Tuesday, November 07, 2006

'House' Episode Stirs Up Healthy Obese Debate

November 7th episode of FOX's "House" featured 600-pound man

Did you catch the November 7th episode of the hit FOX drama "House" which features the brilliant acting of Hugh Laurie in the role of Dr. Gregory House? My wife Christine absolutely LOVES this show and never misses an episode on Tuesday nights. She told me about tonight's episode and said I should watch it with her after seeing the previews because it deals with an obese man who is admitted to the hospital with a mysterious disease that put him in a coma.

Of course, the first thing all the doctors do is try to figure out why the 600-pound man, in an intense gripping performance by actor Pruitt Taylor Vince, got to be so sick and they immediately looking for correlations to his massive weight problem. The doctors start conducting tests on the obese man to see what is wrong and run into problems that actually reminded me a lot of my brother Kevin, who coincidentally also weighs 600 pounds.

Like Kevin, the obese character on "House" had difficulty having an MRI conducted because the table weight limit is 450 pounds. They got his "seven-foot waist" in the machine while he was still in a coma, but then he woke up from it in the midst of the test. Not surprisingly, he breaks the table as the doctors attempt to calm him down.

When the man is brought back to his hospital room, he tells the doctors he is all better now and that they should let him go. But they attempted to convince him that being in a coma was serious and they wanted to find out the reason why he fell into that physical state in the first place. Stubbornly, the obese man attempts to leave the hospital only to collapse through the front glass window of the hospital lobby after losing his balance on his way out.

The reaction from the obese man about his deteriorating condition is that people have constantly judged him about his health throughout his life because of his weight even though he claims his health was fantastic prior to the coma. The doctors keep trying to look at all kinds of theories about his strange health complications that don't have anything to do with his weight. But the obese man took great offense to being tested for diabetes because he considered that another "fat" disease and threw a temper tantrum flinging sugar water all over the place.

During an altercation with the obese man, Dr. House finally figures out the real reason for the coma had to do with cancer which they all conclude had nothing to do with what one of the doctors described as a "suicidal" weight problem. More on why that conclusion was dead wrong in a moment.

I'm so glad I watched this show because it was fascinating on so many levels. I really enjoyed the way they attempted to show that it is possible for overweight and obese people to be relatively healthy despite their weight. There was a time in my life when I felt that way about my health, even though I weighed 410 pounds. But the eventual damage I was inflicting on myself was going to catch up to me sooner or later! Thankfully, I shed 200 pounds and never suffered those consequences.

But this obese character REALLY reminded me of Kevin who actually pretends to think he is healthy despite being on a handful of prescription medications and in and out of hospitals for the past six years with heart-related problems. Is it normal to walk around as a 600-pounder thinking everything is peachy keen? Why do people who allow themselves to get this big get so angry when people attempt to help them? Don't they realize they have a problem that needs to be fixed?

The whole healthy obese debate was on display front and center in this "House" episode and it reminded me of the popular "fat acceptance" movement that so many overweight people have embraced as a way to avoid directly confronting their weight problem. Trivializing obesity by calling it a medical illness or disease, as was mentioned in the show, is yet another scapegoat that prevents people from losing weight. While you may not have chosen to get fat, doing something about reversing that condition is the responsibility of the individual.

One scene from this "House" episode haunts me even now when I heard the obese character declaring that he dreams about, loves smelling, loves cooking, and, of course, loves eating food and that he thinks he can't really do anything about. Being this overly obsessed about food is as bad a problem as being addicted to and hooked on the worst drug you can think of. Sure, drugs will kill you faster, but food is such an unassuming way to dig yourself an early grave. One of the doctors told the obese man, "You don't see too many obese old people these days, do you?" And it's true!

Obese people need to understand that people aren't judging them when they offer to help with their weight problem. If they get angry at this, then that's a pride issue that needs to be dealt with. I know it can be difficult to admit you have a problem with your eating habits because I've been there. But there are very pleasurable ways to rise above the criticism and do something productive that will help you shed the pounds while vastly improving your health.

I cannot imagine living inside of a 600-pound body and not feeling the effects of that. Nevermind the fact that you can't buy clothes at a regular store, you can't fit in a restaurant booth, movie theater seat or behind the wheel of a car, your mobility is severely limited, or any of the other bazillion or so problems with being that big. The obese man said he'd rather enjoy eating his favorite food than to have to suffer running 26 miles a day. This totally misses the point.

Getting healthy is not an overnight thing just as getting morbidly obese doesn't happen in an instant. But the road to getting better does start with that first step in the right direction. Getting your mind set in the right direction, following a proven plan for success, and then executing that plan is what will make weight loss come for just about anyone. If people want it bad enough, then they will do whatever it takes to get there. Remaining obese should NEVER be a viable option if you truly care about the future of your health.

What an excellent subject matter for one of the hottest shows on television to tackle head-on! I'm glad I watched this episode of "House" and would like to hear your thoughts about it if you saw it, too. Even if you didn't, let's continue this debate in the comments section about where it is possible to be healthy as an obese person. Can a 600-pound man be truly healthy from head to toe with absolutely no negative consequences to his weight, hmmm? I say NO WAY! While he may not have any visible problems right now, I believe he's allowing major problems to be cultivated from within that will catch up to him in very short order.

Oh, one last thing about the way this "House" episode ended. When they break the news to the obese man at the end of the episode that he has an inoperable form of esophageal cancer which will lead to his death, they leave the viewers assuming the cancer had nothing to do with his weight or diet. But guess again! You will recall this recent study I highlighted which found eating a high-carb diet actually leads directly to cancer of the esophagus. So, in essence, it WAS his poor eating habits that led to his demise after all, even if it wasn't a direct result of his morbid obesity. Ironic huh?

