I was chatting to another Lazy Runner the other day and the talk got on to obesity and what a problem it is in Australia. She made a relevant comment on how she thought the medical professional and other health workers seem to be hesitant to take a strong stand on the issue when dealing with obese patients or clients. And I do agree with her, it got me to thinking!!
Latest figures have Australia as the fattest nation in the world. With, over 4 million of us overweight or obese, that is 60% of the population. And of those fatties 123,000 of them will die over the next 20 years purely from the complication of their obesity. The diseases most likely to get them are heart disease, stroke and complications of diabetes.
Obesity is the leading preventable cause of premature death in the world!
And believe it or not obesity has just topped smoking as the most preventable cause of death in Australia. A recent study in WA showed that the diseases caused by obesity are now at over 8% and smoking is slowly decreasing and sits a 6.8%, and it is estimated these figures are probably true Australia wide.
And yet look how differently we treat smokers to overweight people. Smokers claim they have been ostracised , abused, out cast from society for their bad habit…however, obese and overweight people are shown empathy and society seems to accept and even encourage their bad habit.
Both health risk groups put things knowingly into their mouths that may eventually kill them.
If you go to a doctor and he/she finds out you are a smoker, a stern lecture would ensue in fact in a lot of cases you are refused treatment and surgery in hospital unless you have butted out, which is rightly enforced.
Now don’t start a hollering at me...I’m not saying we (normal average, everyday people) be mean, laugh at , bully or ostracise overweight people, or even try to advise them, but the medical profession or the health departments do not seem to take a really strong stand on our growing obesity crisis. I know it is a sensitive issue, but is it really going to go away by tip toeing around it.
Just compare the way Australia deals with both of these major health hazards
Cigarettes very expensive-
Bad rubbishy food- cheap as chips (pardon the pun). Fizzy drinks are cheaper than water, packaged chips are cheaper than fruit
Cigarettes- you cannot buy super dooper packs anymore
Fast food- Supersize Me! The bigger the better and cheaper
You can only smoke in designated areas
Fast food- consume it everywhere, anytime,
Cigarettes- graphic ugly images on pack
Fast food- gorgeous, slim, young ones eating and drinking rubbish and never gaining weight- yeah right!!
No cigarette advertising allowed
Junk food- ads are everywhere... TV (even during kids programming) billboards, magazines, newspapers, sporting events
Quit campaign is one of the biggest and most successful for the reduction in smoking in Australia
Fat campaign- What fat campaign? Life be it it??
So I’m asking ‘ Is it our tolerance or pity that lets people think it’s ok or not too bad to overeat, eat poorly be inactive and be fat?;…if societies tolerance was lower (as in smoking) would overweight or obese people be more inclined to do something about their weight. For instance, we grow out of our clothes, just go to plus size department, I’ve even heard that airlines are going to make bigger seats due to the increase in the populations weight...is that the answer, just make everything bigger?
Now I’m not saying we go out trying to help fat people lose weight, I’m more wondering if the doctors and health departments could be doing more...
Let me tell you about my doctor in my home town, he made Doc Martin look like Mother Theresa, or for the other side of the Atlantic, Dr House look like Mary Mckillop!
He was the family doctor since I was a child, so he had looked after my mother for years, and then me, and then my children.
Visits to him were usually always under 15 mins in duration, as little verbal communication as possible, and you were never in the room for more than 2 mins before he had you up on the table and 'having a poke around’ his medical terminology not mine. He only ever told you as much as he thought you should know, however, there was something comforting about the way he took charge and if he told you were going to be alright you were, and if you were gunna die he would tell you that too.
I remember when I was having my second child, Jonny.
When I was six months pregnant, I felt bad, real bad. I was still working as a nurse, I had three months to go and I felt like I was ready to drop! I had a bad back, puffy ankles, shocking indigestion, always tired, no energy…it was not good.
At my 6 monthly check up I sat in the waiting room with a list of my symptoms, and I was convinced that Doc would, tell me to finish up work, lie on the couch and rest for the next three months, get waited on hand and foot and eat as much comfort food as possible (well maybe the last two would be pushing it a tad).
I lumbered in to the Docs surgery , he looked at the list, looked at me, told me to get up on the bed, (you know for the poke around), when he finished, I said to him,
‘Give it to me straight doc I can handle it’ , he just said two words
My God I couldn’t of been more shocked if he slapped me with his stethoscope.
‘I’m having a baby’ I cried in indignation,
He then proceeded to pinch mounds of my flesh, like on my back and he said
‘Is this baby?’. Then on my legs ‘Is this baby?’
'No' I whimpered.
‘Just because you are having a baby doesn’t give you a license to eat and drink for two, you have gained more than enough weight for not just one but two pregnancies. This is what you are going to do, you are not going to gain one more kilo for the rest of this pregnancy’
‘What? My baby will starve’
‘He wont starve, he will just live off all that other fat you are carrying around’
He told me that all my symptoms were coming from my obesity and they would only escalate if I didn’t do something about it.
As he pushed, or should I say rolled me out the door, he warned me, not one more kilo on my next visit or there would be trouble
I was shell shocked, miffed, embarrassed, angry…but after I had calmed down, I thought... come on, at least your baby is Ok, and he is not going to say those things to you if they are not right, or if he doesn’t care…but I still wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t seriously ill, but I thought right I will show you, I will do everything you say and I will prove that I’m not fat!
So I did. I started eating right, walking daily, continued to work and I never put on one more ounce through out the pregnancy, and guess what?...all my bad symptoms left, I continued to work for another two months, went full term, had a huge, healthy baby boy and got back to my pre pregnancy weight within a couple of months.
I know it is a hard, bitter, embarrassing pill to swallow, to be told you are fat. I think the most important thing is to stop associating the fat word with other terms like horrible, grotesque or ugly, they are just stating the truth..fat. It is a harmful condition and needs to be addressed, not so you can look like the skinny minis in the mags, but so you can live a long, healthy disease free life.
I think that tough message is the job of health professionals and health departments to be honest, pro active, and even lay down the law if necessary..........