Obesity — disability or lack of self-control?

This question has resonated with readers — especially now that the European Court is poised (possibly?) to call it a disability, and now that the AMA has declared it a disease.  A “spirited debate” took place on in these pages.

Whatever the result or point of view, we wanted to publish a heartfelt comment from a reader who has “struggled with weight issues” and has his own take on the subject.

Daniel Lark, an IT professional in NY:

“I think what I object to is the assumption my many that all people who struggle with weight issues have the same mind set. I was always ‘big for my age’.   As a kid I always had to shop in the ‘husky’ section which was usually located in the basement of department stores. I was too young to be scared by the experience. Everybody wore LEE jeans with the cuff turned up if they were too long back then.

As a young adult at 18, I was in the best shape of my life, able to run 100 yards in less than 15 sec. at 230 lbs, but my BMI said that I was obese. Over the years, the body breaks down, the activity lessened. The existence of Big and Tall online catalogs and stores made the transition easier, until I needed a sports jacket in 2004 and was at the end of the rack. Wake up call. The advent of digital scales made monitoring easier.


For me the wake up call was going through two years when perfect strangers would come up to me and ask if I was ‘Uncle Phil’ from Will Smith’s show ‘Fresh Prince’.

My first attempt at joining a weight lost program in 2009 didn’t end well. We had group sessions. It was assumed that everyone had impulse control issues. Some did, many did not. I had a reconstructive left knee surgery 1973, full replacement of that knee in 2002.  Herniated discs in the lower back in mid-1990’s. The program was with a local hospital.  When I lost 10% of my start weight through diet and exercise, I found out that the program was only intended to prep you for Gastric Bypass surgery.

I joined another program in 2011, where 4 sessions working with a personal trainer was included.  I found pain free exercises to do that showed results and continued to work on my own today.   It’s easy to get frustrated with slow results, but they are steady results.   Like not feeling like someone is sitting on your shoulders every time you walk.

If you try to tailor the program to the person rather the person to the set program you may get more people willing to try.”