W5 Activity: Obesity

Since the acceptance of medications and pharmaceuticals as a part of modern medicine they have continued to grow in usage. Today it would seem that there is a drug for every ailment (you might think) you have. Depression? Here is a pill. Tired? Here is a pill. Can’t sleep? Here is a pill. Can’t focus? Here is a pill. Everyday medications help countless people get over small and large illnesses, but are we over prescribing and consuming drugs? Taking pharmaceuticals has become a huge part of western culture. I think that this actually says a lot about our cultural values and ideologies. Many of the problems we now diagnose and prescribe drugs for can often be addressed (or avoided entirely) with a healthy lifestyle. I think this indicates a lack of motivation or maybe a desired shift in responsibility, an easy way out per say. People often don’t want to face their own problems (or maybe the work necessary to fix them) and the option to take a drug that would solve those problems becomes quite tantalizing. To be clear I think that there is practical application for some of these drugs, but I also think that they are all too often being used as a scapegoat for people. In the article From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults it tells of how in adults ADHD is often self diagnosed. They say “hey that sounds like me” and come to a physician looking for that diagnosis. I think this a very dangerous way to look at medicine because there are some very obvious biases associated with it which could lead to misdiagnosis and other things. It is a distortion of medicine and how a physician’s diagnosis should happen.

I chose obesity as the medical condition with which is heavily medicalized (and in my opinion over medicalized). Here is an advertisement for Xenical. http://www.newyou.com.ph  There is a very strong cultural drive (at least in western countries) to be thin. The advertisements show women in sports bras with toned abs and measuring tapes around their waists implying their stomachs used to be this much bigger. It is very much the social role of physicians to make, or at least educate, their patients on becoming healthier. It is also the social role of obese patients to take their physician’s advice and work to become more healthy. There seems to be very little medical information on the advertisement. In fact I think I saw on another advertisement for this drug that it did not even require a prescription. Drugs that do require a prescription often ask the target audience to “ask your doctor if ______ is right for you!” I said this before but I don’t think that it is a good system to having patients seeking out their doctors for specific drugs, rather the doctor should prescribe what he thinks is the best drug for treating the issue. This is a much more complicated problem though and no time at all to discuss it.

Conrad, Peter, and Deborah Potter. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories.” Social Problems 47, no. 4 (2000): 559-82. doi:

3 thoughts on “W5 Activity: Obesity

  1. Hello Damon,
    Culturally we view obesity, or anyone who is overweight as being different because I think a lot of it stems from our society. The media and television constantly shame obesity and try and put a certain image in our minds about how one should look. I believe that this is a huge problem in American society and a high diet/exercising treatments should be highly considered. Because of the way obesity is looked at in our society, it has increasingly become a negative look at our country as a whole. Looking at this illness culturally, it shows that many factors of the perceived outlook cause us to look at them differently and put shame on anyone that feels they’re being overweight or obese. Companies that make these kind of drugs are targeting this particular group and may know their product such as Xenical won’t necessarily help them lose weight as much as it makes the person have many side effects such as acute liver failure which is caused by numerous fat burning pills. Regardless of the outcome of the pills, companies only care about profits. we expect things to be available whenever we want them without having to put in too much work. The diet pills shown in your advertisement promise to do just that. By simply taking those pills, it promises the consumer will lose excess body weight in just fourteen days instead of losing it the natural and healthy way. This is the problem with the United States and other countries around the world; we are demanding everything to quickly happen with the least amount of effort put in. I believe that the biomedicalization of this illness is a result of our ever-changing society and culture stressors that many people face on a daily basis.

    Krishna, Y. Radha, V. Mittal, P. Grewal, Mi Fiel, and T. Schiano. “Acute Liver Failure Caused by ‘Fat Burners’ and Dietary Supplements: A Case Report and Literature Review.” Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology (2011): 157-60.

  2. Hello,
    This is a very well written and opinionated post. I agree with all of the points you raise. I want to start by saying, and I believe you also agree with me on this, that I think the use of drugs and medication in modern medicine is a wonderful thing! I fully support the use of drugs to treat illnesses. However, like you mentioned, it seems like we are over prescribing and consuming pharmaceuticals.

    Obesity is a great example of something that has been highly medicalized. Without a doubt, obesity is an increasing problem in our society and something must be done about it. With that being said, obesity is not an illness that needs to be taken care of via medications.

    There are several forces that play into this problem. One being the forces imposed by our culture. We idolize perfection – perfect height, perfect weight, perfect appearance, perfect complexion, etc. Due to these high standards, obese people feel the pressure to do whatever it takes to achieve these perfections. The goal of losing weight is not the problem. The lazy approach to doing so is the problem. Perhaps not every single case, but for the most part, weight can be controlled by a healthy diet and physical activity – no drugs necessary. Another force that plays into the problem of obesity is the laziness of our culture. While losing weight can usually happen via lifestyle changes, many people prefer popping a pill in hopes to achieve the same end goal. Taking a pill is so much easier than hitting the gym! But are you really improving your health that way?? No!

    Conrad, Peter, and Deborah Potter. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories.” Social Problems 47, no. 4 (2000): 559-82. doi:10.1525/sp.2000.47.4.03x0308v.

  3. Working with individuals with weight loss goals in mind as a personal trainer, I see this and many other prescription and non-prescription drugs out there that people are swallowing by the bottle full in hope of losing weight. But what they don’t understand is what those diet pills are or what they can and are doing to their body. Everyone wants the quick fix instead of changing their lifestyle. Losing weight is more than working out. It’s eating right, exercising properly, proper amount of sleep, adequate water intake, and so many more variables that I could keep going on. But the trouble with that is the laziness that has and continues to plague the United States. We crave the quick, cheap fix to everything. Fast food, diet pills, etc. People don’t want to put the time and effort into things anymore. And we as a society accept this. We accept laziness. We accept poor health. We accept where we are yet crave for more and perfection. But we don’t work for it. We expect it to fall into our laps. I see this every day in the gym that I work at. No one wants to do all the things they are supposed to do outside of the gym but they sure do want a 6 pack. And they will do whatever it takes to do it, including taking pills like this. But pills like this don’t fix the damage obsesity has already caused on your body. It doesn’t fix the fatty livers, the high cholesterol, the weaken heart. It doesn’t change anything other than the outward appearance that society has molded us to want. Perfection. And no matter what pills you take, how many miles you run, or how thin you may get, you will never find perfection in the mirror.

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