End The Obesity Bent: Not Just The Stigma
Dr Georgie Talks
As we observe World Obesity Day, let us pledge to shed our stigmas along with few kilos
The world is fighting a star-crossed battle against the bulge. Over a billion adults are categorically
overweight and of these, as many as 400 million are graded ‘obese’ with all potential side-effects.
The problem is not limited to the more developed world; countries like India are also experiencing a
sudden spurt in obesity. It is no longer an urban phenomenon; even poorer sections of the society are
showing overweight or obese leanings, giving credence to the theory that malnutrition also leads to
As we observe “the World Obesity Day” today with the central theme being “End Weight Stigma”,
we are reminded of a few critical aspects about the global obesity levels which have gained epidemic
proportions. More than exhorting the people to shed undesirable behaviours and attitudes directed
towards individuals (only due to their excess body weight), I think the slogan is an ideal talisman to
remind us that to end “the obesity stigma”, it is imperative to tweak our messages and attitudes now as
well as to elevate the overall awareness and knowledge among millions who are tasting the fruits of
global economic growth.
Few issues worry me; many of us don’t even understand the difference between obesity and
overweight or know how to calculate the body mass index (BMI). Being overweight or obese can
cause severe health problems, leading to heart attacks, diabetes, osteoporosis and various cancers. The
fact that you are obese itself means that your quality of life is poor and you face a premature death.
Another worrying aspect is the increasing childhood obesity. Children are being introduced too fast
foods and sweets much earlier than nutrient-rich food, even in developing countries. They are no
longer active and the urban life is taking a toll on many of them. The youth is no different.
Regrettably, parents play a negative role in their inertia by exerting a meagre influence on their
lifestyle. As we see in this generation, genetics is also contributing to the weight gain among our
Young people generally become overweight or obese because they don't get enough physical activity
on top of their poor eating habits. Genetics and lifestyle also contribute to a child's weight status.
Families will have to change eating habits including more nutritious food (especially parents can be a
role model, eating healthy food and being physically active) and encouraging sports and outdoor
activities. We must inculcate good eating habits such as eating when (only) hungry and doing so
slowly, stopping the practice of buying food as part of your guilt or denying it as a punishment,
including plenty of fruits and vegetables in their food and avoiding all kinds of sugary drinks.
As I conclude, let me revisit the main theme. As a medical professional, I am distressed by the
glorification of obesity or overweight as “healthy fat”. Let me tell you that there is nothing like that –
you are obese and therefore unhealthy. Many of us in India consider the overweight individuals as
“those hailing from affluent families with plenty to eat and drink”. This is the stigma we need to end
as obesity is already known as one of the mass weapons of destruction for the human race.
Let us not extol this fact anymore.
Time has come to institutionalise healthy eating habits, nutritious foods and exercise and activities via
suitable public policies and education - from the earliest age possible.