Obesity A Disability?

In the summer of 2013, obesity was officially classified as a disease by the American Medical Association.

I may not agree with that decision 100%, but the possible positives of it are plain to see- better, more accessible treatment and hope to improve the health of the nation.

74% of the United States of America is overweight or obese. That leaves one quarter of a country classified as “healthy”.

Yes, this statistic is often considered controversial because it uses the BMI scale, which does not take muscle mass into account. Realistically speaking, however, there are a VERY small number of individuals that get to a 30 on the BMI scale thanks to sheer muscle mass alone (ahem, Shaquille O’Neal)


When 74% of a country is deemed unhealthy, drastic measures need to be taken. I get that. And to some extent, I even agree with calling it a disease. Obesity is influenced by so many factors, not just overeating. People have dysfunctional thyroids, autoimmune disorders, digestive complications and a thousand other possibilities that all come into play to result in an overweight individual.

What I cannot agree with is considering it a disability independent of any other medical issues (source). This means that all those unavoidable medical complications affecting the ability to maintain a healthy weight are NOT CONSIDERED. This would basically be saying that overeating is a disability. 

This decision is (claimed to be) an attempt to eradicate/diminish weight-related discrimination. I would never support an individual not being hired to work solely because their employer thinks obesity is ugly. That is absolutely not okay with me. What people need to consider, however, are the traits associated with obesity. Independent of a medical issue, chronic overeating can be a sign of inability to handle emotions, commitment issues, low self-esteem, etc. Would you want to hire an individual like that?

Of course, those things cannot be proven in an interview, so even I would have a difficult time accepting them as a valid reasons to deny someone a career.

What about health-related careers? My mom works in a hospital, and while visiting her, I have seen many a morbidly obese individual giving speeches to heart attack patients about cardiac health.

Um, excuse me? This is total hypocrisy, not to mention wildly diminishing these patients’ chance of success –  the person that is telling them to eat more vegetables and move more clearly doesn’t think it important enough to do it themselves, so why should they?

Let’s not forget the person huffing and puffing as they walk with the necessary appliances to save a patient in CARDIAC ARREST. Or the police officer that fails to catch a criminal because he is out of shape.

These are situations where the worker’s obesity can 100% result in someone else’s DEATH. Do you truly want to fight for one person to have a career that could kill others?

On another note, companies are difficult to build, and reputations even more so. I know that personally, if I spent ten years creating a healthy living brand/magazine that I was proud of, I would want all those representing my company to be role models of a healthy lifestyle, whatever that may be for them. It wouldn’t be about looking “skinny”, though of course I wouldn’t want to hire a ton of overweight people – what credibility would I have if I did?

On the surface, the reasons for classifying obesity as a disease seem OK – who doesn’t want more fairness in the world? But digging deeper shows us that helping them can result in more harm to others.

Weigh in: Should obesity be classified as a disability? 


Obesity a disease: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262226.php

Overweight percentage in USA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States

Shaquille O’Neal BMI: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/03/08/athlete-study-exposes-flaw-bmi-obesity-measure/


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