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Poll: Should Obesity Be Considered a Disability?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week, I came across an article about the American Medical Association and its actions to staunch the obesity epidemic in the US. At the group's annual meeting last Tuesday, the AMA decided to support doctors' ability to talk about obesity with patients who are overweight or obese.

The group formally decided to oppose efforts by advocacy groups such as the American Obesity Association to define obesity as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to an ABC News story, "doctors fear using that definition makes them vulnerable under disability laws to lawsuits from obese patients who don't want their doctors to discuss their weight."

What do you think? Should obesity be classified as a disability? Canada has ruled that neither people with disabilities nor obese passengers should have to pay for two seats on an airplane. However, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and others have imposed restrictions on workers' health and weight. There have been rulings in favor of both sides.

While no one denies that obesity is an important issue, as more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, the question remains: Should obesity be considered a disability?

What do you think? Is obesity a disability? If obesity were declared a disability, how would obesity rates be affected? Would they rise or fall?

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K12462 5/4/2017
This isn't really a poll as much as an opinion piece. So in my opinion, no, I do not think obesity should be considered a disability. If someone is obese because of their disability (not that their only "disability" is obesity) then they will already have a disability, so those claims (in my opinion) are redundant. Report
As an obese person... I say that for most people it is a lifestyle choice. Not a disability. I finally decided I was serious about losing weight and I am doing it. If there is a valid medical reason than one is obese, then in isolated cases.. sure, maybe. Report
I think it may make sense to make it a disability, because it makes people sick more often and gets in the way of their doing things. THAT is disabled! But that doesn't mean no one can get better, and I think doctors should definitely talk with their patients to help them not be disabled. Report
Having been obese and now not, I don't think for the majority of obese people it is a disease. Yes, it is hard to eat a healthy diet with the ads for fast and junk food bombarding us. and it is hard to make time to exercise. For most people though it is possible to change your habits and lose weight. Keeping it off is hard, but not impossible as long as you don't go back to the old way of eating and not moving. Report
It's a complex issue involving emotional (psychological) and physical (diet and lifestyle) factors. Once a person's physical condition deteriorates to the point of dysfunction for whatever reason, I believe they can be classified as disabled. I think obesity can be overcome with emotional (psychological) intervention as well as diet and lifestyle changes. I am still trying to overcome. I haven't given up! Report
I don't think everyone is obese by not exercising and over eating alone.Also,consider all the processed food the FDA approves and cheap food

