Think about the last time you saw an obese person. Do you remember what went through your mind as you saw them walk by? Perhaps you empathize with them, thinking that they get a lot of judgment for being obese. Or maybe you thought about their diet, thinking they must like a certain type of food so much.
Okay, realistically, not a lot of people would think that way when they see a person afflicted with obesity–society is generally more understanding of obesity nowadays. However, it’s true that they’re likely facing a lot of stress in their lives, likely emotional just as much as physical stressors.
There are a lot of misunderstandings surrounding a condition that the World Health Organization considers a big threat to global health in 2019. Obesity is reportedly linked to Filipinos developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which account for more than 50 percent of deaths every year.
Obesity is categorized in individuals who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30, physically manifesting as having an excess of body fat. Individuals are also considered to be overweight if they have a BMI of 25 or higher.
Knowing facts vs. fiction – Common obesity misconceptions
Despite what we now know about obesity, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding the illness. Try to count how many people around you consider obesity as a disease–surprise surprise, it actually is. That’s just one of the misconceptions that we will aim to clarify once and for all.
Misconception #1: Obesity is a psychological disorder/behavioral problem
Many people seem to associate obesity with eating disorders linked with psychological problems such as anorexia nervosa, but it can’t simply be put that way. Obesity is actually considered as a complex disease, and could stem from, as well as cause numerous other illnesses including depression and anxiety. It’s usually difficult to pinpoint exactly what caused an individual to develop obesity. And that’s why health advisers focus on solutions that will help increase quality of life for those with the illness.
Misconception #2: Obese and overweight people are lazy and don’t like working out
If you’ve gone to the gym recently, chances are you’d rarely see obese individuals working out. In fact, it’s a common misconception that people become obese because of lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise. While it’s part of the reasons, obesity is actually an interplay of a lot of factors. Genetics play a part in this just as much as behavior and hormonal imbalance does.
Misconception #3: Drastic measures to cut food should help with obesity
It’s true that weight loss plays a big part in improving the quality of life for people with obesity. However, weight loss should be gradual and in a controlled manner. In fact, if anything, going into an ill-advised diet might have the opposite effect on someone trying to lose weight–conditions could arise such as hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, and even rebound weight gain. So, no, it’s not a simple cure-all for obesity to simply stop eating or drastically cut down on food. As with anything, moderation best exercised here.
Misconception #4: Obesity is only for adults
No, obesity can develop in children just as much as adults. Remember genetics? If children can be born with illnesses that they gained from their parents, they can also inherit conditions that predispose them to obesity. In fact, in the Philippines, trends have shown an uptick in children who are overweight–5.8 percent of children between 5-10 years old in 2003 were overweight compared to 9.1 percent of the same age group in 2013. Additionally, kids that develop obesity in their youth are likely to bring it along in their adolescence, along with health issues that come with it.
Misconception #5: Weight loss for obese people is just counting calories burned versus eaten
For people who want to maintain a certain weight, or for those who want to shed that extra pound in time for summer, they might obsess over counting calories and making sure that they burn more calories than they take in. Once again, it’s partially true, but it’s an overly simplified version of what you actually need. When maintaining a weight loss diet, you have to consider not just how much calories you burn, but also the quality of calories that you take in. Good quality of workouts would help, as well as avoiding empty calories and sugary food and drinks. Substitute your meals with low-carb, low glycemic index, high-protein and high-fiber food instead. And stick to water for now.
Misconception #6: The biggest loser is the biggest winner
In weight loss, it does matter if you manage to actually lose weight. That’s the be-all, end-all goal to manage obesity after all, right? Well, yes and no. Of course, shedding weight is always a plus for your health and your self esteem. But remember that with obesity, any progress is good progress. Getting off a few pounds from the scale means that much effort in your dedication to live healthy. Besides, as we’ve mentioned previously, there are also risks in losing weight too quickly.
Most of the misconceptions surrounding obesity revolve around wrong impressions that society has imposed. But as the adage goes: You really can’t judge a book by its cover. Just as well, obesity is a much more complex and challenging disease that requires mental rigor to overcome. After all, the best (and actually the only) medicine that one can take is determination in living a healthier lifestyle.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.