Does being obese mean you are disabled?

Various national newspapers have reported on the decision from the European Court of Justice to deem obsesity a disability.  You can find one take on it here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30529791

Disabled is defined in the OED as ‘Deprived of some ability’ and most traditionally covers conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, ME and Cerebal Palsy.  In such cases, the person does not have a choice of whether to be disabled or not.  They do not choose to wake up feeling ill.  In all cases, I am sure the sufferer would prefer that they were healthy and able to live without the affects of their condition.

So why is obesity now considered a disability?

To be obese you have to have a BMI of at least 30.  Taking myself as an example, I have a BMI of 22.5, comfortably inside the ‘healthy’ weight bracket (18.5-25) using the BMI system.  I would have to put on 3st to be anywhere near the obese category on the BMI scale.

I eat a lot, without exercise I am under no illusion that I would probably be overweight.  I am currently 9st 1, 5ft 2inches.  I am not obese or even overweight because I exercise.  I know that when I have a party coming up where I am bound to eat a slice of cake, a few extra pieces of chocolate or an extra portion of pie (who doesn’t?) I will have to redouble my efforts in the gym or out on the road to compensate for that.  I know that if I overindulge or miss a session at the gym or a run then I’d better give it 100% the next time I go out because otherwise I will start to lose my fitness.  That is my choice.  It is the choice of every person who takes it upon themselves to look after their fitness.

There are lots of excuses to avoid exercise:  lack of time, lack of funding to join a gym, lack of somebody to exercise with.  They are all, quite frankly, rubbish.

Take control; your food choices are yours alone, your exercise is yours alone.  Recently, an exercise campaign in my area launched with the strapline ‘I will if you will’, perhaps it should have read ‘I will if you will, I will if you won’t, too!’.  Your body is yours, take control of it.  Obesity is not a disability, it is a life choice.  The only case in which I view it as a disability is where the person is incapable of taking action (OED, sv disabled 1), a part of the meaning of disabled anyway!  If you use the new ruling by the European Court of Justice to justify your excess body weight, ask yourself this:  Is there anything that I could do to take control of this situation?  If the answer is yes, you are not disabled.  You can take control.

Note:  For this article, ‘disabled’ is used in the physical sense.  I am fully aware that there are other kinds of disability which are equally as valid examples of what a disability is but physical disabilities are used purely as they are comparable to the case here.

Since publishing this article I have been made aware of a number of objections to it, as a result I’d like to clarify a few things:

1:  There is a difference between being ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ (using the medical interpretation of both terms).  This article concerns obesity.

2:  I am in no way saying that people who are ill and are overweight or obese are lazy as I state in my article.  That includes those whose medication prohibits them losing weight in any way.

3:  This article has nothing to do with Katie Hopkins’ recent programme.  I haven’t watched it.  When I do, I do intend to write about it but it will be in a completely separate article.

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