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The Meaning Behind "Morbidly Obese"

Updated on October 16, 2019

You've heard the phrase "morbidly obese," but what does that mean? According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, morbid obesity is defined as being 100 pounds over one’s ideal weight, having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above, or a BMI of 35 or higher with an obesity-related health condition. The word “morbid” means that at this weight range, you are more likely to develop dangerous health problems.

No one likes the phrase “morbid obesity.” As one MyObesityTeam member put it, “Doctor could've left out the word morbidly … Ugh.” Another member offered alternate terminology. “I don't like the term morbid obesity. I know it's a health thing and all, but it sure sucks as a label. Today I am going to be 'Enthusiastically Fluffy' - while I would rather be 'Overwhelmingly Svelt,' I'd rather have a nice word to think of myself as during the process.”

For some members on MyObesityTeam, getting diagnosed as morbidly obese provided them with motivation to finally lose weight and have that term removed from their medical chart. “I guess the exciting news is that when I get down to a certain number that we can take that one ugly word "morbid" and not use it anymore,” said one member. Another member reported, “So, I have been diagnosed as morbidly obese. I have decided to do the sleeve surgery.”

Other members are happy to report weight loss that has removed them from the “morbid” category. “Found out I'm in the overweight category now instead of morbidly obese,” wrote one MyObesityTeam member.

For others, changing the diagnosis itself becomes the goal, more so than weight loss. “My doctor asked me what I wanted to weigh when I was done,” said a MyObesityTeam member. “I replied, I don't care! To me weight is a number. He looked at me shocked. And then I told him, you know what I really want? For you not to put in my charts morbidly obese! That's what I want! I want to be healthy!”

On MyObesityTeam, the social network for those living with obesity, members share a wide variety of experiences, challenges, and goals. Losing weight, getting healthy, and changing the diagnosis of “morbid obesity” are three of the most-discussed topics.

Here are some conversations from members on MyObesityTeam about being diagnosed with morbid obesity:

Can you relate? Have you been diagnosed as morbidly obese? If so, how did you deal with it? Share in comments below or post directly on MyObesityTeam.

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