By now you’ve probably heard about the American Medical Association’s decision to classify obesity as a disease.

“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” explained AMA board member Patrice Harris, MD, at the AMA annual meeting. “The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity.”

We asked some of IDEA’s members and colleagues for their opinions on the topic:

  • “Although obesity is now classified as a disease, it is essential to maintain the understanding that it is one in which the symptoms are made worse or better by the choices of those suffering from it. The factors driving obesity are often as much psychological as they are physiological. [For] support and treatment, the mental aspects of the disease should be examined as closely as the physical ones.” —Jonathan Ross, Aion Fitness, Bowie, Maryland
  • “I have long believed that we have an ‘inactivity epidemic’ versus an obesity epidemic, and the fitness industry is still falling short of addressing the movement needs of the overweight population. Recognizing obesity as a disease may give some relief to overweight individuals who feel a diagnosis is better than failing at weight management. But I do not believe it will help improve health outcomes in the long run. I believe we will see more medications, diets, fitness programs and scams on the market promising to ‘cure’ this disease.” —Rochelle Rice, MA, plus-size movement expert, New York City
  • “Disease or not, obesity is an epidemic that’s costing lives and billions of dollars. How we define it could change the way it is treated by the medical community, but it won’t change how you prevent it in everyday life—by eating real foods, avoiding processed foods and added sugar, and maintaining an active life style.” —Grant Hill, owner, MyBootcamp, Washington, DC
  • “Exercise can help our clients live longer, better, healthier lives, whether or not it is accompanied by weight loss. I believe that declaring obesity a disease will only increase weight panic and shame among our clients. And the research indicates that shaming our clients makes them less likely to begin exercise and less likely to stick to the exercise programs they’ve already started.” —Jeannette DePatie, author of The Fat Chick Works Out, Duarte, California

To learn more about working with this population, read the article “Do Fitness Pros Understand Obese Clients?” in the July–August issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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