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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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NO! Definitely not. Obesity in most instances is the fault of the individual. If obesity is declared a disability it would be sanctioning poor eating and lifestyle habits.
Obese people need help with developing proper health habits not encouraged to remain sedentary and continue to over indulge.
As much as I sympathize with obese people who have problems walking due to pain in their joints, etc, I don't think obesity should be considered a disability. If obesity becomes classified as a disability, won't people be able to be written out of work for it and get disability pay for it? I think this actually promotes a sedetary lifestyle. Report
Like a lot of other people who've posted, I think obesity is usually a symptom of something else, and shouldn't be a disability. Sometimes I think it's a symptom of psychological issues, ie emotional eating to relieve stress. I found a workable solution to be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but that took a big commitment from both my provider and me. Our health system isn't really designed to do this sort of thing large scale. Report
I am saddened by the anger and lack of compassion shown in the comments below. I don't think obesity should be labled a disability - but rather an addiction. There is so much prejudice out there against heavy people and there could be reasons that are not visible to the eye. If your extremely obese - you will be suffering in ways we cannot imagine. I am only now learning from Spark what it takes - I am not morbidly obese but I have family members who are and the prejudice people show is like school yard bullying and I am so saddened by it - because most of us don't want to be hurtful - but believing that obesity is caused by laziness is simply a myth in the majority of cases.
I am seeing more support programs that are free - and long overdue - but I am totally grateful that they now exist ....Spark being wonderful!!!! Report
morbid obesity is considered a disability in most states.It is usually accompanied by other health issues that is caused by the obesity. Report
So let me get this straight.... People who are beyond FAT want to have the rights of a disabled person, yet when I was 7-8 months pregnant with complications that required bedrest I was not issued a temporary disabled parking placard or given any special privileges even though there were TWO lives at stake? That is PURE BS and I'm glad that people are starting to take a stand and tell these lazy, underactive/overeating people that they're full of it. I mean, I can understand those people who are overweight or obese due to a TRUE disability (spinal issues, knee issues, amputations, etc.). But to feel that being so overweight by itself is a disability is a complete misuse of what the ADA was meant for. Report
Absolutely not! This pisses me off, when I see obese people riding on scooters in stores because they don't want to get up and walk a few steps. And having a disabled parking space because they're overweight just gets me. NO WAY! They're taking spots from people who have problems with things that can't be overcome with willpower and dieting. Ugh! This makes me angry! Report
I am torn about wether or not obesity is a disability or not.I've known whole families who just fall into that because of horrible eating habits passed down from Mom to kids. But I do not want people to think they have no choice either. I really think that the Canadian healthcare system must address this huge issue in a more holistic manner. Use advertising, etc. and offer much more assisstance to people with this problem. I am just lucky because I was born and brought up poor so had few options. Can't buy food with no money. Report
No way! Obesity can be overCOME, which is exactly what I did with mine. It's a situation that people put themselves in, and they can get themselves OUT of it too! Most disabilites are not able to be corrected, like obesity is. Report
I don't think it should be considered a disability. But it can cause other health issues that would lead to the person becoming disabled. Report
obesity in its own right is not a disability. if obesity is caused by a true medical condition that renders it immune, so to speak, to diet and excercise then as a disease based by-product then maybe (although its still the outward sign of a medical disorder). Report
Obesity isn't a disability, it's a symptom. Whether it's a symptom of a medical condition (which would mean that the medical condition is the disability, not the symptom of obesity) or poor choices, it's still not a disability in itself.
No, obesity is not a disability. I am still considered obese, but I can walk, bike, swim and do all kinds of fun stuff. I am not disabled in any way. Report
Obesity should not be considered a disability even though it can be the root cause of becoming disabled. If a doctor cannot discuss a patient's weight with the patient then what can they discuss especially if the patient's weight is, again, the root cause of the medical issue at hand (such as diabetes, joint pain, high BP, heart disease, etc.)? Granted, I've never been obese. I've always been in the healthy weight range for my height even though the high end of that range caused me to feel overweight and unhealthy. So I don't know what it feels like to have a doctor tell me I'm obese and should lose weight to ease any medical conditions I have. A doctor can only do as much as advise the patient. It's up to the patient to follow the doctor's advice. And a doctor only knows what the patient tells him or her. Report
obesity can cause a person to be disabled. it may trigger other heath problems or, at the very least, cause a person to have trouble getting around or doing things that they need to do. as with ALL disabilities, it needs to be case-by-case. falling under the classification of obesity doesn't mean that a person is disabled.

