When it comes to an illness like cancer, everyone can instantly see the ramifications for a patient and they understand – with sympathy – that their world has instantaneously come crashing down around them. Other illnesses, however, do not get quite the same reaction, probably because of our subconscious thoughts about ‘innocent victims’ and our ideas that people can bring things on themselves. It’s probably the reason that so many of us are quick to judge those with addictions, or obesity, over and above illnesses that seem to have no explanation.

The truth is, our environment does contribute to most things that we go through in life, but the argument shouldn’t be on ‘who is to blame’. People who’ve got cancer may well have smoked their entire lives – but they may not have – and people shouldn’t point the finger either way. Some illnesses are circumstantial, but that isn’t to say that they don’t affect people more with a genetic predisposition, for example. Some people are just unlucky! All in all, everyone deserves help to improve their condition.

When dealing specifically with obesity, coverage often lacks in a sensitivity for what is actually a serious health problem for society. Whilst it’s true that some people who are obese could do more to curb their illness from affecting them and seek help, it’s understandable in many ways why they do not – or cannot. If people are simply a little overweight, it doesn’t always affect their health any more than, say, a person of a ‘normal’ weight with a poor diet and good metabolism. You can’t instantly tell someone’s health status from their weight, in many cases. However, when somebody is obese, it’s an indication that their weight is causing more problems for them, and thus the stigma begins.

If you’re obese (that is, your BMI is over 30 according to the NHS), then you’ll probably struggle with a range of things that others won’t even think about. Whether it’s doing your job properly, caring for your children or even the simple act of getting out of bed, this can be a vicious cycle, often leading to depression which can make motivation to lose weight even more difficult. According to the solicitors Taylor Rose in this article, obesity may not count as a disability itself, and yet it does bring into play some of the difficulties that are faced by those who struggle severely with weight, and poses questions about how best to help them and deal with any challenges or indeed discrimination they may face.

Not everyone will see their obesity as an obstacle, and we ought to respect that, while gently guiding them to make small changes to their health. Clearly, however, some will face a worse experience than others, and we need to understand how best to help each as an individual, or risk premature deaths on an unprecedented scale.  We as a society can no longer ignore the plight of what is estimated to be almost a quarter of our adult population.

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