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Sunday, July 14, 2024

World Obesity Day: I am obese

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I am obese and am one of the people mentioned in this article on World Obesity Day today. I am among 68% of women in South Africa, who are overweight or have obesity. For men, this figure stands at 31%, while 13% of children under 5 also fall into this category. These figures are found in the 2016 national survey.

World Obesity Day

The country today joins the global community to mark World Obesity Day. The day aims to raise awareness and to improve understanding of obesity’s root causes. Actions are needed to address these causes. The associated stigma should also be tackled.
National Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla says, “The increased prevalence of overweight and obesity among people contributes to the onset of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer.”
According to the World Health Organization, obesity has claimed at least 2.8 million lives yearly. In 2022, 1 in 8 people globally, were living with obesity. South Africa is among the countries with the highest overweight and obesity rates.
On the Global Obesity Observatory Index, South African women come in at position 25 on this list (with obesity at 47.35%).

Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer

The World Health Organization says obesity is a preventable and harmful chronic disease. It has become one of the biggest health crises faced by people today around the world.
“Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer are currently the biggest threats to health and development among populations,” says Phaahla.
The 2016 national survey found that in terms of obesity, at least 41% of women have this condition with 20% of them falling in the severe obesity category. This is in contrast to men, where only 11% have this illness.
In 1998, the figure for women with obesity in South Africa stood at 27%. By 2016, it had increased to 41%. However, it’s interesting to note, that there was very little change in the obesity rate among men over the same period, with it increasing by only 2% over the same period.

Obesity is preventable

Phaahla also said that the words obesity and overweight are often confused and used interchangeably. But he accentuated, that they are 2 related health conditions with slightly different meanings.
“Overweight is when a body mass index (a value derived from the mass and height of a person) is greater than or equal to 25, whereas obesity is a BMI is greater than or equal to 30,” he explained
The Department further elaborates that women with obesity are at increased risk of miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, and induced labour. On the other hand, obese men are at a higher risk of developing cancers of the colon, rectum and erection dysfunction.

Obesity versus overweight

According to the health department, there’s evidence that interventions, such as improved diet and physical activity, can be used to tackle obesity.
It has the potential benefits to reduce the incidence of NCDs and its burden on healthcare spending, individuals and their families.
Minister Joe Phaahla has on behalf of the department asked South Africans for the following:
  •  to engage in regular physical activity
  •  to drink lots of water
  •  serve the correct amount of food to avoid overeating
  •  limit the consumption of  foods and drinks high in sugar, salt and fat and
  • snack with fresh vegetables and fruits instead of salty snacks or sugary treats.
Here’s another important thing to remember: Many people exercise day and night to keep fit and healthy, but it is important to know the 80/20 rule for weight loss.
“This emphasizes that nutrition contributes 80% and routine exercise contributes only 20% when it comes to losing weight. This means, as long as you don’t make healthier food choices, physical activities will do less to reduce obesity,” said the minister in a statement.
Tackle obesity with improved diet and physical activity
Employers have been urged to create healthy and productive working environments for employees as part of health and wellness programmes. This can include the establishment of wellness centres and also serving healthier food menus in their canteens.
Meanwhile, the NGO, Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa says the theme for World Obesity Day (WOD) 2024 is: “Let’s talk about Obesity And…”. The Foundation says it’s clear that the theme is open-ended as an indication to show that obesity is indeed complex and requires a good understanding of the factors that lead up to the point when an individual is said to be overweight or obese.
Merentia Van Der Vent
Merentia Van Der Vent
Merentia joined the media world in 1996 and in 2001, she took her first steps in the broadcasting world. In her free time, she likes to go on adventures in the city. She also likes to learn new dances, not that she is any good at that.

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