I have always been ‘just a little bit fat’. I am often told that I am ‘well-built’, ‘solid’ or ‘slightly chubby’. The truth is, I am overweight. And being overweight is a choice for me, since I do not have any medical reason for weight gain. I am the one who is in control of my weight. I am the one who over-indulges in wonderful, albeit healthy food and who stopped exercising after the birth of my daughter. I am not a victim. If a person wants to call me fat, that is fine by me.
For the past few decades, we have heard that fat is ugly and thin is beautiful. Now, we are starting to realise that larger people can be just as attractive and that most people do not fit the standards of a model-tastic bikini figure. Every body type is beautiful and every person has their flaws. However, in the process of claiming to be the owners of ‘real bodies’, we should remember one important fact. Being obese is not healthy.
There is a difference between being overweight and being obese. Obesity means having too much body fat while overweight means weighing too much and the weight may come from muscle, bone, and / or body water. But like obesity, being overweight can be due to an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation.
This should not simply be a problem of appearance. Excessive fat poses a serious health risk which is linked to several medical problems including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea, reproductive problems and gallstones, amongst other things.
There are some medical conditions associated with obesity, such as low thyroid function and polycystic ovary syndrome. Increased weight can result from certain medications. But realistically, most people who gain excessive body fat do so because of a combination of any of the following: over eating, following an unhealthy diet, and under exercising. Although genetics and emotional issues do come into play, it is a fact that being more physically active and eating sensibly will control a person’s weight.
According to WHO, a crude population measurement of obesity is the body mass index (BMI), a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (in metres). A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight. A person with a BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese. Sadly, Malta is ranked amongst the highest levels of obesity in Western Europe.
Steps can be taken to improve health and adopting these steps is a lifestyle choice we can make. It is never acceptable to demoralise a person because of his or her body weight or shape. And it is for this exact reason that I do not label people with different bodies to my own. We tend to see that the labelling goes both ways. Thin, fat, wrinkly, athletic or flabby – we should take care of our bodies and love ourselves no matter what our shape is.