obesity (or weight in general) does need to be added to the federal anti-discrimination laws, though. i'm 100% positive that i have interviewed for at least a couple jobs that i wasn't hired for primarily because of my weight. and they weren't jobs that required a high level of physical fitness, but i still saw that look in interviewer's eyes before i had said two words that told me i wasn't going to get that job.

and i'm an obese person who IS NOT disabled by my weight. Report
No it should not be considered disabled.
There is a lot of factors why the person is obese. That would be a lot of work to decide case by case who qualifies. Report
Calling obesity a "disability" implies that the obese person had no choice in the matter..which is rare. I think it would enable fat people to remain fat...because, why not?! I can get a check in the mail for sitting on the couch eating bon-bons!! WOOHOO!! At least that's the mentality I would have had when I was obese. Back then, I would have loved for it to be considered a "disability". Now I just work hard to never be that person again! Report
Is it disabling to be obese? For some, yes it is. Should it be legally defined as a disability. NO! Do you really want your tax dollars spent to prop up someone's selfish lifestyle choice???? Yes, for most people it is a choice - no one is force feeding you. Every time you decide to sit on the couch or stay in bed instead of getting out there and getting some exercise, that's your choice. I can't stand it when people talk about how it's genetics or an addiction or metabolism or whatever new excuse they are using that week. Some people have diseases and legitimate conditions that prevent them from losing weight, but the VAST majority of obese people do not have those conditions. They are unwilling to change because it's too hard. Ok, you're addicted to food - well, get help for that- talk to a counselor, join a support group. You can't exercise because you're too heavy - nonsense, unless you're paralyzed from the neck down, you can move some part of your body and get your heart rate up a little bit. Find a way. Do whatever it takes- if you're motivated enough, you will do it. I have lost 110 pounds over the last 3 years because I was motivated and I did whatever it took. It's not that hard to understand. Report
Obese people often have disabilities due to their weight, but being obese in itself is not a disability. We can help ourselves and overcome this health problem, its not like we cant. Most people dont see themselves as obese but their BMI is in that range. I think if Doctors are afraid to talk honestly with their patients then more people will go around not knowing what they need to do to help themselves. I am not disabled by being obese, and in losing nearly 100 lbs I have made life easier on my body. This is a fixable health problem. Report
Ok we say obesity is not disability. I agree but there has to be something out there to help. Look at all the people who do not even realize they are obese. I am from canada and we spend a lot of money on educating the need to stop smoking. Raising the cost of products, putting warnings on packs. Assistance to pay for stop smoking products so people can quit. As a result less people smoke, less smoke related illness are seen in medical treatment area's. So we not paying from taxes the expense of keeping them alive after they fall victum to the smoking companies. What if we spent similar energy on education on food and exercise. Before they become victums of the media. Do you really think a fat person puts more weight because that their goal. I doubt it. What if they had to tell you how unhealthy there burgers were before the served them. Blah Blah exceeds your daily recomended amount of blah blah, by so much and over one year you will consume enough to add another 20lbs. Yes some of this would not reach a few but It would reach many. And save in the long run. It would make industries responsible for what they serve. I believe everyone should be held at the same standard. Now you have someone not educated, not able to help themselves to learn more. Morbid obese, can not work the same as someone else... I have learn so much that I had no clue of since I join spark. And from last update I read a normal man donates his time and 5million dollars to run this site. So until the goverment willing to educate or govern the food industry to inform us. We will have individuals that are morbid obese that need our support and help. If that means finding a way threw disability to put a roof over their heads, some pride. Then there is hope for a better tomorrow. There is small number of people who will always try to get something for nothing. But I doubt their goal was to be 400+ lbs and truely want all the trouble that comes with morbid obesity just for food tickets and a roof over there head. They are not living like millionares. Disability income is in the poverty mark. So unless there is changes to society, education and responsibility from industries. We should find a way to help. Report
Obesity is not a disability. Occasionally a medical condition contributes to it, but doctors say that is quite rare compared to the obesity rate of our overall population.

