By Sadhna Shanker
How many of us reading this article are struggling with weight issues?
Obesity has become a significant health problem in the world in recent years. As per data, more than one billion people worldwide are obese – 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents and 39 million children. WHO estimates that by 2025, approximately 167 million people – adults and children – will become less healthy because they are overweight or obese.
Obesity is normally determined using a ratio of weight to height known as the Body Mass Index or the BMI. On an average a BMI of over 25 is counted as overweight and over 30 as obese. You can go to the net to find a BMI calculator to see where you are on the scale!
Simply put, obesity is a condition characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat.
The causes of the obesity epidemic in the current times are changing lifestyles, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy eating habits. It can also have a genetic cause. Evolution too plays an important part in the effort it takes to reduce fat, and the failed diet efforts. In nature, food is rarely plentiful, so we evolved to store fat, and remember our levels of fat. The body fights to regain the fat it has lost, by decreasing metabolic rates or signalling the brain to eat more.
Surrounded by a world of abundant, tasty processed food, we spend hours in sedentary work, and mental health issues compound the obesity issue. The obesity epidemic brings with it a host of health problems including the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death.
In India, the obesity problem is also increasing rapidly. Nationally, obesity has increased from 21% to 24% among women and 19% to 23% among men between the fourth (2015-16) and the fifth (2019-21) round of the National Family Health Survey. Further, according to UNICEF’s World Obesity Atlas for 2022, India is predicted to have more than 27 million obese children, representing one in 10 children globally, by 2030. Obesity is a problem across all age groups.
There are several possible steps to tackle the obesity problem. At the individual level, for all ages, physical activity, such as walking, cycling, or other forms of exercise, coupled with healthy eating habits, including eating more fruits and vegetables, and reducing the consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods is important. Adopting healthy behaviours are not fads or crazes anymore; to beat the obesity epidemic they are a necessary change that individuals and families need to bring in their lives.
Schools can also play a role in addressing the obesity problem by promoting physical activity during the school day. Students can be made aware about the imperative of healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight.
As cities expand and restructure, including building more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, such as bike lanes and walking paths, and public spaces like parks will go a long way in combating obesity.
Sadhna Shanker is a writer based in New Delhi.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times