Locals weigh-in on official labeling of obesity as a disease

Posted at 12:14 AM, Jun 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-20 09:55:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - There’s determination in LaCretia Lewis’ steps. She’s on a mission to keep her momentum going. At her heaviest, more than 250 pounds, a breast cancer diagnosis for her mom and aunt gave her the jolt she needed to get serious about her health.

Her before and after pictures tell the story. Lewis lost 75 pounds in the past 13 months.

She started by using a fitness app on her phone to track her food intake and exercise. She also started working hand in hand with her doctor.

“I started making sure I stayed within the calorie allotment and exercised. Whether it was walking, running, dancing around the house with my kids,” Lewis explained.

LaCretia Lewis

Bariatric surgeon Dr. Matthew Brengman said many people struggling with obesity need more help. He’s glad the American Medical Association now cites obesity as a disease.

“It’s really hard to walk in the shoes of an overweight person. No one wants to be 100 pounds overweight, that's a fallacy. They’re fighting genetics, they’re fighting hunger. Our bodies have no mechanism to lose weight," Brengman said.

Brengman said there will now be requirements on training and ongoing medical education for doctors. He adds those doctors will get a comprehensive education on what causes obesity and current treatments and what’s on the horizon.

Some critics believe calling obesity a disease could add stigma and prevent obese people from seeking treatment. Dr. Brengman said doctors who work hand in hand with patients on weight loss can help prevent more serious conditions like diabetes

“We’re not using hundreds of units of insulin or having four to five drugs for high blood pressure. You’re not treating breast or prostate cancer. We can prevent these costs,” Brengman added.

Lewis said whether you call it a disease or not, the bottom line is it takes hard work to get to your goal. It’s something she’ll think about every step of the way.

“I just want to look like on the outside what I feel like on the inside, " Lewis said.