The last thing in the world we need to do is classify it as a disability - talk about enabling.... That's not going to help anyone. Report
If there is ever a day that obesity is considered a disability then that will be a sad day indeed... I don't even want to think of the kind of funding that would require. There would definitely have to be a startling increase in taxes across the board... Report
Absolutely not. The myth of gland-related problems as the cause is just that--a myth for most people except a few. Also, weight increases are associated with certain medication side effects. In these relatively minor cases the obesity is a side-effect from other problems. Report
A disability does not have to be unchanging, of no fault of one's own, or something that couldn't have been prevented. Of course the more well-known types usually do meet those criteria, but they're not rules. Many mental illnesses can cause disability for which you can receive benefits, but this doesn't mean it won't change or go away eventually. What about a motorcyclist riding without a helmet who crashes and becomes paralyzed. Do we say, sorry buddy but you knew better, figure out how to stand up and work because it's your fault. We all do things we know we shouldn't, take risks, and are lucky to still be healthy.
What is or is not a disability should be based on ABILITY. Usually ability to work isn't what is evaluated. There's lots of types of jobs out there, for people with all kinds of impairments. It's not about can you work, it's about can you perform the NECESSARY functions to live? If you can't feed yourself, it's unreasonable to expect you to go to work in an office for 8 hours at a time. If you have severe anxiety and hyperventilate/lose consciousness around crowds, it's unreasonable to expect you to work at an amusement park. I think the disability label should be function-based, not diagnosis-based. Some people with bipolar disorder can control their symptoms enough with medication to work. But others with the same disease may not be able to control it with medication, and they could have symptoms at work, which is a problem for everyone, not just the patient. It's a serious problem if an employee disrobes in front of clients or steals from the register.
None of this has to do with a person's responsibility for himself or hand in causing the disability. What matters is that you cannot perform the functions necessary to live in our society.
That said, I think lack of function caused by obesity can be a disability. But it's the lack of function, not the number on the scale. I completely agree that in our current system, people take advantage and we know this so it would encourage some people to stay fat so they don't have to work. This is a different issue, I think disability claims need to be monitored more regularly. Growing up, my mother was disabled from a spinal injury that was misdiagnosed for years. She was tortured by the "panel of specialists" that reviewed her case every year or two. I knew she was disabled, I lived with her and she would be bedridden for days to weeks at a time with no warning. This is how I thought all disability claims were handled and it seems like it does need to be that strigent to avoid scammers. But I know that's not the case. There's a man down the street who doesn't work, on disability for a back injury too, but I see him working on his car, mowing the lawn, carrying furniture.... The system is the problem, not the disability label. Report
By virtue of the opposing comments I have been reading a diabetic who becomes disabled due to amputation, after gaining weight to morbid obesity is ..... nothing good from most of the post.

I had a cousin, not overweight. undiagnosed diabetic. habit of gorging on chocolate cake every Friday after work.

at age 29 went home on Friday, had usual 1/2 cake, fell asleep - as usual - never woke up! weight 110 ht 5' 6.

Why emotional counseling necessary when losing weight with bariatric specialist?

With so many negative views of the morbidly obese (the reasons why it is not a disability) is it any wonder we all struggle, battle this disease, disorder, malady, ....?

If patients received medical attention to remedy morbid obesity, so many health related issues would be resolved many diabetics would not become amputees.

Just my two cents worth.

PS I mention my cousin's situation because the feelings about her situation would have changed were she obese.

The simple matter that at that point in her life she was thin made a tremendous difference in how people reacted to the circumstances of her passing.

Had she weighed 500 pounds (as she once did) there would have been a shadow cast over her passing.

Yo-Yo dieting from the age of 13 (16 years) took it's toll on her heart also.

