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Obesity and Weight Control: A Disability or a Variation?

JaymElaine's picture

Obesity has been described as a condition in which the human body’s natural energy source, fatty tissues, has increased beyond a threshold and is thus attributing to other serious health risks, including higher mortality rates. It has become a serious public health problem, especially here in the United States, for more than half of the U.S. population lies in this category. Excessive weight on the body has, over time, shown to lead to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes type II, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis, just to name a few. Researchers have been studying the causes behind of what seems to be such a preventable condition; however, many whom have dieted unsuccessfully have found that losing the weight is not as simple as it initially seems. It is not as easy as society has made it seem, making obesity a disability of this country, much like color blindness or tone deafness. Researchers studying obesity have looked to the set weight theory as a probable cause for much of America’s obesity problem, and have learned that the set weight theory holds some truths.

The set weight theory states that a human’s body weight is a controlled factor set by the body and the hormones it releases into the body to regulate it. The body deals with weight in a very similar fashion as body temperature, blood pressure, and even pH. When our body drops in temperature, for example, it shivers or creates goose bumps to bring our temperature back up; when our temperature increases, we sweat, as an attempt to cool off. Weight control works in the same exact way. When we have lose weight, our body signals for high-calorie, high-carbohydrate, and high-in-fat foods to supplement for the lost weight, and when we gain a lot of weight, our body signals us to stop eating (in theory) so that we burn some of the excess fat off and return to our normal weight. This notion is what makes dieting almost impossible; when we lose weight and cease the actions that we were doing to lose the weight, we quickly return to our previous weight.

To prove that a weight set point exists for individuals, Michel, et al. gave adult rats lipectomies and observed the rats’ feeding habits for four weeks post-lipoectomy. After the four-week recovery, the rats reached their initial body weight (as obtained pre-lipectomy) and regained their initial body fat content. According to experiments done by de Castro, et al. insulin and glucagon levels are just a couple of weight control determinants. In their studies, seven rats were observed for body weight and regulation after manipulation of insulin and glucagon levels. These rats received three injections per day for 3 days: 1) insulin, 2) glucagon, and 3) somatostatin. Observations showed that insulin, specifically, increased the rats’ feeding frequencies. Further observations supported the researchers’ original hypothesis, that the relative concentration of insulin to glucagon was a specific regulator for weight control and our body’s weight set point. These experiments not prove only suggest that a weight set point exists among animals, including homo sapiens, but that we have suggested hormones that possibly determine our weight set point. What does this say about obesity and overweight Americans?

Obesity has been seen in this country as a disability, a grotesque condition of the human body that must be rectified immediately. However, a disability is only that which a given society makes it. Take for example, color blindness. Color blindness has increasingly been seen as a disability by American society, for those who experience such a condition cannot necessarily see the colors that us "normal" people see in the same way. However, should we say that this is truly a disability? Color blindness is merely another way of viewing the same color. Obesity, in the same light, is another way of viewing the human body; so should we count this is a disability as well, or is it simply a variation of the human body, dependent upon genetics and in turn insulin hormone release?

The set point for weight does exist and is regulated by the body, as supported by the above studies. Such evidence gives us further need to learn more about this set point, the regulation of this set point, and how this set point can be changed (temporarily or permanently). Furthermore, understanding weight as another regulation of the body, like temperature, blood pressure, and pH, allows us to see overweight individuals as unique individuals and not as handicaps.


de Castro JM, Paullin SK, DeLugas GM. 1998. Insulin and glucagon as determinants of body weight set point and microregulation in rats. Journal of Computational Physiological Psychology 42, 571-579

Michel C, Cabanac N. 1999. Lipectomy, body weight, and body weight set points in rats. Physiological Behavior 66, 473-479


Serendip Visitor's picture


Obesity is more deadly than being deaf or blind. Those can be compensated with other senses. Obesity is not always controllable. Obesity is symptom of some diseases where you can not control it. Obesity is a symptom of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). There is no way to control it.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Many Who Are Fat Don't Want To Be

To lose weight I need to stay on a daily 1200-1500 calorie diet. I exercise daily-walking 30 to 45 minutes. Three days a week I do muscle building/toning exercises for 1 hour at the gym. I feel hungry all the time. I think about food. What I am going to eat for each meal and trying to balance the calories. Most of the time I am denying what I would like to eat. It is a struggle to keep from gaining weight. I've lost 40 pounds over 9 months and am scared I may gain it back.

How can anyone out there say keeping weight off/losing weight is easy? I've found little to no help from doctors on what to do when I plateau or gain a little back. I've changed up my routine from walking to stair-stepping to Nordic Trac to keep my metabolism up and burning.

I feel I am at the end of my rope in trying to keep up this routine. I know this is for life, but the truth is I don't like this type of life. Exercise and being at the gym is boring. Counting every calorie, weighing my food and keeping a food journal is causing me to be hypersensitive to how I view food. Every calorie is insidious. I wish I did not have to eat.

The stigma of being overweight is incredible. I've been held back from moving up the ladder because of my weight. Societal views of obesity are cruel.

I don't want to be fat, but my body seems to want me to stay this way.

Anonymous's picture

I would not compare obesity

I would not compare obesity to a disability. Yes, it can cause a depreciated quality of life but it can be controlled. If a person is blind, they are blind. There is nothing that can be done. The majority of the individuals who are overweight or obese can manage their situation with increased physical activity leves, decreased caloric intake and behavior modification.

Disabled's picture

Obesity is not a disability

Please don't compare obesity with disabilities. A few extra pounds is nothing compared to being deaf.

Jason Geek's picture

i is rather variation?

It seems that, some people are born fat and some are born thin. I actually did a T-test on 200 random samples of people based on weight at the age of 7, it seems that, it proves to be significant. Oh well, it is just my little experiment. In fact, myself is born fat, i had to revv up my metabolism and workout hours to lose weight and gain muscle