The "Diabesity" Epidemic: Let's Rehabilitate America

Val Jones, MD, MA


May 08, 2006

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At least one third of Americans have been unsuccessful at maintaining their weights within healthy ranges.[1] Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and it is estimated that more than 20 million Americans are currently diabetic, one third of whom do not realize they have the disease.[2] Because obesity and diabetes often go hand in hand, a new term has been coined to describe America's current healthcare crisis: "the diabesity epidemic.[3]"

There are many factors influencing obesity and diabetes rates. Sedentary lifestyles, ubiquitous junk food, the supersizing of meal portions, and "emotional eating" are just a few.

America's diabesity problem is not about moral failure, laziness, or lack of effort. It's about the wrong philosophical underpinnings. We have fallen for the idea that there is a quick fix for everything -- especially weight loss. We look to fad diets, extreme athletics, diet pills, and surgical interventions as a miracle cure for all of our problems.

We must make a philosophical frame shift towards a rehabilitation model of weight control. Why rehab? Because rehabilitation involves a long-term commitment; an acknowledgment that the opportunity for weight regain will never go away; and that an individualized, multidisciplinary approach has the best chance of success.

Rehabilitation literally means "the restoration of lost capabilities.[4]" It is a hopeful word, because it presumes that individuals have the capacity to improve, to walk farther, feel better, maintain a healthy weight, and add life to years. Rehabilitation medicine physicians use an integrative, holistic approach to wellness. They coordinate teams of physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, and nutritionists to help patients meet their goals. For this reason, I believe that rehab specialists are the best equipped to provide the kind of complex, long-term solution that is required to reverse the diabesity epidemic. Let's rehabilitate America!

That's my opinion and I'd like to hear yours. I'm Dr. Val Jones, Editor of MedGenMed's eSection on Clinical Nutrition & Obesity.

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