Results from a nationally representative survey show Americans believe obese people lack the willpower to lose weight, The New York Times reports. The study, funded by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, shows people think that obesity is a more serious health threat than cancer—but three-quarters still think fat people are to blame for their own problems.
While the cause of obesity is scientifically known to be "interactions between the environment and genetics," this survey shows that outdated attitudes toward obesity still exist.
"It's frustrating to see doctors and the general public stigmatize patients with obesity and blame these patients, ascribing attitudes of laziness or lack of willpower," Dr. Donna Ryan told The New York Times. "We would never treat patients with alcoholism or any chronic diseases this way. It's so revealing of a real lack of education and knowledge."
The survey proves Dr. Ryan's statement, showing that 94 percent of obese participants had attempted diet changes or excercises to lose weight, but had no success, while 15 percent of them tried these changes more than 20 times. When you've tried something that many times without success, it's probably time to change your approach. Doctors point out that if so many people view obesity as threatening as cancer, it's silly to think people would be able to treat it themselves rather than getting professional help. However, Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist, told the Times that medical experts can often be as misinformed as the rest of us when it comes to treating weight problems. Apparently, doctors don't even study obesity in med school—that explains a lot.
We can see this attitude in action from in a Tweet from Dr. Jason Fung, which seems to imply that two researchers speaking at Obesity Week can't be trusted because they themselves are fat:
When even doctors believe that your weight says something about your intelligence or your moral character, it's no wonder that people tend to stay away from medical help for weight problems. And in the end, these studies show that we have a long way to go before the public perception of obesity and those who suffer from it is free from assumption and unfair thinking.