By Dr Anantharaman, Consultant Endocrinologist, Magna Centres for Obesity Diabetes and Endocrinology, Bangalore
According to numerous studies & reports, more than 1.9 billion adults are overweight and 650 million are obese globally. In India, over 135 million people are affected by obesity. Obesity presents many medical and financial challenges for the individual, society and government. The problem of obesity can be solved by creating public awareness about obesity and its health consequences.
Misconceptions or myths about obesity can result in stigma and weight bias. Countering myths with facts and evidence has been proven to be an effective educational tool to increase individuals’ knowledge about a certain condition and to reduce stigma, and obesity is no exception.
Below are some of the common myths around Obesity
Myth 1: Obesity is a result of poor lifestyle choices
Fact: Obesity is a complex chronic disease with multiple contributing factors such as genetic variables as well as medical conditions. There is still a common belief that obesity is a lifestyle choice and that people become obese because they eat too much or exercise too little. This is not entirely true! Some people are merely susceptible to gaining weight owing to their genetic disadvantages. Obesity demands a personalised treatment model involving medical therapies and lifestyle interventions, just like other chronic diseases. The interdisciplinary team should consist of health care professionals, (including dietitians and physicians) working together to deliver optimal treatment.
Myth 2: Exercising will fix Obesity
Fact: Exercise has many health benefits; however, weight loss isn’t really one of them. Exercise only helps helps in losing 3% to 5% of weight. Exercise is important for maintaining weight once you shed a few kilos. Some forms of strenuous exercise can even be dangerous for obese patients, particularly if started all of a sudden. For some obese people, exercise isn’t suitable until they lose a certain amount of weight.
Myth 3: Obesity is always hereditary
Fact: When it comes to obesity, genetic factors play an important role. However, it doesn’t mean that inheriting some traits makes one obese. Obesity rarely shows a clear inheritance pattern when it occurs in families. It seems that in most cases, obesity is multifactorial, which is the result of complex interactions among many genes and environmental factors.
Myth 4: Obesity does not affect health
Fact: Obesity has an adverse effect on almost every part of the body and can hamper a person’s quality of life. Obese people are at increased risk for many serious illnesses and health conditions when compared to people with healthy and normal weight. These conditions include type 2 diabetes mellitus, arthropathy, arterial hypertension, dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, cerebral vasculopathy, sleep apnea syndrome, etc.
Myth 5: Eating less will solve the problem of Obesity
Fact: One of the main reasons for obesity is consuming more calories than the body requires, over an extended period of time. The most common steps taken towards controlling obesity are lowering calorie intake, increasing physical activity or both. Though diet and exercise are important aspects, several other factors also play crucial role in obesity. These factors are inadequate sleep, psychological stress, chronic pain, endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and the use of certain medications. It is unfortunate that people often forget about these when thinking of obesity.
Obesity is a complex disease and we still have a lot to learn about it. Due to these gaps in knowledge, people lean towards ideas that simply aren’t correct. Unravelling the facts about obesity from the fiction will help understand and manage the disease better. It is advisable to seek expert opinion from your doctor to address obesity at an early stage.