Obesity does not have to define you


No one enjoys making a trip to the doctor. But on this recent visit, there was a little bounce in her step. Yes, she was there due to not feeling well, but she was eager to see the physician, a woman with whom she had talked about her health and fitness journey, as well as her weight loss struggles,  many times in the past.

She could not wait to tell the doctor of her biggest news since her last visit: completing her first half marathon. And she looked forward to showing her that she has kept the 30 lbs off still after a year had gone by.  The doctor offered words of praise and admiration, hugging the patient as they both beamed big smiles.

“You look great, absolutely fantastic,” she told the patient. ” Whatever it is you are doing, keep doing it.”

“Running, trying to watch my portions, cut down on the junk, be more mindful of things,” the patient responded. She is aware that she is not done, that there are more pounds that need to come off in order to be at a healthy weight. She knows this. Yet, despite knowing this, her heart sinks when, sitting in her car after the appointment is over,  she glances down at the computer print out the doctor provides as a summary of the visit. It all starts off fine and dandy – blood pressure normal, no fever, EKG normal.  Then this:

Diagnosis: Obesity. Following that was her current B.M.I. And following that were some notes about the reason she went to see the doctor to begin with.

Seeing the word obesity in black and white caused the tears to start to well. Sure, over the years she had looked at the B.M.I charts. She knew according to those charts, she was considered obese. And she knew that her personal weight loss goal was not tied to a  particular size of a pair of jeans or even a certain number of pounds. Her goal has always been to get out of the obese range and into the “just” overweight range, and then keep going from there to a healthy weight.  But to have it written out by a doctor in her notes, next to the word diagnosis?  That felt entirely different to her.  That felt permanent. Her half marathon, the dedicated training, the weight she has lost and kept off – none of it seemed to matter.

A few days later, the O-word was all over the news after members of the  American Medical Association voted to officially recognize obesity as a disease.  The pros and cons of the association’s decision have been the subject of discussion and debate. There are those who will argue that the obesity epidemic will now get the attention it deserves.  There are those who will argue that “some people with a B.M.I. above the level that usually defines obesity are perfectly healthy while others below it can have dangerous levels of body fat and metabolic problems associated with obesity,” the New York Times article states.

She doesn’t know the answer. What she does know is that in the morning, she will lace up her running shoes and head out the door again, not because she is obese, but because she loves the way running makes her feel. She knows she will be having a salad with grilled chicken for lunch. Not because she is obese, but because she is trying to plan her meals ahead of time and that is what is ready and prepared in the fridge. She knows she will drink her water, get her rest, eat her fruits and veggies, not because she is obese but because she knows the O-word does not define her. Not now. Not ever.

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