Obese: More Than a Definition of Body Mass

You know what word I really, really hate??  Obese!

I’m about to ruffle some feathers I’m sure.  *shrug*  Oh well!

Since I take issue with the word, I thought I better find out exactly how it is defined.  Here were three I found at the top of my Google search:

1) The basic dictionary definition says obese is: grossly fat

2) Google says:  Obesity means having too much body fat. It is not the same as being overweight, which means weighing too much. A person may be overweight from extra muscle, bone, or water, as well as from having too much fat.

3) Wikipedia says:  Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health

Now, let’s consider those three definitions I just listed.  I could be wrong, but I would guess most of us think of the first definition when we hear the word obese.  I would guess we don’t think of the disease obesity and medical conditions when we hear the word obese.  Rather, I would guess most of us equate the word obese to being grossly fat.

I was very overweight so I feel I can say this with certainty:  when you are overweight to ANY degree (and I have been many different degrees of overweight!) you are supremely aware of it.  You know damn well if you are just carrying some extra weight versus have some serious poundage to lose.  You do!!  And you don’t need people affixing a label to you with a very negative connotation.    There are some health professionals that believe putting that label to a person or telling a person their BMI is in the obese range is a wake-up call and a motivator.  Maybe for some folks it is, but in my case it was not.  The obese label never motivated me to change my health.  Nope…being labeled obese just drove me further into the darker place.  To me, it is like saying “Wow!  You aren’t just fat…you are fatter than fat…worse than fat even.  There’s fat and then there’s what you are!”  Have I mentioned I really hate the word obese??

How about this instead?  Attention doctors/trainers/therapist/anyone in the healthcare continuum!!  How about we address how degraded a person’s health is at their current weight?  Instead of “Joe Schmoe, you are considered to be obese at your current weight/BMI.  You need to exercise and eat better.”  how about  “Joe Schmoe, your weight has been steadily climbing by xx pounds each year.  You are in an alarming state of unhealth due to the excessive body weight you are carrying around.  Let’s get you connected to some folks who can help you out.”

If you have been following me, you know my story.  I’ve lost a lot of weight…I was considered obese.  I now am a trainer and I focus on helping women regain their health, specifically women with a lot of weight to lose.  You will not hear me categorize my clients as obese, even if their BMI says they are.  My clients have a problem with extra weight, but they also have self-esteem, confidence, and emotional challenges that all relate to that extra weight.  They don’t need another label to make them feel worse.  There is so much we as health professionals can do to help people and to motivate them for change…and we don’t need to call them obese to do it!

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