A mother in Maryland asks: If obesity is now officially recognized by the American Medical Association as a disease, then why is her daughter being sent to the nurse’s office for wanting to eat a healthy snack?
Caron Grement blogged on Huffington Post about how her 5-year-old’s summer camp singled her out because she didn’t want to snack on potato chips and fudge bars like the other campers. Grement said she was shocked at the orientation meeting to see the snacks the camp would be offering her little girl: Oreos, Cheeze Curls, Chips Ahoy, Cheese-Its, pretzels and potato chips.
She writes that the snacks are meant to give the kids energy between lunch and dinner, during a busy day of outdoor activities. The only fresh, unprocessed, low-sodium, low-fat foods on the list are grapes and watermelon – which are only served once a week.
Grement explained her daughter likes to eat carrots, raw peppers, and hummus, but when she asked the camp what to do about this menu she was sent on a wild goose chase. Eventually she ended up speaking with the camp nurse, who said Grement could send in whatever food she wanted her daughter to eat and she would store them in the nurse’s office. You know, like medication.
Another mother told Grement her daughter is on a gluten-free diet, so their children could go to the nurse together each day to get their “special” snacks. That didn’t make any sense to Grement. Why would eating healthy be treated like something extraordinary?
“My daughter doesn't think her diet is ‘special.’ To her, it's normal. She eats a wide variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day," Grement wrote.
“Yet in a country in which nearly one in three children is overweight or obese and in which French fries are considered a vegetable,” she added, “it's no wonder that the little girl who eats carrots and not cheese curls is ‘special.’”
She admits that kids will eat the high-sugar, high-sodium, processed and, essentially, old foods on the menu, but she believes summer camps should be setting a better dietary example for kids. She is the founder of the program First Bites, which teaches children 2 to 5 years old and their families about healthy eating habits and how to make healthy snacks.
Photo: Parent Sphere
The American Medical Association voted in favor of recognizing obesity as a disease, despite a recommendation from a committee well versed on obesity not to do so. The AMA hopes the measure will make physicians more proactive and encourage insurance companies to cover treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the World Health Organization already recognize obesity as a disease. The IRS lets individuals deduct obesity treatments.
At the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago, it was noted that obesity in the United States has “doubled among adults in the last 20 years and tripled among children in a single generation.”
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, a member of the AMA’s board, in a statement.
Recognition of obesity as an illness should focus more attention on it. Advocates hope it will lead to more reimbursement for obesity surgery, drugs and counseling.
“I think you will probably see from this physicians taking obesity more seriously, counseling their patients about it,” said Morgan Downey, an advocate for obese people and publisher of the online Downey Obesity Report, to the New York Times. “Companies marketing the products will be able to take this to physicians and point to it and say, ‘Look, the mothership has now recognized obesity as a disease.’”
Advocates also hope that calling obesity a disease will reduce stigma and change the perception that people have full control of their weight. A problem with that argument is that mental illness continues to be wholly unable to shake the reputation of being something under a person’s control.
The argument against recognizing obesity as a disease is that the minute it is designated as such approximately one-third of all Americans are officially “ill.” Those against the medicalization of obesity fear it will make patients rely more heavily on drugs and surgery than cheap, non-life-threatening lifestyle changes.
Delegates of the AMA rejected the conclusion of the committee and voted in favor of recognizing obesity as a disease, calling it a “multimetabolic and hormonal disease state” leading to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The resolution was backed by the American College of Cardiology, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and other organizations.
“The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggesting that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes,” the resolution said.
The New York City Health Department launched a $1.4 million TV and bus ad campaign Monday and expanded its mission to end consumption of sugary drinks.
The ad features a “pouring on the pounds” phrase that has been used since 2009 within the city.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that fruit-flavored and sports drinks sometimes look healthy, but often contribute to obesity at the same rate as soda. He added that replacing sugary drinks with healthier ones is a simple step to take to avoid obesity and other health problems.
However, the American Beverage Association said the ad oversimplifies obesity.
"Selectively picking out common grocery items like sugar-sweetened beverages as a cause of obesity is misleading,” said American Beverage Association's Christopher Gindlesperger. He added the public will not be convinced by the ad.
"The public does not believe that solutions to obesity are as simplistic as a ban on the size of just one item that people consume," Gindlesperger said.
