Written by Leigh Ettinger, MD, MS, Medical Advisor to Camp Shane


In 2013 the American Medical Association declared that obesity is a disease. Certainly, obesity has been shown to cause a great many diseases, from type 2 diabetes to gout to sleep apnea, but is obesity actually a disease itself? There is value in classifying obesity as a disease. Attention can then be directed at medicines and surgeries to manage or cure it. This label takes the shame away from people with obesity who have suffered under the stigma that they were gluttonous and/or lazy. This re-defining of obesity is especially important for health care professionals who have historically been dismissive of obesity as a character flaw. Let’s buckle down and fight a war on this disease like we are fighting a war on cancer.

However, in my opinion and with all due respect, obesity is NOT a disease. I think of obesity more like drowning, which, I think we can agree, is not a disease. Death by drowning occurs in a matter of minutes as rising waters flood the lungs and quickly lead to multisystem organ failure. Obesity develops over years as a person is overwhelmed by foods bursting with calories, smothered in salt, saturated in oil, and infused with added sugar. All of this salt, oil, and added sugar (S.O.S.!!) leads to expanding waistlines and an increased risk of hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. The multisystem organ failure develops so slowly over decades that it can almost be imperceptible. Imagine a person developed obesity minutes after drinking their first soda. Pop goes the shirt button. In that reality, no one would drink a soda. In this reality, a doctor says to a patient “It’s time to talk about your weight” minutes after they drank their 5,000th soda.

In this space, I will be attempting to throw you a life preserver. With hope, the tips and tricks presented in this blog will help bring you to the shallow end of the pool and the Camp Shane team will guide you to safer waters. Notice that the goal is not to get out of the pool. In this analogy that would be like not eating at all! We have to eat. We have to be in the pool. You can still have fun and play in the shallow end of the pool. You can still enjoy your food. In the shallow end of the pool you won’t catch the obesity disease.