If obesity is not disabling - having a negative effect on every area of a persons life. What constitute "disablity." What does Webster/Medical Dictionary say at this point in time?
i am currently considered disabled, partly because of my weight, but only because it contributes to my extremely high bp which causes me to have black outs and also my back and neck pain are brought on partly due to my weight, i hope someday to lose enough weight to help eliminate some of these physical ailments and get to go back to work fulltime. Report
Obesity should only be considered a disablity under the strictest rules:

For example:

1. Prader Willy syndrome
2. Metobolic syndromes not due to becoming obese (due to sedentary, poor food choice lifestyle).
3. Obesity due to medications for depression/epilepsy/etc...
4. Obesity due to genetic diseases.

Stuff like that would be acceptable to me. Otherwise, why should my tax dollars pay for others unwillingness to try to get healthier. Report
I worked for a finance company for 3 years and we had a customer who got disability because he was obese. He walked around with an oxygen tank because he was so fat. He told us that he didn't want to lose weight and lose his disability because he would have to get a real job to pay for his house on the lake. The fact that he was so lazy and selfish disgusted me. I don't think that obesity is a disability at all. I'm fat. I'm considered obese because of my weight but I am just as capable of working as any one else. I'm also trying to make a difference in my health and I don't rely on tax payers dollars to pay for me to eat myself to death. There are people out there who have REAL disabilities who can't get it because of people who don't want to take the time to make the necessary lifestyle changes and instead decide to just milk off of the system. Report
Yes. obesity is a disability. There is more and more evidence indicating a chemical imbalance, or a genetic component to obesity. This does NOT relieve the obese person of responsibility in any way shape or form. It is similar to a diabetic - you have a disease or a disability-and you are responsible for dealing with it in order to maintain or gain back your health to the best of your ability. I wrote my thesis on the topic of OBESITY as a Handicap. It definity is a disability. Science has taken many steps to proving this, and in time, science will conclude this, too. To the people who don't think it is a disability -- get educated, start reading on line and in magazines such as DISCOVER and the American Journal of Medicine and articles about psychology. Open your mind and let the information in.... please for the sake of all of us. Report
Most certainly not! Obesity is mostly self-inflicted - I know!! - and by taking responsibility for one's decisions, can become a thing of the past. Report
No, obesity is not a disability. When I think of disabilities, I think of limitations such as Joni Eareckson Tada-she is paralyzed from the shoulders down from diving into a shallow surf at the beach ,yet she can paint with her teeth! She's limited in physical ability ,but not motivation! An obese person[and though I'm not,some of my family was and is] is not limited in like the above disabled person.He or she CAN move,maybe not as easily as he /she would like,but he CAN move! Report
Obesity is not a disability! I have been overwieght my entire life and it was not a disability that caused it. I ate too much, exercised too little and therefore I became too fat. I do not believe that obesity should ever be considered a disability because that would just give people another reason to sit down and do nothing--except eat. For example, a lady I work with is overweight, has high blood pressure, blood clots, etc. and is constantly complaining about being too fat. She also "never has any money to buy healthy food." However, she can pay $1.00 for a soda instead of 25 cents for a bottled water. Then she goes to a fast food joint and gets a salad for lunch. Fine-but she then proceeds to put a layer of salt on top before she eats it. I mentioned to her that if she would just make those 2 changes (water instead of soda & leave off the salt) her health would be better off. Well, she "has to have her soda" and "tomatoes just aren't good without salt." It seems to me she isn't interested in changing--she'd rather complain. It's people like that who would love to see obesity labeled as a disability--so they can stay home, sit and watch TV all day and eat **all while getting paid by the government** (or should I say while I work to pay them!) However, I know another lady that was 300 lbs. and is now 155 lbs. She was abused by a boyfriend, lost her mother at an early age, married and divorced, single mom and the list could go on and eating was her escape from the hurt. She gained all that weight because of it but she made the choice to change. She did it all on her own by changing her diet and exercise. (By the way, she takes thyroid medication too.) So, no matter the issues, it is possible to change if you want to. If you choose not to, don't make it everybody else's problem or a disease. Report
I do not think obesity should ever be considered a disability. I am a parent of a child that has multiple disabilities and it is kind of offensive to me that anyone would imply that something as preventable as obesity would ever even be considered a disability. A lot of people are so used to everything being easy and fast that the idea of working hard through a lifestyle change process to get out of being obese is way too daunting...I know it was for me for a long time. Thanks to sparkpeople helping me change my mindset on how to lose weight not fast, but in a healthy and affective manner that can last a lifetime (depending on myself of course) I am on my way to finally getting out of the obesity range. If all the people w/ success stories on sparkpeople and I can do this so can all those other people that would rather have obesity be defined as a disability. Report
Absolutely not!! Obesity is not a disability. It is a curable condition. While everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, this idea - like many others - merely gives people crutches and excuses. Report
I feel as if it is not a disability at all. People who are obese usually have a choice in the matter. No one held a gun to my head and made me get fat. I did that all by myself because I didn't exercise and eat properly. I was unhappy and eating made me feel better. But I took control and I am making a change. Obesity is something that an individual can control. Its the same thing as a drug addict. There are far too many "disabilities" that qualify an individual for SSI or some other form of assistance and we are all paying for it. These people don't want to be a productive member of society, but they want to reap the benefits of it. Granted, there are some conditions where you can't help weight gain, but you can still minimize it. If you have control over the situation and can change it, then why should everyone else have to be responsible for your inaction? Report is very hard to say because it probably depends on how much lb you are obese and what you are capable of doing. If you can hardly walk and take care of yourself then of course I thinks that is a disability. Otherwise I think it is not. Report
No I dont believe obesity is a disablity. It is a choice. I agree with many of the posts. I hope all of us who consider ourselves obese do something about it and remember Life is too short, use it or lose it. Report
of course obesity does not equal disability. One can, however become disabled secondary to obesity. I have had many people who could no longer walk due to their morbid obesity, which is, by definition disabled. Report
For me, a person with a disability, being overweight doesn't even come close to being a disability. As far as I'm concerned, a disability is something you can't prevent or easily change. You might be able to treat it but you probably can't cure it. Obesity, for most people, doesn't fit this definition.