I'm in my 30s and this has affected my life forever.Keep in mind I do exercise and I commutes to work on a bicycle 6miles each way 4out of the 5 work days. I also go 2times a week to the gym and im super strong and been active and dedicated to the gym going for 3 years now,but i can't lose the damm 300pounds.i have cut everything and eat in small portions and have even avoid instant process food and all diet sodas.I cook my own home made meal and i do juice it every other day.I also eat plenty of veggies through out the week and I'm not force to because as matter in fact i love veggies... I've been requesting for my life to be recorded as my daily activity,so people could see what my life is about as a big healthy man that we have been demonize by the heavy over eaters that live off junk food...not here baby.. Report
No absolutely not. Obesity is a curable health issue, not a disability. And doctors SHOULD be free to discuss your weight. Who else would be more appropriate to address that issue and help form an action plan? Being overweight is directly linked to so many other health conditions. It is completely relevant to their care! Report
First let me say; I was a special needs kindergarten teacher for 15 years in the public school system and I believe in helping people when they are truly disabled. With that said, I have a neighbor who is horrible obese. She worked for a while but has stopped because she can hardly walk because of her obesity and no telling what else . . . that was nine years ago. Her family members are not obese, normal so it is not a family thing. She just bought a new car. Her only exercise is walking the 10 feet from her front door to her car three times a day, driving off only to return 15 minutes later with bags from MacDonalds,Wendy's and other fast food chains with two extra large drink containers. She is living on disability checks which I think is wrong. She is disabled from her own decisions. If she is going to receive disability checks (my tax dollars) then she also need to attend counseling or some other form of help. She is and will be a drain on society for many years because of other health related conditions brought on by her obesity and yet she does or has to nothing to receive the support from the government other than eat the wrong foods, feed her fat cell, sit around all day (she does not leave her house other than to get in her car) and no exercise. Why should we support this kind of life style and people like is . . . they are making the wrong choices and seeking no help. In return they get government hand outs to support their life style at our expense. This is wrong! Like I said in the beginning, I don't mind helping but they also need to do something in return to get the support! Report
Obesity should not be declared a disability. No way! Report
As a disabled person myself (I am '68%' disabled) I most certainly don´t think obesity is a disability , for the the same reasons everyone has stated. Unfortunately, my disability and inability to move as much as the average person, poor choices + overeating has led me to become obese. BUT that is something I CAN remedy - whereas my disability is hereditary and degenerative and there´s nothing I can do about that. That is the definition of a disability. Report
Obesity should not be a defined disability, for the reasons well-cited in other comments. If the AMA wants to support physicians in discussing obesity with their clients, what they need to REALLY do is help clients make action plans, write orders for exercise, provide flexible physical therapy care plans, and push their insurance carrier partners to support weight loss and preventive health care too. Report
I remember one semester in college, I had to take a class at the community college and at a campus that was older. I have always been afraid of those slide in desks, that have the chair attached to a little desk. In high school, I could barely fit in those and knew if I had to as an adult....I wouldn't be able to fit at all. I get to class that day, and see those type of desks, I walk out and go over to the campus administration building. i ask if they could add a real desk and chair (of course looking different then everyone else AND not being guaranteed that seat everyday). They said I had to go to the Office of Students with Disabilities and fill out paperwork with that dept before they could help me with putting a bigger desk in there. I was MORTIFIED!!! I definately didn't think I had a disability, but apparently the university classifies me as "disabled." Regardless the situation, I neded to take this class...They next class, I call earlier in the day to make sure a desk would be there before I got there. I even showed up an hour early just t make sure I was there ahead of the whole class to claim that new desk!! I had to do that everyday...get off work early, just to stalk my desk an hour early before anyone got embarrassing!! Report
I think it depends on why the person is obese and how obese they are. I'm obese (according to BMI) because I like to eat and sit too much of the day. But a person with a medical issue that causes severe weight gain and cannot walk becasue of it would be disabled.
So I would say no, its not a disability. If a person has major complications because of obesity that could be considered a disability but obesity itself is not a disabilty. Report
There is a big difference in being obese and morbidly obese or super morbidly obese.
I was declared disabled due to an accident and operations that failed to correct the problems. I continued to get worst and depression and inactivity lead to my over eating and becoming morbidly obese. And I had to ride around in those electric carts at stores. But I had to use them because my legs would not support me.
I know I put myself in the morbidly obese category and I got myself out of it.
But it was through my health plan that I received the help I needed to do that.
And in the long run the insurance company is going to save. No heart trouble, diabetes, high BP. No sleep apathy. And I had operations to get to walk again.
So No to just being obese, but address the rising epidemic of over weight obese people who will have medical problems for their whole life, if preventative ,measures aren't taken. Report
NO, Absolutely NOT!!!!!!! I am a retired and disabled nurse who happens to be obese. My obesity is related to one of my disabilities only in that I have difficulty walking and frequently fall due to an unstable knee so exercise is a problem, especially in winter. Obesity is not a disability in and of itself; it can be, however, a symptom of an underlying problem that could possibly be disabling. It certainly is appropriate for a medical practitioner to discuss weight issues with a client because of the long-term effects obesity has on a persons health in general both mentally and physically. Report
Absolutely NOT! My son is disabled due to severe autism and hypotonia. The last thing we should do as a country is start to spread out special services and other assistance to those who have a CHOICE in the functioning of their bodies. Report
NO it's not a disability....... It's a chose! Report
I think classifying obesity as a disability does a disservice to both groups. As others mentioned above one can be in ways prevented while the other may not. And how does that work for individuals who are disabled and also happen to be obese? A double whammy? Or are those both seperate issues that require specific assistance depending on the individual? And as for doctors being placed in a situation where they can no longer discuss your health with you for fear of being sued is ricdiculous! They are your health care provider that is their job; to discuss your health in all its forms and to assist you to make the right decision through their advice or with another specialist. Report
It would depends on why a person is obese. May be they have an under line condition.Un able to walk. And certain heart and kidney condition could make it hard for them to lose weight.Diabetes,can play a facture in loseing weight.So many times I've been to weight watcher with my mother when I was fifteen now I'm 52,People will lose weight as long as your following the plan. It takes constant commitment,for some people tp stay at a decent weight.I was fortunate to of found the SparkPeople Plan. Report
NO WAY!!! I am disabled & even after losing 114lbs my BMI still has me @ obese. It is harsh but giving obese wheelchairs & closer parking spaces will only make it worse, those people & yes I include myself need to MOVE not have things made easier to accommodate Report
Absolutely not. I lived in senior housing for a while and was aghast at the number of seniors who took advantage of their obesity as an excuse to get "free" wheelchairs and other motorized mobility devices so they did not have to walk from the elevator to their apartment. Yes, my weight causes more pain in my knees, but not using them does not improve anything. Report
I think obesity can result in diabilities and that diabilities can lead to obesity; however, I also believe there is a treatment for obesity. The right choices need to be made and acted upon. We all need to support an obese person who chooses to take action, but I do not believe we should provide a crutch to someone afraid to try. Report
NO. It can reach a point of no return where it is disabling but it is not a disability. Point of no return much in the same way credit card debt can be "managed" until it hits a tipping point...the path that led up to that point is paved with selfish, bad choices where there will ultimately come a day of reckoning.

