self-gratification; many millions likewise objectify women, and millions of American women do themselves no favors by (un)dressing in ways that leave little, if anything, to the imagination.

He does not understand or believe in the principles of free enterprise. Millions of Americans demand subsidies or monopolies for their favorite industries or systems, one prime example the dumbing-down education of children.

Removing the folds of fat from an overeater’s frame would not fix his lack of self-discipline. Similarly, toppling Donald Trump as the frontrunner would not cure the moral rot across the country.

For when was public virtue to be found
Where private was not? Can he love the whole
Who loves no part? He be a nation’s friend
Who is, in truth, the friend of no man there?
—William Cowper

When Obesity Is the Disease

When symptoms of bad choices are the disease, Trump is the problem with America ... Continue Reading →