Should obesity be considered a disability?

(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Yesterday, I read an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune. The paper’s editorial board shared their opinion on the thought of considering obesity as a disability. The consensus was a resounding negative to the notion.

They write:

“The expansion is also at odds with the basic idea of the ADA: empowering people who are the unfortunate victims of fate. Obesity is usually the result of individual decisions, and it can be ameliorated by individual decisions. Those facts argue for leaving the government out of this realm.”

As someone who has practically been overweight, technically obese, most of his life I took a particular interest in this article. Naturally you’d think that I would argue a rebuttal. The only problem is that I for the most part agree with them. Obesity, for most people (myself included), is a choice; granted there are many sociological, psychological and emotional reasons one could decide to overeat. For those of us who simply do not exercise adequate, self-control I do not think we should be given compensation for our personal failure. And yes, I deem my own weight issues as a failure. I am not resolute in accepting my fate though.

I think if one is obese for a long time then there are certain complications that can arise from such a prolonged unhealthy state. Therefore, there are some instances where I think labeling it a disability would be justified, but only if the candidate met the qualifications set by the ADA. I just disagree with the notion of a blanket declaration that obesity should be simply distinguished as a disability.

I think some people can argue that obesity, more specifically over-eating, is a mental addiction. I am not sure of what government sponsored programs are available for such people. There doesn’t seem to be support for those overweight. Typically we are ridiculed both in the media and sadly at times within the construct of social gatherings. Furthermore, I believe that obesity, for the vast majority, is a choice. Do I want to be overweight? Hell no. But have I successfully fixed the problem? Obviously not.

In addition, I think the article brings up a good point:

“If employers must accommodate the requirements of obese workers, are they also entitled to adopt policies to prevent workers from becoming obese? Could they require all employees to make regular gym visits, or run 15 miles a week, to keep their jobs? Once companies are forced to make changes to benefit individuals with serious weight problems, they will have strong incentives to meddle in personal lifestyles.”

I do not want to live in a society where my employer “meddles” in my personal lifestyles. Do you?


Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate


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About adrakontaidis

A conservative who doesn't pander to the GOP.

2 responses to “Should obesity be considered a disability?”

  1. JF Owen says :

    We already live in a world in which employers meddle in our lifestyle, especially with regards to health issues. Most employer paid or partially paid health plans have wellness programs. These are generally good programs that endeavor to ensure that participants are making good health decisions, getting prudent screening tests, taking medicine as prescribed, following proper nutrition practices, etc.

    Many employers tie participation in wellness programs to penalties in employee premium costs. For example, the employee contribution for employee and spouse coverage at my employer is $210 per month, if both the employee and their spouse participate in the wellness program. If they don’t participate, there is a surcharge and the premium goes to $380 per month.

    The same line of logic is used to control smoking. Some employers refuse to hire tobacco users. Many that do charge a health care surcharge for smokers. Mine does that too.

    I participate in the wellness program because I want to. I don’t smoke, and never have, because I don’t want to. So, neither of those factors cause me to change my lifestyle but, for others, there is a definite impact that qualifies as meddling.

    To answer your question about whether I think obesity per se should be considered a disability…no and for the reasons you cite. Unfortunately, the effects of obesity are disabling. If a smoker develops COPD and can’t work they would qualify as disabled. If an obese person develops diabetes or cardiac problems and can’t work, they would qualify as disabled.

    We may not want to classify the condition as a disability, but there’s no doubt or option for classifying the effects as a disability. An employer shouldn’t have to make allowances for an obese person simply because they are big, but if they develop a health problem because they are obese the ADA will kick in as long as reasonable accommodations will allow the employee to continue to work safely for himself and the others around him.

    The language in my employer’s employee handbook reserves the right to use testing to check for tobacco use. Mark my words, sooner or later a handbook somewhere will include verbiage to allow testing for Big Macs.

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