One in five New Yorkers are overweight or obese, according to the city’s health department. The epidemic costs New York City $4 billion in health care each year.
The city and soft drink makers are currently in court arguing the city’s ban. While a judge struck down the measure, calling the rules “arbitrary and capricious” for applying to only certain restaurants and drinks, the city has appealed.
A psychology professor at New York University angered colleagues and students alike with an offensive tweet that implied obese PhD students are not capable of completing their advanced degrees.
Geoffrey Miller, who specializes in evolutionary psychology, tweeted on Sunday: “Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don't have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won't have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.”
Professor Miller quickly deleted the message; he is a tenured professor at the University of New Mexico.
Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU’s journalism institute, wrote: “Astonishing fat-shaming tweet, since deleted, from an academic, @matingmind. The mind boggles.”
Rosen was not the only one to find fault with Miller’s tweet. New York Magazine quickly had a piece up about the social media blunder and other Twitter users began chiming in.
Dr Jason DeCaro, a former PhD student who is now a biological anthropologist in Alabama, tweeted: “Dear rejected UNM psychology applicants: save now-deleted tweet for potential lawsuit. Jerk.”
All of the negative attention prompted Miller to offer this apology: “My sincere apologies to all for that idiotic, impulsive, and badly judged tweet. It does not reflect my true views, values, or standards.”
He quickly followed his apology with this: “Obviously my previous tweet does not represent the selection policies of any university, or my own selection.”
Miller has previously conducted research at the London School of Economics, the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich, Germany and UCLA, The Daily Mail reported.
A recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll found that bus drivers and nurses were more likely to be obese when compared to other professions.
The sample consisted of 138,438 people ages 18 and over. It found that 36.4 percent of transport workers were obese.
Other professions with a higher amount of obese employees included factory workers, office staff and nurses. The obesity is blamed on poor pay, unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and history of depression.
Ed Watt, a former bus driver who drove for 20 years in Brooklyn and Manhattan, said it is no surprise that his profession resulted in more obese employees.
"First, the sedentary nature of the work, sitting much of the day with the inability to move around, even for bathroom breaks," he said. "The second is the mobile nature of the job leaves poor food choices. So fast food rules. The other factor is that these jobs are highly stressful. The stress of the jobs results from high demand and low control over the work."
"Traffic, people and schedule are all big items that are beyond your control as a driver. As a result of the stress, many are inclined to mal-adaptive coping mechanism."
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that bus driving can trigger many health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic lung disease.
The survey also found that doctors, teachers, and business owners were less likely to be obese. Only 14 percent of physicians demonstrated a BMI higher than 30, which is the clinical definition of obesity.
They cited better pay and medical care as the reason for their healthy physiques.
The study was conducted with phone interviews from January 2 to September 10, 2012.
Participants were asked to give their height, weight and were also quizzed on 26 different lifestyle and psychological factors. They were asked how often they exercised, smoked, if they had a primary physician and if they had a history of depression.
Researchers are now urging those involved in the most obese prone professions to incorporate exercise and activity into their work day. They also said employers should take responsibility to increase the physical activity of their workers by offering gym memberships.
A Reuters report last year found that annual medical costs of obesity total $190 billion in America.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie underwent gastric band surgery in February in order to lose weight, said spokesman Michael Drewniak.
Despite numerous rumors about a 2016 presidential bid, Christie denied that was the motivation for the surgery. Drewniak said the father of four underwent the procedure at the urging of his family.
"I've struggled with this issue for 20 years," Christie told The Post. "For me, this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them."
Christie said the the surgery to shrink the size of his stomach lasted only 40 minutes and he was able to go home that afternoon.
"A week or two ago, I went to a steakhouse and ordered a steak and ate about a third of it and I was full," he said.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he lost 110 pounds during his presidential bid in 2008.
"I know it sounds crazy to say that running for president is minor,” Christie said, “but in the grand scheme of things, it was looking at Mary Pat and the kids and going, `I have to do this for them, even if I don't give a crap about myself.’”
"You know, remember that (former Mississippi Governor) Haley Barbour said, 'If I lose 50 pounds, it's because I'm running for president or I got sick.' Chris Christie in typical fashion is cutting to the chase doing this,” said CBS News political director John Dickerson on "CBS This Morning."
