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Obesity – An “Acceptable” Prejudice

JSLS Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons
The Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons
Publication Date
  • Editorial


First_Last Section (V5_N3)#D1E5.qxd JSLS (2001)5:201-202 201 Modern society has placed a high premium on good health, a lean body, and comeliness. As a nation we eat better, exercise more, and seek a healthier lifestyle to achieve physical well being. A national consensus seems to exist that a well-proportioned body is a thing of beau- ty. It is no wonder, therefore, that obesity, a caricature of the beautiful body, has been responsible for ridicule and social ostracism. Not only have obese persons been sub- ject to ridicule, but that ridicule has been socially accept- able. Witness the many cartoons, movies, plays, and books where an overweight person has been made the object of mockery, often without any gesture of sympa- thy to counterbalance the prejudice. Ridicule of another human being for being obese, or for any other reason, is insensitive and unjustified. Concern about obesity should focus on its debilitating health consequences for the obese individual and for our society as a whole. Obesity, or the quality of being overweight, has been defined as being 20% or more above desirable weight according to the 1983 Metropolitan Height and Weight tables for a medium-frame person. Another measure used to gauge obesity is body mass index (BMI), which takes into account a person’s weight and height. Body mass index is calculated by obtaining an individual’s weight in kilograms and dividing that value by the person’s height in meters squared. Overweight is defined as a BMI ≥ 27.8 for men and ≥ 27.3 for women. Morbidly obese individuals are characterized as those persons more than 100 pounds above ideal body weight or those with a BMI greater than 35 and a serious comor- bidity or a BMI of 40 without serious comorbidity.1 Although the prevalence of obesity varies by sex and race, an increase has occurred in the age-adjusted preva- lence of those persons overweight within race/sex groups and overall. In the period 1988 to 1991, 33.4% of US adults 20 years of age or older were estima

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