Obesity: not a 'self image' problem – Greg Stevens – The Kernel

My recent article, You eat too much, elicited strong emotional reactions from many readers. The letters and comments still flooding in that express outrage and anger at the article follow two main themes I think are worth addressing.

The first is what I will call “special cases”. What about people who are on medication that cause weight gain? What about people who are injured in an accident? What about people who binge-eat in their sleep and don’t even realize it? Does it really make sense to blame them them for being overweight?

The people who point out these special circumstances are doubtless very well-intentioned. But I think the reflexive tendency to focus on these anecdotal stories is unhelpful.

Look at the numbers for a moment. Over 35 per cent of Americans are obese. Do you really believe that all, or even most, of these individuals fall into these “special case” scenarios? Are they all sleep-eating, or on special medications that cause weight gain? Is it not more likely that even when you factor out people with such “special circumstances”, there are still a large number of people left over who simply have bad habits?

I understand that the people who focus on special cases mean well, because they are trying to introduce nuance into the conversation. They are trying to say: “Don’t paint with a broad brush!”

But by chronically focusing on special case exceptions, rather than personal responsibility, these stories become the excuses that every obese person can latch on to. Every person then imagines him or herself as a “special case” and declares: “Why even bother? It’s out of my control!”

For most people, that is simply not the case.

The second theme is “I struggle with being pudgy”. Many people shared their own stories about growing up as pudgy kids, and always trying to eat right and exercise, and yet nothing seemed to help. These were sincere and emotional stories from people who have battled their entire lives to “lose that last 10-20 pounds”.

They were offended by statements in my article such as: “If you want to make a change, put down the ice cream scoop and pick up a gym membership. It really is that simple.” They wrote to tell me from their own experience: they know it isn’t “that simple”.

I completely understand the frustration that many people feel, battling their entire lives to get into better shape, and often never seeing the results that they want. Many people I know – perhaps most people I know – have lived their entire lives with the quiet desperation of not being completely satisfied with their physical self-image.

But let’s be clear: that is not what this article is about.

The article “You eat too much” is about obesity. Obesity is not “feeling a little fat”. It is not the pudgy little girl who can’t seem to lose that last 10 pounds. It is not the person who works out every day, and counts calories, and still just can’t fit into those 32-inch waist jeans.

There is a huge difference, both psychologically and literally, between someone who “can’t lose that last 10 pounds” and someone who is obese.

When talking about chronic dissatisfaction, seeing yourself as “slightly overweight”, then all of the complexities of issues like self-acceptance and cultural standards of beauty become very important. But that’s not the case with obesity.Obesity is not about self-image, and it is not about whether one can be both “round and sexy”.

It’s about being dangerously, medically overweight.

Perhaps this issue is so sensitive that no amount of clarity would be “clear enough” to prevent this misunderstanding. If that is the case, then that is part of the problem with our culture.

But if we allow people to conflate obesity with “being a little overweight”, then we will never be able to have a serious conversation that addresses obesity for what it is: a serious medical issue that requires changes in behaviour before and above all else.

NOW READ: You eat too much

Forget the gym: You could avoid diabetes by getting up to chat to a colleague

  • Cutting the time people spend sitting down by 90 minutes a day could reduce Type 2 diabetes risk
  • Scientists in Leicester suggest physical activity advice should be amended as a consequence

Jenny Hope and Emma Innes

09:03 EST, 28 February 2013


09:03 EST, 28 February 2013

Being less sedentary all the time could be more beneficial than going to the gym, claim scientists

Being less sedentary all the time could be more beneficial than going to the gym, claim scientists

Forget the gym – getting up from your desk to chat to a colleague a few times a day may be all that is required to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

New research suggests people at high risk of developing diabetes may be able to escape the condition by cutting the time they spending sitting down by 90 minutes every day.

Consequently, official advice recommending 150 minutes of physical activity each week should be amended to encourage people to be less sedentary all the time, say studies from Leicester University.