I am glad I made the right choice. Report
Obesity is NOT a disability, everyone has a choice. Report
Obesity is not a disability ~ it's a choice.

Becca Report
Absolutly not on a legal level. I'm sure they would use the "standard" of what obese is, and quite frankly, those numbers do not take enough variables into consideration like bone size. According to the charts, a 5'2" person is overweight past 125 lbs and obese at 144 lbs. While a small boned person would look very healthy at 125, a large boned person would look underweight. As for BMI, all the articles say that a person can have a healthy BMI, but be out of shape, therefore in danger of health problems. So, in my opinion, too many grey areas to make a law out of this. And as hard as loosing weight is, it is still an option in the majority of cases, whereas a person who can't walk or see is not able to change their diet and lifestyle to regain those abilities. Report
no, it should not. obesity Causes disabilities, but is not in and of itself a disability. I agree it's difficult and embarrassing but that doesn't make it a disability
I agree with everyone that says No, it should not be considered a disability. Granted, there is a rare person that might be heavy due to thyroid issues, etc. But in general, no, most people are fat because of what they eat or how much they eat. It isn't always easy to maintain your weight but in the end, most of the time it is something we can help. The problem with the world today, a lot of people don't want to do the actual work, and want a magic pill to make it better. If there is no magic pill, then it must be a disability right? WRONG! The most rewarding things in life aren't always the easiest to obtain. Having good health sometimes is a lot of work. We all have our demons. For some it is food. Others it is alcohol, or drugs, or cigarettes. In the end, the choice is up to you if you want to allow that thing to control you and your health. To me a disability is something you can't help it if you are that way. Over eating or smoking or drinking is all a choice. Nobody holds a gun to your head and forces you to over indulge in those things. If you lack control, then you need to look in the mirror and re-evaluate your choices. Sure, I would LOVE to be able to sit around and eat pizza and all that tasty stuff that is fattening all day long. Who wouldn't? But in the end, it is a choice that I have to make. Making poor choices is not a disability. Report
no Report
I agree with the majority. Obesity is not in and of itself a disability. The powers that be should butt out and stop trying to protect us from ourselves. Report
I m obese,but i m not disabled.If some one is disabled from their weight,then they should get what is theirs.But for healthy people like me,we need to try harder to reach our goals,so that we wont have to become disabled because of our weight as the years fly by.We should not worry about what the GOV. do.We should worry about what WE do to keep it from happening to US.
No it shouldnt be a disability. I am what is considered to be morbidly obese so I feel that I can say just about what I want to because well i am discussing me as well. There are plenty of things that obesity causes as far as health goes; however, obesity itself well unfortunately has a cure. That cure believe me is not easy but it can be cured. Once they label obesity as a disability then some people will use that just to get a check every month. I know that sounds just horrible however it is true. To me it would be like the " Biggest Loser" in reverse, they could possibly get federal and state monies for the disability. I sure hope that i didnt offend anyone however it is my opinion. Report
The rare number of cases in which obesity is caused by a real medical condition is not justification to classify obesity as a disability. As the parent of a now-deceased child who had a severe disability, it is offensive to me that someone can be overweight due to their own behavior and be considered disabled and therefore "not responsible."

