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If obesity is a disease, is labeling it that way the cure?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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My final guest post at the BPS Research Digest went up on Friday, covering recent work by psychologists Crystal Hoyt, Jeni Burnette, and Lisa Auster-Gussman on the motivational implications of formally classifying obesity as a “disease,” as the American Medical Association did in July 2013.

The good news is that the AMA is right to celebrate the benefits that it has already touted; labeling obesity as a disease, in the experimental group, did lead obese participants to report higher levels of self-esteem and body satisfaction. The bad news, however, is that this decision might have serious consequences for the public health goal of actually reducing the obesity rate. In both studies, obese participants opted for sandwiches with significantly more calories when they received the “obesity-is-a-disease” message than when they received either the standard information-based message or the “obesity-isn’t-a-disease” message.

For the rest of this post, head over to the BPS Research Digest!

 

Melanie Tannenbaum About the Author: Melanie Tannenbaum is a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received an M.A. in social psychology in 2011. Her research focuses on the science of persuasion & motivation regarding political, health-related, and environmental behavior. You can add her on Twitter or visit her personal webpage. Follow on Twitter @melanietbaum.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Lacota 6:59 pm 05/5/2014

    Free will is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people believe they are responsible for their actions they will tend to act responsibly. If they believe things are out of their control they will act irresponsibly. Believing that obesity is a disease suggests it is beyond the control of the afflicted individual. Therefore, when they belly up to the bar for thirds at the all-you-can-eat buffet they can relax, it isn’t because they are making poor choices, it is because they are sick.

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  2. 2. SJCrum 7:25 pm 05/6/2014

    What occurs with obesity is that the body is storing fat for a reason, and that reason is because the body “thinks” it isn’t getting enough of the essential things it needs. So, that is the basis for obesity.
    As for what the body “thinks” as it detects everything that is eaten, and all that the eaten food is lacking, it sends signals to the unconscious brain in the body, and not that of the soul, to start storing fat, and because of the “disaster” that the unconscious brain is assuming.
    As for this, the soul brain is the conscious part of you that is actually you. The body brain is the brain that is physically inside your skull and which takes over to control your body while you are sleeping, for example.
    So, obesity is from your unconscious brain “seeing” a disaster as you consciously enjoy a mountain of fudge, for example again.
    So, the solution is to help your totally despicable unconscious brain out, and after you appease it, you can have a whole lot of totally yummy things too.
    So, how do you appease the totally ornery varmint?
    Take a good daily dose of very healthy vitamins and wait until the non-furry varmint gets appeased enough to get off your non-literal back.
    By the way also, my wife had a little weight problem for a while, and after getting her weight down by using the Adkins diet, which actually worked terrifically, she then changed to a normal diet, but couldn’t keep the weight off. So, we bought two treadmills, and every week since then years ago, we both walk for twenty minutes a day for six days each week. And, both of us doing it together, not only made her legs look deliciously yummy, and Wow!, but we have been able to nearly never miss a walking time together. With together, neither of us wants to let the other one down. So, it works enormously well.
    In the end, the Atkin’s diet fooled the brain greatly and the weight came totally off. But, now, even without it, we both enjoy two or three Dove chocolate pieces after every meal we eat since then. And, my wife is lusciously delicious. And, even if she is sixty-six.
    As for the walking also, she reads a romance novel, and I listen to romantic music. So, that helps make the walking better too.

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