Dr. Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, & Spartan Coach

What if there was a disease that afflicted 36% of the population in the United States of America, roughly about 78 million people? What if this disease was strongly related to other debilitating and life-halting diseases such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes? Which Hollywood celebrity would start a foundation to crush this horrible disease?

The disease is obesity. On June 18th, 2013 the American Medical Association officially declared obesity a disease. This means that it will become a physician’s professional obligation to treat patients with obesity, the same way they would treat other diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. The optimist in me says that this will create a healthy discussion between the patient and physician on the health implications of obesity and physicians will prescribe a healthy diet and exercise as the primary mode of treatment. The cynic in me says that treatment will include prescriptive medications instead of encouraging preventative measures.

Why is it so hard to talk to people about obesity? Every time I teach it in class, I have to walk on egg shells. Even in the professional setting, if you tell someone they are obese they react as if it was a racial slur. I was called by an irate mother that accused me of ruining her daughter’s self-esteem by noting that her BMI and body fat percentage placed her in the obese category. Hopefully, classifying obesity as a disease will eliminate some of the awkwardness that comes with discussing it. It will be seen for what it is… a clinical diagnosis, not a personal attack. No one gets their feelings hurt when the doctor tells them that the hideous mole on their back should be removed and biopsied to see if it is cancerous. I understand that obesity is more than simply a physical problem, but until it can be discussed openly, and attacked vigorously, it will always remain as the elephant in the room and we will never make progress towards finding obesity’s root cause.

The best treatment for obesity is a Spartan Lifestyle, one that is founded on a healthy diet and loaded with physical activity. The Spartan Lifestyle includes a diet that is mostly plant based, that includes an abundance of vegetables and fruits, very moderate in grains and animal food products. It is a diet that eliminates processed foods, added sugars, and trans fats. A Spartan Lifestyle includes meals that are prepared from fresh foods, not ones that come from a box. For fluid, Spartans drink water, not sugary, over caffeinated beverages. You can get access to healthy and nutritious recipes by subscribing to our daily “Food of the Day” emails. They are FREE and provide recipes to help get you started and keep you fueled in a healthy way. Subscribe HERE.

Physical activity doesn’t require a fancy gym, or shiny plates, or cardio equipment. It does require a commitment of 60 minutes a day, which still leaves 1,380 minutes to sleep, work, and relax. It starts with motivation, if a BMI of 30 and all the excess baggage associated with it isn’t enough motivation; there are 1,000,000 trainers and coaches out there that are willing to help the right person find it.  Similar to our Food of the Day (FOD), Spartan Race offers FREE workouts WODs each day to keep you moving and active, and to prepare you for your Spartan Races.  Subscribe HERE

Spartan Race wants to lead the charge in crushing obesity. Do we really need a physician to treat obesity? Why not nip it in the bud before it gets to that point? Let’s rip 78 million people off of their couches and get them to follow the Spartan Lifestyle!

Who wants to join us in this crusade?

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Corinne Kohlen

by Corinne Kohlen, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician
Spartan Pro Team Member

The American Medical Association (AMA) voted Tuesday, June 18, to classify obesity as a disease. This decision has come after much controversy and years of debate.

Currently obesity is defined by using Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is a ratio of one’s weight to height and for most people* correlates with their amount of body fat. A BMI of 18.5 -24.9 is classified as “normal weight” while a BMI above 30 is classified as obese. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans has a BMI over 30. That translates to 78 million adults and 12 million children who are obese, and now according to the AMA have a “disease”.

The vote was against the recommendations of the Counsel of Science and Public Health who believes BMI as a measure of obesity is flawed. They feel that a BMI of 30 is a very arbitrary threshold; People with a BMI of 30 can be very healthy and muscular while many people at a “normal” BMI may have multiple metabolic issues. There is also concern that once diagnosed with a “disease” people may become overly reliant on medication and surgery as a solution to obesity and neglect to focus on lifestyle and behavioral changes.
The AMA was joined by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Cardiology to classify obesity as a disease. Supporters of the vote site multiple reasons for their decision. They believe classifying obesity as a disease will reduce the stigma associated with the condition and make it easier for physicians and patients to talk about. It may also help get the attention of insurers and researchers and increase reimbursement and availability of counseling, treatments, surgery, prevention, and drugs to treat obesity.

The AMA denies that obesity is simply the result of overeating and under activity. “The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggestion that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes.”

As one can imagine this decision and statement has created much controversy. The AMA feels this decision will only better the treatment and care of the obese, and will open up opportunities to more people for care. Currently Medicare does not pay for obesity related drugs, or dietitian counseling regarding obesity.

For many it is difficult to not blame diet and lifestyle for the rise in obesity. With portions being supersized, foods packed with saturated fat, processed sugars, and loaded in calories, and people becoming more and more sedentary it seems a logical correlation. With the addition of just 500 calories a day one will gain a pound a week. For some these calories “sneak” in with their morning blended coffee drink, with their side of fries or potato chips, or with their soda or sweet tea.

On the flipside of things obesity can be prevented and even reversed by focusing on portion control, appropriate daily calories, and an active lifestyle. It seems almost too simple but daily exercise and mindful eating can help maintain healthy body weight and prevent obesity.

What do you think? Should obesity be classified as a disease? Will classifying obesity as a disease help or hurt in our fight against obesity?

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