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What is Obesity? (RETHINKING OBESITY Series Part 1 of 5)

high on life podcast obesity doctor obesity medicine obesity treatment sasha high sustainable weight loss weight loss clinic Oct 02, 2023

I’m excited to share my new 5-part series launching this month called RETHINKING OBESITY. Every Monday for the month of October, I’m going to talk about Obesity from a medical angle. We’ll cover what it is, how to talk to your doctor, investigations that your doctor may carry out, the pillars of treatment, and what anti-obesity medications are available in Canada.

For those who haven’t met me… Hi! I’m Dr. Sasha High. I am an obesity physician and emotional eating coach. I help women with the underlying physiology and behavioural causes to losing weight.

In the RETHINKING OBESITY Series, I aim to provide a comprehensive view of obesity from a medical angle, addressing key aspects such as its definition, causes, and the importance of treating it as a chronic disease.

There will be a new blog post each week in this 5-part series. More excitingly, you can tune into the High on Life podcast from anywhere to be the first to listen to this value-packed series. Trust me, you’ll learn lots.

This is week 1 of the 5-part series. In this blog post, I'll share some of the key lessons from the week one episode of the podcast.

What is obesity really?

Obesity is a term that may carry a negative connotation for many, but it's important to redefine our understanding of it. Rather than using terms like "obese" or "morbidly obese," we should describe it as a complex, chronic medical condition. This shift in language helps separate the person from the condition, reducing stigma and shame.

Obesity is defined as the abnormal accumulation of excess body fat that leads to disease or functional impairment. It's crucial to understand that it goes beyond physical appearance and is, in fact, a chronic disease that lasts for a year or more, impairs normal body functioning, and can be caused by various factors, including genetics, environment, socioeconomic status, and mental health.


Why Define Obesity as a Disease?

Defining obesity as a disease, rather than just a risk factor, has significant implications. It allows for government funding for research into appropriate treatment, ensuring that individuals with obesity receive the support they need from the medical community.

One common misconception is that obesity is solely the result of poor lifestyle choices, such as overeating and lack of exercise. However, obesity is a multifactorial condition with numerous contributing factors, including genetics, environment, socioeconomic status, other medical conditions, mental health, and psychology.

To address obesity effectively, it's essential to recognize the various factors at play and understand that it's not a matter of willpower or choice. The body's regulation of adiposity and energy balance involves a complex interplay of genetic, metabolic, and hormonal factors, as well as cognitive and emotional factors related to eating behaviors.

How to Measure Obesity

Traditionally, obesity has been measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI), which has limitations as it only considers weight and height. A more comprehensive classification system called the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) takes into account medical, mental, and functional impacts of obesity and is more closely linked to mortality risk.

In Canada, approximately 27% of the population is affected by obesity, with higher rates in rural areas and among the unemployed.

Health Complications of Obesity

Obesity is associated with a wide range of health complications, including a significantly higher risk of major depression, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, joint diseases, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. For every 5-point increase in BMI, there is a 40% higher mortality rate for cardiovascular diseases.


Obesity Treatment

Understanding the complexity and medical nature of obesity is essential for receiving the right treatment. It's not about following fad diets or unrealistic fitness regimens. In upcoming episodes of the podcast, we'll delve into what constitutes the right treatment for obesity.

Obesity is not a character flaw or a lifestyle choice but a legitimate medical condition with profound impacts on health and well-being. By acknowledging it as a chronic disease and understanding its multifactorial nature, we can pave the way for improved treatments and better support for individuals living with obesity. Join me in this 5-part series as we work towards changing the conversation around obesity and lifting the stigma associated with it. Together, we can make strides in managing this complex medical condition and enhancing the quality of life for millions of people around the world.

If this resonates, I want to share with you an exciting free event I have coming up in 2 days, it’s called Mindset & Obesity Medicine for Sustained Weight Loss. I’m hosting this live virtual event this Wednesday on October 4th at 7:30pm EST.

It’s geared toward women who want to understand the intersection between anti-obesity medications (like Ozempic, Saxenda, Contrave) and cognitive behavioural counselling to create your healthiest lifestyle and best weight. I’m going to answer all your questions about the popular anti-obesity medications drugs on the Canadian market, and how they can be used as a tool in a comprehensive weight management plan.

So who is this for? This is for you if you’re curious about weight loss medications and wanting more info before speaking with your doctor.

This is for you if you’re already on a medication, like Saxenda or Ozempic, but you’re noticing the hunger is coming back, the emotional eating is creeping back in.. and you don’t know how to manage it.

This is for you if you want to understand evidence-based pillars of treatment for obesity as a medical condition, from an obesity doctor and expert, so you don’t have to keep googling.

The event is totally free.

Again it’s on Wed October 4th at 7:30pm EST on Zoom. Head over to to register.

I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

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