Robbie Owens for CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COMBy Robbie Owens

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Teresa Davis admits that her definition of obesity was once one best suited to sizing up someone else.

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“Big, you know… just can’t get out of the bed.  Obese.”  But, the married mother of two college aged boys would soon learn that obesity actually casts a very wide net.  “And when someone did tell me, ‘Teresa:  you are obese’, I’m thinking – ‘I can’t, no, there’s no way’.  But, I am.”

At 5’2″ tall and weighing 210 pounds, Davis is indeed considered obese.  It’s a definition that researchers say now fits one in three people in the US.  And now the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest medical group, has decided to call obesity a ‘disease.’

“It kinda scares me,” says Davis.  And experts say, it should.

“This leads to much worse problems down the road… such as diabetes, hypertension, degenerative joint disease, depression,” says Dr. Nick Nicholson at Plano’s Nicholson Clinic.  As a weight loss surgeon, Dr. Nicholson supports the AMA decision and says obesity is a complex medical condition.  Overcoming it, he says, it about becoming healthy; but, it’s not about being thin.

“These people want to cure their diabetes, they want to live longer, they want to get rid of their degenerative joint disease, their knee pain that keeps them from going to the football game with their children,  they want to stop taking 15 pills,” says Dr. Nicholson.  “They want their life back!”

Experts say obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.  Doctors also caution that the threshold for ‘morbid obesity’ is lower than many may realize.  Dr. Nicholson defines it as the “weight at which it is safer to have weight loss surgery than it is to remain at the same weight for another 5 years” with the accompanying medical conditions.

Check the CDC BMI Calculator

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With her cholesterol and blood pressure rising along with her weight, Davis finally opted for weight loss surgery and now believes that it will change her life.

“This is it, I’m going for it,” says Davis.

Still, for many patients, the AMA decision is largely symbolic.  The association has no legal authority to mandate coverage.  But, many doctors believe that the increased attention that obesity will receive has a result of the definition change will help put pressure on insurance companies to revisit their policies.

As for Davis, she hopes that losing the weight will help get her on the path to healthier choices.

“I’d like to set a good example for my kids.”

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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