At long last the world is recognizing that obesity is a disease. If you suffer from the disease that is obesity then it should come as a relief to you to know that it is NOT YOUR FAULT.

The causes of obesity are complex and we now know that it is controlled largely by the subconscious part of your brain, the “hypothalamus”. The system that was designed back when humans lived as hunter gatherers in caves to prevent us from starving by creating a “Fat Mass Set Point” has not evolved and now gets pushed to store excess fat resulting in obesity.

Treating obesity can be tricky because the body continues to defend its fat mass set point.

Options for treatment include medical nutrition therapy, medications and bariatric surgery.

These all work by keeping the hypothalamus happy but whatever method you choose it is important to make sure that you are not hungry while you are losing the weight and that you feel satisfied. Hunger will only wake up the hypothalamus and cause it to fight back.

When we treat the disease of obesity, we are doing it to prevent complications– similar to our goals for treating any chronic disease. Treatment is lifelong, in the same way as it is for other conditions such as blood pressure or diabetes.

If you have lost weight in the past and regained it, it is important to know that this was not your fault. It was the disease itself which pushed you back up to your fat mass set point and possibly added a little bit extra just in case you were to “starve” again.

The Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity @ICPObesity is a patient led organisation advocating and providing support for people living with obesity.

If you would like to discuss weight management options with your doctor, we would be happy to help you on your journey.

Dr Sharon McDonald is a member of the The Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland and is certified by the World Obesity Federation.