What if we cure obesity?
Let’s take a minute and imagine a world where we invented a pill to cure obesity. Yes, a pill. After all, that seems to be what nearly everyone is yearning for. And there are several in development at this very moment. It is only a matter of time before one is approved for mass consumption. What will we really have solved?
Your average 10-year-old knows that the cause of obesity is malnutrition.
Malnutrition means wrong nutrition. It is not simply a reference to quality; it may in fact refer to any of a number of issues with the diet, and it has many symptoms – not just obesity.
If we cure obesity, how have we addressed malnutrition? Where will that malnutrition show up next? This is a whack-a-mole strategy. You’ve whacked down obesity, but something else will pop up as a result of the still-unresolved matter of malnutrition.
This also belies a tragic human tendency to accept the notion that if you don’t see it, it isn’t a problem.
I have often told my clients that the overweight are the lucky ones, in that they have early and obvious proof of their malnutrition. Anyone carrying obvious excess body fat who responds to their condition by correcting the source of the problem at an early stage will happily discover that the damage is mostly reversible.
What about those people you love to hate who seem to be able to eat anything they want and remain skinny? It is your pity they should have, not your hate. They can go for decades improperly nourishing their bodies with no obvious effects, only to learn in their 40’s and 50’s that their joints are trashed and their arteries hardened from dietary-induced systemic inflammation. Neither of those conditions is completely reversible.
These 2 types of people actually have something very powerful in common: they both believe that the symptoms of malnutrition are universal and visible; namely, weight gain. This works well for those that gain weight easily, but it is the difference between life and death for those that don’t. That second category of people will only learn too late that their diet and lifestyle are flawed.
So, you see, the weight gainers are the lucky ones. It seems especially sad then that so many of them will squander their advantage by ignoring the obvious symptoms until they, too, have waited too long for the remedy to be either easy or complete.
What we see most often is that they both will abdicate their responsibility to be proactive about their health and wait for symptoms to appear, then run to the doctor for a ‘quick fix’ pill. This is not only an irresponsible neglect of one’s health, it is also an abuse of the medical system – asking of it something it was never designed for. It is also true that this strategy seldom produces any lasting results because the health neglect will inevitably continue.
The other thing they have in common is that their respective symptoms – both inflammatory conditions and body fat – would have shown up as limitations to their functional capacity at a very early stage. When functional capacity is your health test as it should be, both types would have been able to easily identify their flawed strategies well in advance of any permanent – or even visible – damage.
It is the process for identifying these conditions that is the missing piece of the puzzle. That process involves a constant awareness of one’s functional capacity in a quantifiable way through consistent exposure to a wide variety of intelligently designed physical challenges. Without the awareness that these challenges produce regarding any changes in our functional capacity, we will remain blissfully ignorant about our condition – until the symptoms become obvious in other ways; like obesity. For those of you not lucky enough to gain weight, by the time your other symptoms show up it may just be too late.
On the other hand, those of you who understand and accept your responsibility to maintain your health will probably not care one way or the other about finding a cure for obesity. Since obesity is merely a symptom of chronically flawed health strategies, you Black Box followers will always catch any flaws in your strategy well before a delayed symptom like weight gain shows up.
This also should tell us something about the way most of us perceive any weight loss. An all-too-common societal perception is that weight loss equals healthy. In other words, if we could just lose a little weight all of our health problems would be over. This never has been true and never will be, yet as the owner of a gym I still hear it all the time. Sadly, depending on how you lose the weight, your health problems could be just beginning or, even sadder, the weight loss might be making your actual health even worse.
So, back to the question: why are billions being spent and hope running high for a cure for obesity? Obesity is not the problem, merely a symptom. And to cure it would leave many with no way to gauge their health. As gauges of health go, weight gain is a very poor one, but it is the only one that some people will acknowledge. Even a poor gauge of health is still the only gauge in a world where many believe there is no other.
The primary source of my dismay at the effort to find a cure for obesity has nothing to do with thinking that obesity is not a tragic and rampant problem, it has only to do with the misconception that curing it will somehow solve a problem. It will not.
I’m also amazed at the amount of money and scientific resources that are going into this effort. It is simply evidence that our entire concept of health – even within scientific communities – needs a complete makeover. We are a sick culture, and finding a cure for obesity will only make us worse.