As Matt wrties,
Obesity might cause diseases, and there might be illnesses that make it easier to become obese, but obesity itself — the condition of having excessive amounts of body fat — is not a disease. Calling obesity a disease is like if I stab myself in the arm and then claim my bicep wound is an “illness.” Sure, the wound might become infected and cause a disease, and there might have been some psychological disorders at work which prompted me to knife myself in the first place, but the wound itself is simply a result of my actions.
Obesity, likewise, is a result.
It’s also a cause, but first it is a result. We eat and the body converts that food into fat. That’s how it works. To call that process “diseased” is to fundamentally rewrite the laws of physics. Some people have slower metabolisms and some people have thyroid issues, and those can be diseases, or symptoms of diseases, or the results of diseases, but ALL people gain weight by eating. This is a fact. It is not a disease.As I wrote in the comments, it is insulting to people with real diseases to claim that my propensity to overeat is also a disease. Yes, I understand that there are rare cases involving people with disorders that make it almost impossible to lose weight (and for some, to gain it), and some people truly do have slow metabolisms. But for the overwhelming majority of us, we did this to ourselves.
Another thing that bothers me is our cultural efforts to overcompensate against anti-fat discrimination. Absolutely overweight individuals should not be made to feel embarrassed for being overweight, nor should they be insulted. And the stick-figure, size-2 model of what a "beautiful" woman is supposed to look like does not help women deal with potential weight issues (nor appeal to most men, quite frankly).
But in promoting a healthy body image I sometimes fear we go too far. I'll just use me as an example to avoid offending anyone as best as I can. It's one thing for me to be comfortable with who I am, and to have a sense of self-confidence even when I am at my fattest. But it is not okay to accept being 60 pounds overweight and to do nothing to try and lose that weight. Being that overweight puts me at increased risk of heart attack and other diseases, and I owe it to my family to shed the weight and do what I can to live longer.
Now just a few days ago I linked to a Cracked article that chastised people for making it sound like losing weight was a walk in the park, and that is still very much true. At the same time, we also have to confront harsh realities and not minimize the risks associated with being severely overweight.