Dr Janine V. Kyrillos Discusses Stigmas Around Obesity

The commonly held perception of obesity as a personal failing on the part of the patient is outdated and unhelpful, said Janine V. Kyrillos, MD, FACP, of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

The commonly held perception of obesity as a personal failing on the part of the patient is outdated and unhelpful, said Janine V. Kyrillos, MD, FACP, of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

Transcript (slightly modified)

Obesity is slowly being recognized as a chronic disease. How has this decision been accepted by patients and physicians?

In my own experience with my peers and with my patients, people still aren’t buying it. There’s still a big obesity bias, the thought that patients need to do this on their own, that it’s a lifestyle flaw. And granted, there’s personal responsibility, but all chronic diseases have personal responsibility. So it’s coming along very, very slowly—more slowly than I would have hoped.

What are the misconceptions about obesity that are the hardest to overcome?

That it’s all personal responsibility. That it’s a character flaw, that it’s a moral failing. Just quit eating. It’s so much more than that. There’s so many factors involved: genetics, and environment, and we’re learning about epigenetics which is a whole new concept. The preservatives in our food. A really cool study a few years ago where the … lab rats who are fed the same amount of chow and given the same amount of exercise are fatter than they were thirty years ago, so what has changed? It’s really fascinating so much of this is not understood and we can’t keep blaming the patient. Because first the shame and blame … does not empower them. And second, it doesn’t help them.