Obesity: Character Flaw or Neurochemical Disease?

By: Carole Carson, dubbed “An Apostle for Fitness” by the Wall Street Journal, is a fitness advocate
read article here

When is the last time someone challenged you to examine a cherished opinion or viewpoint? This comes close to describing my conversation with Dr. Jennifer Lovejoy, president of the Obesity Society, a clearheaded thinker whose insights are shifting attitudes and shaping future policies about obesity.

Myth #1: Obesity is just a lifestyle problem.

The reality is that obesity is a chronic, relapsing, neurochemical disease with a genetic basis. Simply telling an obese person to “eat less and exercise more” is overly simplistic and demonstrably ineffective. For many people, the extent of long-term calorie reduction and exercise enhancement necessary for adequate weight loss is not feasible for a multitude of biological and environmental reasons we are only beginning to appreciate.

Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise are obviously key elements of any obesity treatment plan, but just like other chronic conditions that have a lifestyle component, e.g. hypertension and diabetes, there are strong bioregulatory networks working to defeat weight-loss efforts and sustain obesity. Thus, for many patients, obesity treatment requires lifelong interventions in addition to healthy lifestyle change. Ignoring this need ignores the human and financial costs of the condition. Obesity deserves serious treatment.