Are Obese People Really Lazy?

Last week, I posted a blog asking readers if obesity should be classified as a disease and wasn't all that surprised by some of the responses I got from my readers, some of whom were for the classification and many of whom were against the idea.

Clearly, this is a complicated issue that isn't always black and white, but what I don't like is the stigma that is still so stubbornly attached to being overweight or obese. As one reader commented:

"My thoughts, folks are fat because they are lazy, eat junk food, don't exercise and want to blame someone else for their overweight problems...Take personal responsibility for yourself, eat healthy non-processed foods, and exercise."

Another reader actually thinks obese people should be stigmatized, saying:

"Obesity should be stigmatized. It should not be rewarded with a diagnosis that will provide health benefits. Get some damn exercise and eat more wisely - BAM! You're cured!"

I know plenty of people would disagree with this kind of characterization, including another reader who commented:

"I have fought a weight problem since I was little. 42 years of dieting, exercising, starving myself, being told I was fat regardless of how much weight I lost and the blows to my self esteem and confidence have taken a major toll on my body and mind...Someone who gets lung cancer from smoking gets help, why make it so difficult for someone like me to get help?"

I do believe we all have to take responsibility for our health, but as a trainer who's worked with countless overweight/obese clients, I can tell you the first thing they would want you to know about them is this: They aren't lazy. The second might be that reducing obesity is much more complicated than just exercising and eating right. Obese people face a number of challenges when it comes to weight loss, obstacles that the average weight person never has to worry about such as:

  • Chronic pain - Being overweight can contribute to joint pain, back pain and more, making it very uncomfortable to move around, much less exercise
  • Finding workout clothes that fit
  • Embarrassment or intimidation at the gym - What if they can't fit into the machines? Is there a weight limit on some machines? If swimming is the best option, how do they find a swimsuit that fits? How do they get in and out of the pool if mobility is an issue? What if people stare or make fun of them? Where do they even begin?
  • Finding the motivation to keep going when they can only do a little exercise at a time and the weight loss is excruciatingly slow.
  • The sheer frustration of having so much weight to lose and so many lifestyle changes to commit to.
  • Genetics - Yes, we do have responsibility over what we eat, but genetics does contribute to how we lose weight.

Those are just some of the issues my clients have talked about over the years and, as I read responses from my readers and hear what people are saying, I wonder - Are there too many people out there who don't understand what it's like to be overweight or obese? Are they being too dismissive when they say obese people are just lazy and should learn to control themselves? 

More about Exercise and Obesity

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