Psychological impacts of obesity as ‘disease’

In this June 17, 2013 photo, two women cross the street in Barre, Vt. In its biggest policy change on weight and health to date, the American Medical Association has recognized obesity as a disease. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

WASHINGTON – Nine months ago when the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease, reactions from advocates and critics erupted immediately.

Supporters argued that the classification could better help overweight and obese people obtain treatment, such as counseling in nutrition and exercise. Making obesity a disease could also make research funding more readily available.

However, others argued the classification may result in an increase in pharmacological reactions, instead of preventative measures, and a potential decrease in personal responsibility when it comes to weight management.

The controversial reaction is why two University of Richmond researchers wanted to closely examine the psychological ramifications of labeling obesity a disease.

“Calling it a disease will make people take it more seriously,” says psychological scientist Crystal Hoyt, an associate professor at the University in Richmond.

But Hoyt explains with the declaration comes some potential costs.

“When we hear the word,


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