Get a handle on obesity

2016-10-05 06:00

OBESITY is a complex disorder involving excessive eating, a lack of exercise and the resulting high level of body fat.

Obesity is not merely a cosmetic concern, but is in fact a behavioural disease (Feeding and Eating Disorders, DSM-5).

Being obese increases your risk of other diseases and health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain kinds of cancer, while being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight.

Although genetic, behavioural and hormonal influences can be a factor in body weight, obesity occurs when you consume more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities.

Obesity is diagnosed when your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. Your body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.

For example, if you weigh 150 kg and are 1,8 m tall, first multiply your height by itself, which will give you your height in meters squared: 1,8 x 1,8 = 3,24 m².

Next, divide your weight by your height in square meters: 150/3,24 = 46,3. Compare this number with the range below:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18,5)
  • Normal weight (BMI between 18,5 and 24,9)
  • Overweight (BMI between 25 and 29,9)
  • Obese (BMI of 30 and above)

With the hope of raising awareness during National Childhood Obesity Month, Gert Coetzee, a pharmacist from Meyerton who developed The Diet Everyone Talks About, explains the reason behind the alarming increase in the global rate of obesity over the past few decades.

“Since the 70s and 80s, fast food has changed consumer buying behaviour drastically.

“There has been an unprecedented increase in these fast food outlets and the super-size trend was born. This trend is the fast food industry’s classic upsell technique.

“By offering a significantly larger portion, stake holder profit margins soar.

“A fundamental human instinct is to eat more when food is plentiful as a protection against starvation during the lean years, which is the basis for the super-size effect,” he says.

Since the late 1970s, portion sizes in both restaurants and the home have increased, but perhaps the most worrying factors are the significant leap in the size of fast food offerings such as soft drinks (the average size increasing by more than 50%) and burgers (moving from 164 g to 207 g) and the increased amount of times in a week that those larger fast food meals are being eaten.

Coetzee continues to say that there is a psychological reason for overeating.

“Today, in more and more households, both parents have full-time jobs, which creates a time constraint in terms of providing healthy, home cooked meals, as well as an increase in household income, making fast food, the quick and easy option which doesn’t compromise family time, more attractive.

“From a young age, parents reward their children with a treat, in the form of food, when they are upset or have hurt themselves. This conditioned behaviour leads us to comfort eating as we get older.”

What can you, as a parent or guardian, do to prevent childhood obesity?

  • Remove sugar from your child’s diet. Doing so will ensure their favourite dishes are healthier and the true taste of food comes to mind.
  • Reduce carbohydrates and provide fresh vegetables and healthy food options.
  • Help your child stay active. Inactivity may be a contributing factor in obesity, but obesity breeds inactivity.
  • 75% of overweight babies and children will become overweight adults, so get your child’s weight under control.

For more on childhood obesity and for an inspirational story, visit

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