Everyone seems to think it is very difficult to lose weight and keep it off, but I’m increasingly getting convinced that it’s tougher to live with flab than without it. If you are not fit, everyone — your friends, spouse, family, neighbours you don’t know, and even the strangers you don’t want to know — gets uppity and assumes they can tell you how to lose weight and take control of your life. In this fitness-obsessed world, the overweight are the new untouchables and it’s time the health and fashion Nazis prepared themselves for a backlash from the more amply-endowed.
The rumblings have already begun. The thinness mantra is actually a global conspiracy to slowly starve an entire generation, said a friend who has been fighting a losing battle against bulge for as long as she can remember. “It’s bad enough to have beautiful people in films and magazines remind you that your shape is all wrong and have family and friends tell you about new diet fads and miracle-working dietitians. I also have to deal with super-efficient colleagues who are in complete control of their life and diet and scrawny shop girls who smirk and suggest I try Size XXL or the maternity section,” she ranted.
“Even my dog barked at me when I buttered my toast and my maid clucked and said butter should be struck off the grocery list,” she whimpered over her frugal salad lunch. You are paranoid, I informed her kindly. “Think about it. You’ll soon realise that it is actually a global conspiracy to bring down food consumption and slow down the population boom. They want nutritional deficiencies brought on by chronic dieting to kill us all,” she said darkly. You are overreacting, I said placidly as I ate dessert and she sipped zero-calorie water.
I initially dismissed her arguments as yet another rant of a carb-starved dieter, but a major medical research released on Friday made me realise there was some truth in what she said. Obesity contributes to global warming as overweight people require more fuel to transport them and eat more food, reported the medical journal The Lancet on Friday. The problem would worsen as the population literally swells in size, leading to food shortages and higher energy prices, predicted researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
I was surprised researchers were getting funded for calculating how many calories obese people required (1,680 daily calories to sustain normal energy and another 1,280 calories for daily activities, 18 per cent more than someone with a healthy BMI) when they should be working on an AIDS or malaria vaccine.
They obviously got a lot of money and had a lot of facts to sprout to back their research. Thinner people not only eat less but are more likely to walk than rely on fuel-guzzling cars, lowering demand for fuel for transportation and for agriculture, which accounts for 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. There are at least 400 million obese adults in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects by 2015, 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and over 700 million will be obese. Already, 22 million children worldwide are classed as obese.
For most populations, the Healthy Body Mass Index — BMI, calculated by dividing your weight (in kg) by your height squared (in metres) — is considered to be 18 to 25, with more than 25 considered overweight and above 30 obese. For Asians, however, the WHO recommends that the range for healthy BMI should be narrowed to 18.5-23 kg/m2 because Asians are at the risk of type-2 diabetes and heart disease at lower weight.
So now the overweight have to live with the added guilt of accelerating global warming. My advice for Al Gore: It’s time to stop talking and start walking.