Friday, 20 February 2009


“Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” - English Proverb

The addiction of people to junk food and obesity is one of the new epidemics that seems to be plaguing more and more people in western-type nations around the world. Yesterday I saw a story on satellite TV news of a 42-year-old woman in Greece who weighed over 300 kg (660 lb)! She had not left her home for 11 years and finally she had to be taken to hospital by an emergency medical team (helped by the fire brigade) as she had an acute medical condition that threatened her life.

Although this is an extreme example, it highlights the problem and makes us focus on a health issue that will become increasingly important in years ahead. Obesity is defined as an excess proportion of total body fat. Someone is considered to be obese when their weight is 20% or more above normal weight range. “Morbid obesity” means that a person is either 50%-100% over the normal weight range and is sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health or normal functioning of the body.

Obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than they burn. For many people this means they eat too much and exercise too little. But there are other factors that also play a role in obesity, such as age, genetics, psychological problems, illness, medication, environment and gender. These factors are all collectively less important and less frequently implicated in obesity than the most common pair: Eating too much and exercising too little. As we age, this problem becomes accentuated as our metabolism slows down and even though we may eat the same as we did when we were younger, we put on weight.

One of the most distressing aspects of obesity may be the emotional suffering it causes in the obese person. Most Western societies place great emphasis on physical appearance, often equating attractiveness with slimness or muscularity. In addition, many people wrongly stereotype obese people as gluttonous, lazy, dull-witted, or all of these. However, more and more evidence contradicts this assumption. Obese people often face prejudice or discrimination at work, at school, while looking for a job, and in social situations. Feelings of rejection, shame, or depression are common amongst them. People should consult their doctor if they are having emotional problems related to obesity, or need help losing weight.

Even if you are within the normal weight range or even if you are less than 20% over the normal weight range, and you have a “potbelly” or “spare tire”, you carry more fat in and around your abdominal organs. Fat in your abdomen increases your risk of many of the serious conditions associated with obesity. Women's waist measurement should fall below 89 cm (35 inches). Men’s should be less than 102 cm (40 inches). If you have a large waist circumference, you should talk to your doctor about how you can lose weight.

Sensible eating habits, not drinking too much alcohol, avoiding fattening foods, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, regular exercise, reduction of stress, meditation, yoga, adequate hydration and a good social life all help to fight obesity.

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