In case you don’t remember your Latin, SALIGIA is a mnemonic device based on the first letters in Latin of the seven deadly sins. To provide moral guidance, the early Roman Catholic Church began classifying sins. The seven deadliest were luxuria (extravagance), gula (gluttony), avaritia (greed), acedia (sloth), ira (anger), invidia (envy), and superbia (pride).
In a controversial announcement, Dr. Hamish Meldrum, the head of the British Medical Association, cited greed—one of these seven deadly sins—as the cause of obesity. And he indirectly points his finger at several other related vices that result in excess weight—extravagance (reflecting a lack of moderation), gluttony (reflecting a lack of self-discipline) and sloth (indicating a sedentary lifestyle).
Dr. Meldrum rejects the “medicalisation of obesity.” He feels strongly that physicians should not take responsibility for solving obese patients eating habits by treating the problem with pills. Instead, he wants physicians to encourage patients to address their own eating habits—fewer indulgences, less gluttony, less greed and more movement.
“People like to put fancy labels that suggest things are a medical problem,” Dr. Meldrum says. Overeating becomes labeled a “hyper-appetite problem” rather than simply greed.
Is he right? When I look at my own experience, I have to admit that if I could have safely taken a pill that caused me to lose 62 pounds, I would have been sorely tempted. I say that even though losing weight with a pill would not have made my bones and muscles stronger, my back more flexible or my heart and lungs more efficient. In the absence of a magic solution, I did it the old-fashioned way: ate carefully and exercised regularly.
In the end, it may not matter whether Dr. Meldrum is right: the issue may be resolved indirectly. In England, the financial costs related to antiobesity prescriptions are rising each year, and the citizens may not be able to pick up the tab through taxes to pay for the medicalization of obesity. Will the same financial constraints be experienced in the United States? Will the cost of drugs become prohibitive because so many of us would require prescriptions?
What do you think? Is Dr. Meldrum on the right track, or is he unsympathetic because, judging from his photograph, he’s never personally had to deal with a weight issue?