The sheer number of times we had to fight for our son's medical needs to be met was exhausting. Trying to get government aid simply to reimburse a fraction of expenses from travel to and from hospitals out of town was impossible for us -- yet, we knew people who feigned emotional problems in order to get SSI checks from that same government agency. They had no problems with the fact that someone else's tax dollars provided them with a lazy, non-working lifestyle.

This may sound severe, but it happens every single day. People "work the system" to their advantage, thus giving a bad name/bad reputation to those who truly need to use that system to get them through a temporary rough spot. To allow one more group to be considered special-interest only because of personal habits is shameful.

I read blogs on SparkPeople each day about people who have lost hundreds of pounds, determined to overcome their old habits -- people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, who are in wheelchairs, with joint pain, asthma, and more. They did not consider themselves disabled enough to quit trying, and have proven that overcoming bad habits and behavior & replacing those with good things really works. They took responsibility for themselves. Report
No way. It may sound harsh, but the facts are that the behaviors leading to obesity (my own included) are most often a consequence of unhealthy and unwise lifestyle choices. Obesity is usually preventable and curable. There's more than adequate information available about it's causes and remedies. Besides, our country would go broke ( more broke?). Report
I wonder what Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL) would say. I tend to agree with the majority that it's a "preventable disability". Yes there are variance factors but come ON! Report
Absolutely not! A person can change their eating and move to lose the weight. Classifying it as a disability is another excuse for people not to lose the weight- it will be a term used as a crutch. It doesn't help the individual at it what it is obesity. It's a horrible tag to have but necessary until you get healthy again! Report
I think obesity can cause disabilities, but in and of itself, is not a disability. I think changing the status quo would be harmful to our nation and would actually be a diservice to each and every obese individual who resides here. It would give even more license to using the system and spending the taxpayers money. Obesity is a choice, not a disease. Those of us who are obese, myself included, CAN CHOOSE to change our personal obesity and get healthier, and we owe it to ourselves and our nation to do that. I am obese at this point, but I have chosen to do something about it and even though I have only lost 10% of my body weight so far this year, I have been rewarded with huge improvements in my overall health. No one said it would be easy or quick, but we owe it to ourselves to be more fit and healthy, and from personal experience I can tell you, it is worth the effort! YOU are worth the effort! Report
NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! and NO! again!

I am 5'6" and when I started this journey for the fifth time back in September I weighed 388 lbs. My feet hurt, my knees ached, my back ached, I had very little energy, quit going to the movies because I couldn't fit the seats, and had to use the handicapped restrooms because I couldn't reach back there to wipe in some of the smaller ones, but I was NOT disabled.

I could still walk my fat fanny into the grocery store, the doctor's office, the plus-sized clothing stores, Walmart, and anywhere else I chose to go. When I was teaching (a job I quit to care for an elderly parent) I had students literally half my age who couldn't keep up with me on a fifty yard walk from the classroom to the library. I should have been walking to the gym, too, and spent more time walking through the produce section that the chip and cookie ailses.

I could still cook, do dishes, and clean my house, pump my own gas, vacuum and wash my car, scoop the litterbox, and plant and weed my garden. I could buy and wrap Christmas presents and make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with ALL the trimmings for fourteen people.

With a BMI of 57+ I am morbidly obese, no question. At 388 with a BMI of 62, I was what the medical profession is now starting to define as supreobese. I was NOT disabled.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person qualifies as disabled if he or she, has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment." The only 'major life activity' being fat ever limited for me was wiping my behind in a confined space.

COPD can be disabling. Heart disease, kidney failure, blindness (due to diabetic retinopathy), stroke, back pain due to a herniated disc, arthritis, and a host of other problems that can be prevented/reduced/controlled by maintaining healthy weight can be disabling, but obesity itself is not.