I know it can be difficult but obesity can be fixed. It takes a lot of work, on behalf of its beholder, but it can be worked on and (in a way) "cured."

So, I am definately not in favor of calling obesity a disability. I think that's cheap cop out and an excuse to not work on a potentially life threatening problem. Report
If your "disability" can be cured by diet, exercise, and common sense? NO!!!!!!, it should NOT be a disability.
I see all of these OBESE people at Wal-Mart who ride around in the little motorized carts and think to myself.... "You know, if you WALK around the store, as opposed to RIDING, You MIGHT not be so big!!" Not very nice of me, but it's TRUE.
I think it is absolutely ABSURD!!!! Report
I see a lot of folks that should write their Congress Critters. As of now obesity can be considered a disability that qualifies the "patient" to support checks. Makes me sick. It's the most enabling and counter productive way of dealing with the issue. If you're too obese to work then you're no different than a drunk who can't sober up long enough to work. You've hit bottom. You are the only one that can pick yourself up and resolve to make the climb back to normalcy. No one can make that realization or fight that battle for you.
There are medical conditions that LEAD to obesity, or can. That condition is the disability and the obesity is a side effect, not the disability in and of itself. Report
Obesity causes physical problems: I've known of an acquantance of whom I've met @ a store where I worked, who couldn't easily get in & out of her car, & as I was putting carts away, I learned that I had to do her shopping for her: I checked it out with the grocery store & they said yes, I could do that for her. So, she gave me her shopping list & the money & I went shopping for her.

Obesity, causes ill effects & disease to the organs of the persons body, as some foods are not eliminated properly & therefore it can become a disability.

Obesity, is not always caused by Gluttony. Some people just have allergies to certain foods & do not realize that that is what the problem is. They've been eating that way for so long that they do not realize the ill effects it is having on themselves. Therefore their bodies have a hard time digesting these foods & so it becomes fat on their bodies, as it will not digest properly. I remember feeling like I had a basket ball in my stomach: I didn't realize that my body was having problems digesting dairy & meats. Then later in life I found out that all the foods over time is what caused me to get acidic/fat.

