ELYRIA, Ohio — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 42% of U.S. adults have obesity, and the chronic disease is on the rise.
Traditionally, obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater. However, BMI is just one way to measure obesity.
Obesity is generally associated with a greater risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
Doctors say we need to change the way we talk about and treat obesity and remove the stigma and shame that too many people say they feel after repeatedly failing to lose weight.
That is why Amanda Kiser says she’s sharing her story. The Elyria mom says she wanted to feel good, live well, and encourage others. She says if she can do it, you can too.
Kiser is a busy mom of two boys, working a high-stress job in children’s services.
“Caregivers typically don’t take care of themselves,” she said.
Kiser gave 110% to everyone but herself. Until one day, she decided enough was enough and that she wanted and deserved to feel good.
“It was last year,” she said. “I was playing with my kids and my knees hurt and I was like, ‘I’m in my thirties, my knees shouldn’t hurt. I shouldn’t be out of breath!’ and I stepped on the scale and I was like, ‘Oh my God I’ve let this get so far out of control.'”
Weight, Kiser says had controlled much of her life. She says she had been dieting since she was 10 or 11 years old.
She says she had tried everything except medical help. She had been reluctant to visit a doctor.
“I was like, they’re just going to tell me I lack willpower and that I should just stop being fat,” she said. “I was prepared for that going in there like okay I’m just going to leave crying — and I didn’t!”
Instead, Kiser says a visit to Dr. Reena Bose, certified in obesity medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, changed her life.
“There needs to be more of an awareness, not just by patients but by the primary care docs, that this is a disease state,” said Bose. “It’s not something that’s a choice by the patient. It’s not the patient’s fault.”
Bose says obesity is a chronic and preventable disease that’s treatable.
“We have great medications now because we can identify the pathways that are causing us to become obese, and altering those gut-and-brain pathways, altering your disordered eating, altering your behavior, and getting that kind of guidance can really impact how we manage obesity,” Bose said.
Managing obesity, she says is multi-faceted.
For Kiser, it meant working with specialists to learn about nutrition, portions, and exercise, and medication to help control appetite while learning these new behaviors and implementing them into her everyday life.
“It was just so relieving to hear a medical professional say it’s not totally your fault and we’re going to help you and not make you feel terrible,” said Kiser.
Another important part of managing obesity, says Bose, is something Kiser had already started: Therapy.
Kiser says it helped her see she was using food to treat trauma.
Now, about eight months since her initial visit to Bose, Kiser says she never thought she could get to this point; a place in her life where she truly feels good.
“I thought feeling like crap was the normal thing,” said Kiser.
Her new normal is feeling hopeful. She is almost 60 pounds down, maintained and counting — which she says has never happened.
But for Kiser, it’s not about what the scale says.
“No, I want my body to be able to do what I want it to do, go where I want it to go, and being healthy and around for my kids and showing them a good way to grow up,” said Kiser.
When it comes to anti-obesity medications, Bose says they’re safe and effective. She says the newer-approved meds are getting close to 15 to 20% weight loss over six months or longer compared to the older ones at around 5 to 10%.
The amount of time you’re on them varies and the same for the amount you pay for them. Insurance does not universally cover anti-obesity medication. Bose says the monthly cost can range anywhere from $10 to more than $1,000. She says doctors can try to find ways to work around that, but she’s hoping it changes soon.
In a statement, The Ohio Association of Health Plans, which represents more than a dozen member plans providing health insurance coverage to more than none million Ohioans, wrote:
“Ohio health plans cover both prevention and treatments for obesity in a variety of ways, including wellness measures such as incentivizing gym memberships and other healthy habits. Plans also cover a variety of medications to address obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Further, health plans are constantly monitoring the effectiveness of drugs as they gain FDA approval, including potential anti-obesity medications.”