Obesity is a Chronic Disease

By Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN
August 22, 2012


Have you heard the public health announcement "I have a chronic disease and it is obesity"? The first time I heard the radio announcement declaring obesity as a chronic disease I actually did a double take. My brain started spinning and I realized what a true and powerful statement that was. Yes, obesity is a chronic disease and people need ongoing treatment for this chronic disease as they do for chronic diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hypertension or depression.

As we know, 67% of adults in the U.S. are overweight and 34% are considered obese. You may be asking yourself, "why is the rate of obesity so high among Americans?" The causes of obesity are well documented. They are the type, quality and amount of food that people eat.

Causes of obesity

There is no denying that the average American diet leads to weight gain and health problems. Look at how sugar, soda, fast food and cereal consumption contribute to obesity.

  • The average American consumes over one cup of sugar daily.
  • Americans drink lots of soda, about two cans per day on average.
  • The average American eats three fast food meals per week.
  • We are a nation of cereal eaters—breakfast, lunch and dinner. To entice kids and adults to eat more cereal, General Mills recently introduced a new peanut-butter flavored Cheerios® cereal (Who can eat only ¾ cup, the actual serving size? Most people fill up ¾ of a large bowl with cereal).
  • A typical school breakfast of chocolate milk, orange juice, French toast, cereal and milk contains more than 48 tsp. of sugar! That equates to a cup of sugar for breakfast! It's no wonder that 30% of children are overweight.

Consuming fast foods and sugary, processed foods have brought the metabolism of many Americans to a screeching halt. Clearly, tackling obesity requires a nutritional makeover and nutrition education so that people understand how their food and beverage choices affect their metabolism.

More will power is not the solution to obesity

One of the pet peeves that I have as a nutritionist is when people say that someone with obesity is simply weak willed. People with the disease of obesity are not weak willed; they have a chronic condition that needs to be addressed. Low-calorie, low-fat or starvation plans simply do not work. Research from the 1940's found these diet plans actually result in increased hunger and a slower metabolism! Sadly, these plans are still being marketed, and bought into, as a quick fix to a very complex problem. Instead of low-calorie, deprivation plans, people need therapeutic nutrition to get their metabolisms working again.

Nell, a client who lost 90 pounds, and hundreds of other clients have found their answer at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. They follow a proven nutrition plan and receive support and education from their personal nutritionists. If you are experiencing the chronic disease of obesity, I am sure that reading Nell's story and her struggles with foods will help you understand that obesity is a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment.

Here's Nell's story:

testimonial_NellK.jpgChronic disease: A disease that persists for a long time. A chronic disease is one lasting three months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear.

When I see this definition for chronic disease, I realize that my obesity is such a condition. My struggle with it has lasted 25 years (definitely longer than three months), and it did not just appear (it took years for my extra 100 pounds to come on). However, I didn't manage or "treat" my obesity as a chronic condition. Rather, I looked at it like a cosmetic issue that could be fixed with enough will power and one-size-fits-all diets--Weight Watchers was my chosen plan. This approach made the problem worse, causing me to gain more weight with each round of point-counting I endured.

When you are really heavy like I was (I have lost 90 pounds over the past two years), so many unique factors go into making you easily gain and retain weight. In my case, processed foods, gluten, grains and dairy, along with some thyroid and hormone issues, were contributing to making me obese. Without eliminating these foods, while at the same time addressing the other underlying conditions, all with the guidance of a nutritionist, I would still be obese and probably starting Weight Watchers for the 14th time. When I was gaining and losing all those pounds over the years, I had bought into the myth that I could eat all of these foods as long as I practiced "moderation." Without the guidance of a nutritionist, I would not have broken free of this and other myths that were communicating really bad advice to treat obesity.

Additionally, what I needed to do to lose 90 pounds changed over time. Initially I was eating gluten, grains and dairy. Then my weight plateaued. Without the ongoing support of my nutritionist, I would not have known how I needed to adjust my diet to keep the weight loss going. In my old way of "treating my obesity," I would have gotten frustrated with a plateau and quit all efforts. Having regular appointments with my nutritionist, even to this day, helps me connect the dots as to why I had trouble losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Managing obesity as I have can have real emotional side effects. The fact is that this journey can be difficult and lonely. My nutritionist was a person I could lean on for encouragement and support. When the hopelessness crept in during a plateau or when I had bad food days (or weeks), I turned to my nutritionist for support.

If you are experiencing this chronic disease, get the help and support you need like Nell did. There is a better way!

For more information listen to our podcast: Obesity is a Chronic Disease.

About the author

Darlene founded Nutritional Weight & Wellness. In her 25 years as a counselor and nutritionist, Darlene has helped so many people change their lives using the power of real food. She is a licensed nutritionist who earned the title Certified Nutrition Specialist from the American College of Nutrition, a prestigious association of medical and research scientists to further nutrition research. She has served on the Board of Dietetics and Nutrition Practice for the State of Minnesota.

View all posts by Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN

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