I've since learned that I need to be PH Alkaline Balanced, in order to rid my body of unwanted Acidic/fat. I'm sure others do to, however we each have to figure out what is best for ourselves: right or wrong, we are responsible for what we put in our bodies. Report
Obesity causes disability- big time, but it should not deserve to be granted disability status like truly disabled people need to have. I injured my back and lost my small business. I never thought about applying for it. A social security employee advised me to because of my loss of income. After 65+ it becomes your social security income. That amounts to paying people to stay fat. That is inconceivable. The excesses available to people in our society are the problems, Frankly I do not consider alcaholism to be a disability although the medical community does. Excess and easy access seems to be where society is going.
I watched the movie Wally-E with the grandkids. The children thought it was funny, I just wanted to cry. Society is heading in that direction sadly.

Disability should be ONLY for genuinely disabled people !!! Report
I have always had a problem with my weight - sometimes worse than others. That was - IS - has been - my doing. I fell down a whole flight of concrete stairs and have many lasting problems that "disable" me from doing a lot of things comfortably like I did before - like walk, bend, lift. I have trouble standing from a seated position or for any great length of time. Did my weight cause me to fall down the stairs? No. It was pouring rain, the top step was slick and down I went - like Mary Poppins on crack. My knees click from a torn miniscus, I have a floating bone chip in the other knee, and my hip (while it did not break) was severely bruised and I still have residual damage there. I am in constant pain.

Am I disabled? No. Not due to my injuries nor due to my weight. It's not just the majority of people who claim disablity wrongly - everyone is looking to pigeonhole different things to make it "easy" to classify. Was I disabled when I was pregnant?? No. But rather than my firm giving me maternity leave and pay me accordingly, I got disability benefits. WTH?

Disability benefits are for those who cannot work due to various medical challenges that preclude them from performing everyday necessities. There are many people who are born with challenges who put me to shame with their ABILITIES!! and there I am groaning when I try to stand and it pains me some.

Obesity is not a disabliity - it is a disabling condition. Sometimes it is a result of medical conditions such as things that I have such as PCOS and hypothyroidism. I am not disabled. And, while I'm at it, thanks to Chris Downey who, through The Spark and this amazing website, have ENABLED me to begin to lose weight with dignity in a caring environment.

Thank you for letting me "weigh in" on this subject. ;) Spark on!! Report
Substance abuse of any kind - food, drugs, alcohol - is NOT a disability. It is a choice. If people make poor choices they should accept the consequences. Report
my pet peeve --- NO WAY that obesity is a disability! Suck it up and LOSE IT!!! Report
I want to say no. But there other things to consider as well. Think about alcoholics. Report
It seems the overall consensus is that Obesity is not a disability. Well, the state of Texas has labled SUBSTANCE ABUSE as a disability; Texas Rehabilitation Commission (now renamed) offered funding and state assistance to those with substance abuse issues.
Okay, what is the difference between someone smoking crack and someone eating a burrito. BOTH are decisions...BOTH can make alternate decisions...

Well, I have lived around heavy people my whole life, I have also worked with drug addicts and those in recovery most of my working years---I don't agree that either population is disabled. Even "disabled" indiviuals can OVERCOME their disability (there are marathon runners with no legs--only prosthetics; there are blind painters; there are deaf musicans and dancers...shall I go on...??).

Overcoming Obesity is NOT is a process of changing habits, changing behaviors, changing the way we see ourselves...NO Obesity is NOT a disability...but, those who are obese have disabilities which need to be overcome (heart issues, high bp, diabetes, etc.)... Report
Nope! It is not a disability, I can not believe that anyone would even consider it. Report
Obesity is absolutely not a disability. A disability is something that cannot be changed. It may be difficult to lose weight, but it is not impossible. No amount of willpower or lifestyle change will re-grow an amputated limb, a severed spinal cord, or cure a neurological disease.

It's astounding to me that this association would even try to make this claim. Report
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