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World Obesity Day: Expert decodes the right way to address the epidemic

Here's how to combat obesity the right way

On World Obesity Day, Dr Vineet L Rao shares the key points that you need to know while addressing an epidemic like obesity.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : March 4, 2021 9:31 AM IST

According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is defined a the "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health." It is an epidemic that has affected 800 million people around the world. It is expected to increase by 60 per cent over the next decade, reaching 250 million by 2030.

Obesity is not a lifestyle choice, but a disease and a risk factor for other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer. It is even more alarming at times when the world is tackling the microscopic villain, COVID-19. The pandemic has only served to highlight existing challenges within our society as well as the urgency to address problems like obesity. Several reports have indicated that people who are obese or overweight are twice as likely to be hospitalised if they test positive for COVID-19. The roots of obesity run deep and most of them are beyond an individual's control. To address the issue at hand, we need a better understanding of the disease and better support of people living with it.

Obesity Is A Disease

Obesity is a serious disease that must be treated as one. There are many factors that can put people at a higher risk of developing obesity including biology, genes, mental health, access to healthcare and exposure to ultra-processed, unhealthy foods. Another factor that contributes to obesity is the lack of will power. It is essential to measure obesity, which can be done in more ways than one. One of the most common methods is Body Mass Index or BMI, which is calculated using your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. Additional measurements, such as your waist to height ratio can also be used.

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Tackle Obesity The Right Way

Living with obesity puts people at a higher risk from other diseases including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It can even put you at risk of certain illnesses like COVDI-19, which is why you must curb the disease before its too late. To help you do that, here are some things you need to know to lose weight the right way:

"Eat Less, Move More" Does Not Fix Obesity

People living with obesity are often asked to "eat less, move more," but there is more to the problem than meets the eye. Addressing obesity is not just a matter of diet and exercise. When we tell people to take this approach, we fail to address other important factors that contribute to obesity. Although physical exercise plays an important role in maintaining overall health, it is not the only factor that will help you lose weight. There is a need to encourage people, governments and policymakers to address the root cause of obesity.

Weight Stigma Is Dangerous

People living with obesity are regularly blamed for the condition, which should not be the case. Stating that obesity is due to an individual's failure and putting the responsibility on people living with obesity to 'fix it' is a stigma that people need to let go of. It can damage mental and physical well-being and prevent people from seeking necessary medical care.

Obesity is often driven by forces outside of a person's control which includes biological, genetic and environmental factors. A person's biology and genes can put them at a greater risk. Our physical environment can impact our access to healthy food, suitable medical care and opportunities for a healthy, active life. Our environment can also affect our mental and emotional health, which in turn can lead to obesity.

It Is Not Just About The Weight

Treating obesity is about improving overall health, and not just about losing weight. It is possible for a person with a higher BMI to manage their disease and living at a 'healthy weight'.

Childhood Obesity Can And Must Be Prevented

Childhood obesity rates have nearly doubled every 10 years, which can profoundly affect children's physical health, social and emotional well-being, and self-esteem. It can affect a child's academic performance and lower the quality of their life. It is often carried into adulthood, which is why preventing and treating the problem is vital to stopping a global rise in obesity.

(Contributed by Dr On World Obesity Day, Dr Vineet L Rao, Consultant - Physician, Jupiter Hospital, Pune)

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