Beyond not classifying obesity as a disability, I would go further and require that those people who had disabling conditions that could be improved by weight loss be required to enroll and actively participate in some kind of fitness program to continue maintaining benefits. It wouldn't be at all unlike requiring someone who is getting unemployment to look for work and document their job search. Ultimately, the goal would be the same, get them off public assistance as much as possible and restore them to a productive life where they can contribute to society. Report
No, obesity is not a disability. As the majority have already said, it is an aftereffect of a medical condition sometimes. It may take a lot of time, but obesity can be reversed. Report
I believe obesity can be debilitating, but that is not a disability by definition.
Most individuals can overcome true obesity through not only a complete nutrition and exercise program (just two pieces of a more complex need) but with psychotherapy, community supports/ involvement and enrichment…
There are some individuals who become obese due to a true disability (such as individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome) but their underlying disability is the factor in the more observable characteristic of obesity.
I agree with Uniqueblue Report
I agree with the majority of those who have responded to this blog that obesity should not be considered a disability. However, I think that if the cause of the obesity is some other kind of physical or mental health issue, then perhaps that could be considered a disability, though the obesity would be a symptom of that other illness, not a disability in and of itself. Report
I never knew that a doctor couldn't discuss a patient's weight with them. I have never come across that in my lifetime. My doctors have always discussed it with me. I have even had one tell me, when I was a nine-year-old that I was a "sin against God" (his words). Well, being obese can cause disabilities. I think that those who may need financial help while disable by their weight should be given sonme help while participating successfully in a weight loss program. I liked Jenny Craig, but find it extremely hard to finance right now. What worries me about the obesity issue is more so the attitudes of the non-fat population. I am so sick of hearing thin people say that their insurance has risen because of "my" people. "My" people are not very big. I am the fattest one in my family. I always have been. They actually meant fat people, but all large people don't belong to me nor are they "my" people. My deductible with BCBS is 1800 and not one thin person has offered to pay a dime. So, I would like for thin people or smaller people to quit thinking that you all are the only ones who have to pay. I work and I contribute to this great nation like everyone else does who pay taxes and insurance rates. I hardly ever go to the doctor, but when I do, I mostly see thin people. I thought thin people were the healthy folks. On top of that, thin people have the nerves to sit in the chairs with no arms or wide seats, then get angry when the fat folks sit next to them. I do that sometimes just to make them mad.

I am ranting, but so are some of you. Hey, I'm living proof that all fat folks ain't jolly. Sorry if I offended anyone, but I have lived a lifetime being offended by others and not many have taken the time to excuse their behavior.

I do not think it is good for our country to be this heavy, but I do not want to be mistreated along the way as I improve upon myself, and I have experienced more of this than I can honestly stand. Report
No, obesity should not be considered a protected disability. Classification as a disability opens a Pandora's box of legal and financial issues that no country can possibly afford if extended to a reversible situation such as obesity.

Further, I'm afraid that it would encourage those who refuse to address their weight issues to live only a half life, which would be tragic. It also, as the AMA has pointed out, would make it more difficult, not less, for their health care providers to help them. That would be beyond tragic.

We've all seen examples here at SP of individuals who overcame their obesity and returned to a healthy, productive life. I'm that most of us, too, have had co-workers who were morbidly obese and made no effort to improve their situation. I'd like to see many more of the former and far fewer of the latter - for their sake, and ours! Report
No. Obesity is not a disability. We need to encourage life style change. Report
I do not think we can financially afford classifying obesity as a disability.
Yes, some people are disabled by their obesity and usually have co-morbid conditions that allow for benefits if they need them. My concerns are two-fold, one every disability classification is prone to abuse and misrepresentation when there is a potential financial gain. Two, people who are disabled by obesity need support to change, not encouragement to continue the same destructive path. I am and have been morbidly obese for years and I do not believe being classified as disabled would be beneficial to me. Report
I think classifying obesity as a disability would be a negative move - the word 'disabled' suggests that the person has no control over their condition and therefore no responsibility for doing anything about it. If you're obese you CAN usually do something about it. Report
No, being obese is not a disability! As someone else already has pointed out, true disabilities cannot be cured. I don't think it is right to be mean or cruel to people with weight problems, but I also don't think we should enable them. If we were to recognize this problem as a disability, we would be sending the message that it is OK to overeat and live a sedentary lifestyle. Report
You should not get special treatment for being overweight. Report
It makes you feel disabled, but there is no undoing a true disability. Report
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