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Obesity - What Characterizes Obesity? Is It a Disease or a Disorder?

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Essay title: Obesity - What Characterizes Obesity? Is It a Disease or a Disorder?

Unhealthy, overweight, fat, and lazy are some of the many descriptions people tend to associate with people who are obese. Is this an accurate assumption or portrayal of someone who is obese? What characterizes obesity? Is it a disease or a disorder? Is it both? There are many categories in which obesity can be placed in. Many people misunderstand and misuse the word. They tend to use this word with negative connotations attached, with out really knowing its true meaning. Obese individuals often become objects of prejudices due to the negative stereotypes attached to being an obese person. In the American Obesity Association fact sheets it states, “Overweight or obese individuals experience social stigmatization and discrimination in employment and academic situations.” However, to understand what obesity is, one must analyze and learn about all the possible factors that may cause obesity. Environmental, social, genetic, and psychological factors can all play important roles in the development of obesity in humans.

So, what exactly are the defining traits in individuals who are obese? Sometimes people tend to misunderstand the difference between a person who is overweight and a person who is obese. Being overweight is having a body mass index, or BMI, between 28 and 29.9 (Pfeifer 1). In the simplest terms, obesity could be defined as just having too much fat. However, obesity is most accurately defined by one’s body mass index or BMI. This formula takes one’s body weight relative to one’s height. Obesity occurs when calorie intake exceeds calorie burn, or outtake (“Obesity causes many health, social problems”). According to Michael Pfeifer, “The first step in understanding obesity is to define it. In practical terms, it is defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater.” There is a considerable difference in appearance of someone who is of normal weight and someone who is obese. The BMI determines what the appropriate weights are for each classification.

Obesity does not only have side affects on one’s physical appearance but there are also many health risks involved with becoming obese. The American Obesity Association Education defines obesity as, “a serious medical disease that affects over a quarter of adults in the United States, and about 14% of children and adolescents. [Obesity] is the second leading cause of preventable death after smoking.” AOA also provided that obesity increased the risk of illnesses of about 30 serious medical conditions! Another support to the risks involving obesity is made as Kelly D. Brownell states, “Obesity is strongly associated with several established precursors to coronary heart disease, including hypertension, increased low-density lipoproteins and decreased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.” Statistics show the effects of obesity in coronary heart disease claiming that if everyone were at a normal weight, there would be 25% less of this disease and 35% fewer occurrences of heart failure (Brownell 72). In reference to obesity rates, Brownell states a shocking statistic, “Thirty percent of all American men and 40 percent of all women between the ages of 40 and 49 are considered obese by the criterion of being at least 20 percent above ideal weight.” These shocking statistics just add to the seriousness of obesity in today’s society. Nevertheless, one’s environment contributes to the increasing rates in obesity.

Environmental traits have so many attributes; one of these contributions to obesity would be influences from the media in the form of advertisements for Fortune 500 companies. McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s are just some of the many fast food restaurants that help increase the growing obesity rate in America. In a quote by Kelly Brownell, “It’s [the problem of obesity] a �toxic food environment’—the strips of fast-food restaurants along America’s roadways, the barrage of burger advertising on television and the rows of candies at the checkout counter of any given convenience store” (qtd. in Murray). People are not concerned with the possible hazards with in taking excess of fast food. In Murray’s article Fast-food culture serves up super-size Americans, she states: “Americans fail to recognize, for example, the possible damage done by such fast-food icons as Ronald McDonald.” The general environment in the U.S. has set the tone for obesity. Some studies have shown that one’s environment is indeed a factor in the development of obesity. For instance, “In Schachter’s studies of eating behavior, he has proposed that obese persons are more influenced by environmental cues rather than internal or physiological stimuli” (Hinson 1). The overall lifestyle in the U.S. is fast-paced and it does not usually view daily exercise as a priority. Murray addresses

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