Christie made an appearance on David Letterman earlier this year, where he joked about his weight. “I’m basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life,” Christie said.
A former White House physician, Dr. Connie Mariano, told CNN in February that she worried Gov. Christie would die in office, if he became president. "I worry that he may have a heart attack, he may have a stroke … it’s almost like a time bomb waiting to happen," Mariano said.
Christie shot back saying, unless Mariano gives him a physical and learns his family history, “she should shut up” about his weight.
Days after Mariano’s comments, on Feb. 16, Christie had gastric band surgery. He went through a great deal of trouble to hide the surgery from the public, sources told The Post. He never went to his doctor’s office for medical visits, instead Dr. George Fielding, the head of NYU Medical Center’s Weight Management Program, went to Christie’s house in Mendham.
Running for a second term in November, Christie’s weight has been estimated at 300 to 350 pounds. He declined to say how much weight he had lost since surgery.
With a well-known version sold under the brand name Lap-Band®, gastric band surgery is a minimally invasive procedure. The banding system constricts the size of the stomach so that less food can be put into it at a time.
According to The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, 200,000 people in the U.S. undergo weight loss surgery each year.
Women who are obese or overweight in early pregnancy may increase their child’s risk of having a heart attack later in life, according to a new Australian study. Research suggests that increasing rates of obesity in women could lead to higher rates of heart attack in the future.
The study conducted by the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne and the University of Sydney compared the thickness of the wall of the aorta in babies with the body mass index (BMI) of the mother at 16 weeks’ gestation. Body mass index indicates body fatness and is calculated by taking into account a person’s weight and height. An estimated 60 percent of women of reproductive age in developed counties are overweight or obese.
Reviewing 23 pregnant women researchers found that the higher the BMI of the mother, the thicker the newborn’s aorta -- a sign of early atherosclerosis. Babies born to women with a BMI of 25 or above had aortic walls that were .07 mm thicker than babies with normal-weight mothers.
“Potentially it means these kids are at an increased risk of having heart attacks in adulthood irrespective of what they do in their life -- whether or not they become obese,” said study co-author Michael Skilton, a vascular physiologist at Sydney University’s Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders. “The good thing is that they have enough time to start exercising, eating well and doing all the things you can do” to improve heart health.
Skilton says the group plans to study as many as 1,000 more women as part of Melbourne the research project. The research findings were published Tuesday in a letter to the medical journal Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition.
One leading health academic believes the way to cure America of obesity is to "shame and socially beat upon" those who are overweight.
Daniel Callahan, 82, wrote an article explaining that overweight people should be treated like smokers. Callahan believes negative attitudes toward obese people will force them to give up the unhealthy habit of overreating.
Callahan is president emeritus of The Hastings Center, which is a New York "think-tank" that specializes in health policy ethics.
While Callahan thinks his plan is "edgy," many experts in eating disorders and obesity think his plan is ignorant and damaging. They believe his proposal "advocates the playground bulling of children."
He said many people are not aware that they are overweight, so they need other people to bring them to the "shook of recognition."
"Only a carefully calibrated effort of public social pressure is likely to awaken them to the reality of their condition," Callahan wrote.
"They need to be leaned upon, nudged, and -- when politically feasible -- helped by regulations to understand that they are potentially in trouble. They should not want to be that way, nor should others."
The former senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School knows that the issues of obesity are manifold, but he believes "negative public opinion" is the only way to bring quick results and halt the epidemic.
"It is hard to imagine that much progress can occur toward solutions for obesity unless we bring some form of social pressure to bear against it," he wrote.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor at the University of Ottowa and author on obesity, said negativity will not solve the problem.
"If guilt and shame were sufficient to fuel long term weight management, the world would be a very skinny place indeed. Obesity is mulch-factorial and driven by the world in which we live," Freedhoff said.
Peggy Elam, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders, said Callahan's article is "horrifying."
"It is mind-boggling and on so many levels ignorant of actual research," she said. "Smoking is a behavior, fatness is a body condition."
"This kind of bullying has a tremendous impact on peoples lives. We've seen in the past decade or two a rise in the hospitalization of children under 12 with eating disorders. On a humanitarian level it is shocking he is encouraging bullying."