THE WORD 'weightism' is a relatively new addition to our language. It refers to discrimination against obese, overweight, and even underweight people. This type of discrimination can take different forms, ranging from refusing to employ someone because he or she is too fat or too thin, to treating overweight and underweight individuals with disdain.
Research shows that even physicians take part in weightism just as much as the general public. In fact, even doctors who are overweight themselves have negative attitudes to their overweight patients. A recent study of 2,300 doctors found that most were biased against their obese clients, considering them difficult to work with and unattractive.
THE FAT FACTS
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been talking about the "globesity epidemic that it considers to be the greatest health problem of our times. It predicts that by 2015, there will be 2.3 billion overweight adults in the world, and more than 700 million of them will be frankly obese.
Diabesity is the new word used to describe the close connection between obesity and Type 2 diabetes. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of Type 2 diabetics worldwide has grown over 500 per cent in 20 years. Hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans are suffering unnecessarily from this largely preventable and curable disease.
Obesity also increases the risk of other serious health problems, including heart and circulatory disorders, arthritis, gallbladder and kidney disease, and cancers of the breast, colon, uterus, oesophagus, and kidneys. Medical experts have listed over 150 medical conditions related to obesity. Obesity and weight-related illnesses have now surpassed cigarette smoking as the number one preventable cause of death.
The more weight a woman gains, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer. Overweight women have a 30 per cent greater chance of dying from breast cancer than women of normal weight. In the United States of America alone, an estimated 18,000 deaths per year from breast cancer could be avoided if women maintained normal body weight.
Middle-aged men who are carrying a 'spare tyre' around their waistline have an over 30 per cent increased risk of having a heart attack compared to those who are just generally overweight. Women with a waist measurement of over 34 inches, and men with a waist measurement of over 39 inches, have an over 500 per cent increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, circulatory problems, infertility, and cancer than their non-obese counterparts.
Our kids are getting fat, too. In the USA, the incidence of childhood obesity has doubled in the last 10 years. Overweight or obese children have a much greater risk growing into overweight or obese adults.
FATNESS STILL EMBRACED
Despite this sad reality, some people and cultures still find fat virtuous. Historically, many saw plumpness as an indication of prosperity. During slavery in a country like Jamaica, calories were scarce, hard physical labour was the daily norm, and most people were lean and fat free. In that culture, a fat female was a status symbol indicating that she had plenty to eat and did not need to work hard. I believe that this connection of fatness with financial well-being persists today, particularly in less-developed countries.
One Caribbean survey revealed that of the people questioned 40 per cent thought fatness was a sign of happiness, 15 per cent thought fatness indicated wealth, and 10 per cent believed it represented health. (Cajanus, Volume 34, No. 3)
A CARING APPROACH
For decades, I have campaigned vigorously against obesity, but I strongly condemn negative behaviour towards overweight people. Understanding, compassion, and love are very important tools in the war against this deadly problem.
In association with the worlds leading weight-management company, Herbalife International, I and millions of wellness coaches in Jamaica and around the world have made it our business to fight against this epidemic of obesity each day. We employ several powerful strategies to reach out to our brothers and sisters in their communities. We offer programmes like personalised wellness evaluations, nutrition clubs, weight-loss challenges, fit-body challenges, and fit camps. I have been personally involved in training many of these coaches.
We offer not just the information, products, skills, and know-how to help you achieve your weight and wellness goals, but equally important, we provide the emotional support, the care, and follow-up that are vital to your success.
We do not practise or support weightism.
Our approach involves a nutritional programme called cellular nutrition that has been used with great success for more than 32 years with well over 60 million people in 85 countries. It is extremely safe and very effective.
The research shows that most people gain weight at this time of year over the holiday season. Make it different this year. Stop your 'obesity epidemic' now and create a healthier future for you and your children.
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at firstname.lastname@example.org or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.