Op-Ed

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While it can impact your life obesity can in many cases be reversed

Last week a retired Canadian navy seaman won his appeal to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, and will now begin receiving disability payments for the effect his obesity has had on his quality of life.

The former seaman won his case after being able to prove that his chronic high blood pressure, related to an almost doubling of his weight during his time in the Navy, was at least partly due to the poor quality food served to him while onboard Navy vessels, as well as injuries suffered in service that limited his ability to exercise.

While being overweight or obese does have a negative impact on one’s life, it shouldn’t be considered a disability because in many cases it can be overcome.

This isn’t the first time that a judicial body has ruled that obesity is a disability. In 2014, the European Court of Justice stipulated that employers would have to make changes to accommodate employees whose weight impacted how they were able to do their job.

While obesity is commonly linked to a sedentary lifestyle or overeating, it can also come about as a result of stress, eating disorders or certain thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism, which affects two per cent of people according to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada.

Putting obesity under the category of disability implies that the person suffering from it has little control over their condition and will be stuck with it forever. This might be the case with other disabilities such as blindness or the loss of limbs, but for many people suffering from obesity they can often reverse the effects of their condition.

The cases where obesity is due entirely to an unchangeable condition are few and far between. In the case of poverty people can be limited by the amount of healthy food they can afford or the time they have to workout, making it more difficult to lose weight. For most cases of obesity, the individual can change their lifestyle and habits in a way to help better their quality of life.
It might not be easy but if obesity is linked to stress then counselling sessions are available. If it’s linked to a sedentary lifestyle, then the problem can be solved with a pair of running shoes and healthier snack choices.

Obesity can impact your life, but people can also overcome it if that’s their goal. There needs to be a greater focus on improving the lives of people with obesity, rather than just accepting that it’s a problem that will be solved with a few cheques.