Posted in: Medicine

Medical Staff Urged To Omit Obesity From Their Vernacular

Man holding measuring tape

It is a commonality to see overweight or obese individuals, adults and children alike, confided to their corpulence for a variety of lifestyle, medical, or genetic reasons. In the last decade especially the environment has had to adjust to accommodate: restaurants customizing wider booths and chairs, airports charging more for replete customers or making it mandatory to purchase a second seat, hospitals being supplied with larger, reinforced beds and wheelchairs, scales, and specialized instruments. Bariatrics, the branch of medicine that specifically deals with the causality, treatment, surgery, and prevention of obesity, has also grown exponentially.

Obesity, or simply weight gain, accumulates due to a myriad of contributing factors: sedentary living with little to no exercise, technology, fast food, lower quality food, high refined carb diets, processed sweeteners, heredity, smoking, age, inadequate sleep, stress, depression, misrepresentation or misunderstanding of nutritional labels, lack or understanding of portion control, body dysmorphia and eating disorders, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hormone imbalances, pregnancy, and medications such as steroids and antidepressants.

The human body is simply not designed to undergo the stress of prolonged obesity. It can lead to complicated but preventable conditions that include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, asthma, sleep apnea, hypertension, fatty liver, gallstones, hernias, erectile dysfunction, renal failure, and chronic musculoskeletal problems. Consequences of excessive weight can include osteoarthritis, hip and knee replacements, or complete immobility (bedridden). The costs of treatment, surgery, therapy, recovery, and medications for these illnesses are astronomical; blood thinners, beta blockers, emergency and followup care, disability, physical therapy, etc. With limited mobility, skin ulcerations such as sensitivity or bed sores can develop in locations of adipose folds. Over time the flesh and poor circulation promote the epidermis to ulcerate or erupt. Infections and lack of proper healing can ultimately result in necrosis and death if not excised or treated. Non-compliant diabetics, prone to these types of sores, who refuse to monitor and adjust their blood sugar often endure numerous amputations in order to avoid the spread of gangrene and sepsis (blood poisoning).

Occupational Health and Safety explains that obesity has now exceeded smoking in both expense and preventable deaths in the US. Obesity and smoking collaterally place a mounting strain on an already burdened health care system. And yet with such an epidemic on our hands the sensitivity of people is being policed by political correctness. At least that is according to The Sun:

“The term ‘obesity’ may be unhelpful…while some people may like to ‘hear it like it is,’ others may consider it derogatory… For example, it might be better to refer to a ‘healthier weight’ rather than ‘obesity’ and to talk more generally about health and well-being or specific community issues.”

However you want to flower up the language the truth is the patient has more body fat than they should and it needs to be seriously addressed. Hearing something socially stigmatizing about yourself is going to come across as pejorative, but you don’t hear cancer patients wanting to rename their affliction so not to offend their delicate sensibilities. It is universally understood there is a stigma to fat. But the focus is getting treatment for the cause, not to shame the treating physician because he or she is using the medical term to describe excessive subcutaneous adipose tissue correctly.

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7 Responses to “Medical Staff Urged To Omit Obesity From Their Vernacular”

  1. Darliene Howell

    I understand that diagnosing and working with people with a larger amount of adipose tissue is very different from that of a person with smaller amounts. Fine. Then train these physicians on HOW to deal with large clients! It appears to me that fat bias is something that is being passed on during physicians training and that it is something that CAN be changed. If you, as a physician, don’t know how to handle it, find out.

    A 2010 study, Reducing Anti-Fat Prejudice in Preservice Health Students: A Randomized Trial, stated that: “Anti-fat sentiment is increasing, is prevalent in health professionals, and has health and social consequences. There is no evidence for effective obesity prejudice reduction techniques in health professionals. The present experiment sought to reduce implicit and explicit anti-fat prejudice in preservice health students.” And that, “The present results show that anti-fat prejudice can be reduced or exacerbated depending on the causal information provided about obesity.”.

    The American Medical Association has said that denying a patient treatment or to even refusing to enter into a relationship with someone that is overweight or obese is ethical behavior. If this is ethical treatment, the word needs redefining… it’s discriminatory. In case I have forgotten, aren’t we the ones hiring them? Shouldn’t WE be the ones interviewing and screening THEM to see if it’s a good fit?

    If you are a large person and wish to discuss “ethical” treatment with your doctor, please share NAAFA’s “Guidelines for healthcare providers who treat fat patients” with your physician. The brochure is available to you online at

  2. Megan Charles

    I appreciate the additional information and shared opinions on the matter. I can see you are extremely passionate about the topic.

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