Where do YOU stand? Healthy obese or eventual demise?

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Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

The problem is when people wrongly ascribe certain illnesses to an obese person. Not all obese people have diabetes.

Is it healthy to be that big? I know when I was 473 pounds I was anything but healthy! I was heading down-hill in a bad way!

But obese people are 'people'. They are the ones that have to wake up!

The reason why there is some resistence - is because of the way we have been treated all our lives by arrogant jerks.

Help an obese people get healthy - but don't be a total jerk about it Doctors and health professionals!

11/08/2006 3:18 AM  
Blogger Sherrie said...

Your wife has fantastic taste Jimmy!

House is pretty much the only TV show I watch these days except I am currently watching Australian idol. For us, season 2 just finished so now it is just the long wait until season 3.

I was reading your post with great interest until I got to the bit about cancer and realised I don't want to spoil it for myself and had to stop reading!

Sounds very interesting I will be looking forward to this one!

11/08/2006 5:44 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Low-Carb Dave...I couldn't agree more! :D

Sorry about that, Sherrie! I forgot these episodes in America are a couple of weeks ahead of what you see in Australia. Let's just say you'll LOVE this episode.

Any more comments about this issue anyone?

11/08/2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Suzique said...

Maybe one point the show was trying to make, and it's one of my pet peeves, is that no, obese people are not pictures of perfect health, BUT not all ailments an obese person has is weight-related. Too often, doctors have a tendency to see a fat person and ignore the sinus infection, the earache or chronic headaches because the person is FAT, therefore the doctor hands him/her a 1,200 calorie-a-diet (low fat, of course)and ignores whatever is really wrong. This has happened to me way too many times, and it really ticks me off. So maybe the point was not that his cancer might have been caused by carbs, but that the doctors ignored any health problems that weren't weight-related. They didn't see him as a human, just a fat guy. Okay, off my soapbox now.

11/08/2006 10:13 AM  
Blogger mayablue said...

"Trivializing obesity by calling it a medical illness or disease, as was mentioned in the show, is yet another scapegoat that prevents people from losing weight. While you may not have chosen to get fat, doing something about reversing that condition is the responsibility of the individual."

Hi Jimmy,
This is a good point and one of the reasons why I'm glad that obesity is classified as a disease...even though you feel that creates a scapegoat allowing people to avoid the problem. This actually isn't true. Try looking at it this way. This classification finally opens to door to people so they can get whatever help they may need whether it's therapy, surgery, visits with a dietician, etc which people may not have been able to afford before or even knew exsisted. As you've said many times there is no one way to lose weight that works for everyone. This finally will give people more options to overcome obesity and become a healthier person. I've never understood why people look at those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and are more then willing to give them rehab programs, interventions, etc yet they look at the obese person and think it's all their fault and they should just be able to eat less? An addiction is an addiction whether it's food, drugs, gambling, shopping or sex that your addicted to.


11/08/2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger renegadediabetic said...

As I have commented before, I gave up on weight loss last summer because of the frustration of trying to follow the low fat dogma, which was NOT the right approach for me. I got mad about people telling me to lose weight because I had tried and failed. I just wanted to grab them and say "Do something about my cravings and I can lose weight." It took a two-by-four between the eyes -- type 2 diabetes to get me to re-evaluate what I was doing and change the course. Low Carb curbed my cravings and helped with both weight loss and glucose control.

11/08/2006 5:20 PM  
Blogger Calianna said...

The show highlighted an extreme case of obesity. And in such a case, yes many medical problems will very likely go hand in hand with the weight. Not always though - there's that guy in (I think) Mexico who weighed in at 1,000 lbs, and yet had no medical problems at all.

But the medical establishment will go after anyone whose BMI is in the "obese" range, totally ignoring any other problems you might have, because of the obvious problem you have with your weight.

11/08/2006 8:04 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Medical professionals should be educated in nutritional science to begin with. And they should read the actual medical literature instead of listening and believing soundbites and the colorful yet scientifically unteniable brochures Big Pharma provides them with. We need to get rid of this sheep mentality - medical professionals should THINK for themselves instead of mindlessly follwing the pack.

11/09/2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Hi, I am not, nor have ever been obese, if anything my body type has always kept me on the low end of the BMI index. I did see this 'House' episode and loved it. For better or worse I believe that people have the right to chose. Most people will pay lip service to people having the right to chose, but then protest when somebody lights a cigar in the restaurant, or puts a mobile home in an up scale suburb. While I might not like breathing that cloud of smoke, I would rather have to find another place to eat than take give up the everyone's privilege to smoke.

Its the same way with obesity. I feel that obese people have the right to chose to weigh whatever they want. They should (and for the most part do) deal the consequences of that choice. I believe that society should do what it can to decrease the cost they generate due to that choice, so long as it doesn't impinge on their liberty.

Educating people about the risks, encouraging people to take better care of themselves and helping those who are trying to lose weight are all great things. I feel sorry for those people whose self esteem is so low that they deride the overweight because it makes them feel better. (Unfortunately, I know a number of people with this problem.)

At the same time I despise the helpless attitude that surrounds weight issues. And the expectation that special rules should exist for people who are 'weight challenged'. You are no different than me. This is mostly a social phenomena, but it can still be frustrating.

Having said all that I'd like to close with kudos to everybody who posted above me who had lost weight. Both of my parents have struggled with weight over the years and I am glad to hear you made a decision and didn't ascribe to the helplessness that so many propagate about weight loss. You are living proof that weight is a choice, and not something we should just accept. Kudos.


10/31/2008 4:57 PM  

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