Some weighty myths

2011-11-05 17:43

Are thin people healthy? Are overweight people lazy? Dieticians tackle some common myths around the issue of girth

Thin doesn’t always equal healthy

Being thin is often equated with good health, while being overweight is regarded as unhealthy.

“People tend to focus largely on image when talking about weight but you have to consider all factors before deciding whether a person is healthy,” says Nola Dippenaar, a professor at the University of Pretoria’s physiology department.

“For example, a person can be thin and look healthy but if they smoke, drink, eat junk food and don’t exercise, they are unhealthy although this might not be visible,” she says.

“The inside of your body is just as important as the outside.”

Dietician Andrew Nkuna says the best indicator of a healthy weight is your Body Mass Index.

This is used to calculate human body fat by dividing an individual’s body weight by the square of his or her height.

“Body mass doesn’t only look at how thin, overweight or underweight a person is but also examines diseases such as diabetes that a person may be at risk for because of their weight,” says Nkuna.

The waist-hip ratio also plays an important part in determining a person’s health.

“The fat tissue stored in the abdominal area is the most dangerous, as the fat cells that produce hormones and growth factors can result in a person becoming insulin resistant,” Dippenaar says.

Fat people are lazy and greedy

2 “One cannot say fat people are lazy or eat too much,” says Dippenaar.
However, she says people who weigh more are likely to be less active than thin people.

“The reality is: fat hinders a person and as a result, overweight people tend to move slower as a result of putting more food into their bodies than they need,” she says.

Nkuna says: “The cause of obesity cannot be singled out to be eating too much.

“Other factors such as the type of diet and how frequently a person eats are also relevant.”

Only the rich get fat

3 Being overweight and/or obese is just as prevalent in poorer socioeconomic groups as in affluent ones, says dietician Catherine Boome.

“One of the ways income can influence a person’s diet is access to the correct knowledge of healthier food choices. Obesity does not discriminate between rich and poor,” says Boome. “Many healthy foods are inexpensive,” she says, “but it’s about having the knowledge and access to healthy choices.”

Dippenaar says: “Poor people who live in rural areas tend not to be obese because they perform more manual labour and walk more than those who live in urban areas.

“However, people’s habits change when they move from rural to urban areas where cheap foods high in calories are readily
available. Coupled with lack of exercise, this leads to obesity among poor people.” –

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