Is Obesity a Choice, Disease or Both?

        Dirk Foster      Addiction and Recovery, Lifestyle


There are usually just two points of view about obesity. View #1 says obesity is a choice made by people who are just too lazy (or worse, stupid) to make wise, healthy decisions about the food they eat. View #2 says obesity is a disease much like cancer and that people who are stricken with this disease are blameless and deserve only sympathy.

But perhaps there is a 3rd point of view. Perhaps obesity is both a disease AND a choice.

I want to make it very clear that I am not a doctor or scientist and I have no formal training in either field. However, I want to also make it clear that I am an expert in addiction and recovery because I am a recovering addict/alcoholic with more than 10 years of sobriety under my belt. I have fought extremely hard to protect my sobriety and consider it to be the single greatest achievement of my life, and I thank God every day for it (wow, I just got very teary as I wrote that). Addiction nearly cost me my life and I intend to hold onto my sobriety at any cost.

Which brings me back to the original question, is obesity a choice or a disease?

Much like addiction to alcohol, I think that obesity is both a choice and a disease. Every time I picked up a drink, I made a choice. Once the drink entered my body, however, the addiction took over and the craving for more became so overwhelming and obsessive (known as the “phenomenon of craving” in the 12-step program) that I had no choice but to continue drinking until I passed out or ran out of booze. And this is a cycle that continued night after night for decades.

Picking up the first drink is the choice. The overwhelming craving, much like an allergy, is the disease taking over.

In many ways food is like alcohol. For some people, food (like alcohol) brings great comfort and relief from the daily burdens, stress and pain of being human. Unhealthy foods — fast-food, greasy food, salty food, synthetic food — seem to be the most popular choice when it comes to seeking comfort through excessive eating. Let’s be honest, you won’t find a lot of obese people stuffing their faces every hour with organic apples, carrots and celery. Obese people, or those who will become obese, usually reach for the heaviest, greasiest, saltiest food available.

Food can be very comforting and soothing to the soul. So if one bite – or one drink – makes you feel better, why not have two bites, or three bites? Why stop at all when it makes you feel so much better? If I stop eating now, I’ll feel bad again, so why stop?

The first bite is a choice. But the 10th bite is probably the addiction taking over.

Recovering from an eating disorder that leads to obesity can be, and should be, treated as soon as the warning signs appear. Too many people are suffering from the long term health issues, and early death, arising from obesity. But the first question I think needs to be asked is should we view obesity as a choice or disease? Or perhaps both?

Please share your opinion on this. Do you think obesity is a choice or a disease? Or both?

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