They found important risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels, improved far more in people told to sit less, compared with those doing required amounts of exercise.

Research leader Joseph Henson said: ‘These studies provide preliminary evidence that sedentary behaviour may be a more effective way to target the prevention of Type 2 diabetes, rather than just solely focusing on physical activity.

‘Moreover, sedentary time occupies large portions of the day, unlike moderate to vigorous physical activity.’

Type 2 diabetes mostly affects middle-aged people and occurs when the body gradually loses the ability to process blood sugar, leading to high levels which can damage body organs and years of ill-health.

It is strongly linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.

Patients from two studies on activity levels and diabetes were investigated by a team from the Diabetes Research Unit at Leicester University.

The patients, who were at high risk of developing diabetes, ranged in age from early 30s to late 60s.

The team examined the extent to which sedentary time, breaks in sedentary time, vigorous exercise and total physical activity were linked with cardiometabolic risk factors in a population with known risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

These include blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Those who spent longer sitting down had risk factors that were 'detrimentally' linked to diabetes

Those who spent longer sitting down had risk factors that were ‘detrimentally’ linked to diabetes

They found those who spent longer periods of time sitting had risk factors that were ‘detrimentally’ linked to diabetes whatever their age.

Sedentary time had stronger links with negative scores than improvements brought about by vigorous exercise, says a report in Diabetologia (The journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).

Mr Henson said the research suggested that cutting sitting time by 90 minutes a day would significantly help people at risk.

‘Along with messages related to accumulating at least 150 min per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which form the cornerstone of diabetes prevention programmes, such interventions may be more effective still if individuals are further encouraged to simply sit less and move more, regardless of the intensity level,’ he added.

There is growing evidence which suggests too much sitting – as opposed to insufficient activity – may be a new risk factor for premature death and illness.

The study comes after US research showing office workers who sit for more than four hours a day are at greater risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

It found those sitting for at least six hours were significantly more likely to have diabetes.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: ‘This study adds to the extensive evidence that spending a lot of time sitting or lying down is linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and that being more physically active can help to reduce this risk.

‘The suggestion that time spent sitting or lying down may be a more important indicator of poor health than a lack of moderate or vigorous exercise is interesting. However, this is not yet confirmed and must be proven with further research.

‘What is clear is that anyone who spends a lot of time sitting or lying down could benefit from spending more time being physically active, regardless of the type of activity involved.

‘Finding activities that you enjoy and can incorporate into your daily life, such as walking, gardening, DIY or housework, is the best way to achieve this.’ 

Hard Candy Fitness: Madonna opens new gym in Mexico

The Queen of Pop, known for her love of exercise and her toned physique, has just opened her first Hard Candy gym in Mexico, treating a selected group of members to a dance class with her at the launch event.

The name is taken from her 11th studio album and is, she said, the perfect combination of “hard body” and “eye candy”.

“It’s a sexy name that gives you the opportunity to have fun and to build strength as far as the imagination will allow,” the 52-year- old fitness fanatic said.

With her bulging biceps and veiny hands — and witihout the slightest hint of fat adorning her toned and trim body — Madonna has been scrutinitzed in the past for taking her rigorous exercise and diet regime too far.

Interestingly, just as the singer is planning to open a series of new gyms, she was recently quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “No more pumping iron, no more Stairmaster, no more treadmill. I’m gym-free. I’m liberated!” Hardly the best publicity for her new business venture.

She apparently still follows a gruelling six-days-a- week fitness regime, but the focus has shifted to Ashtanga yoga, which is an aerobic form of power yoga, and pilates. The star said: “I mix it up – Pilates, yoga. I do it six days a week. Actually, Sunday is horse riding. There is no such thing as a day off.”

Being such a yoga devotee, it is no surprise that tremendous effort has gone into training the yoga instructors in different styles, inspired by the knowledge she has gained during her travels. The yoga room will also be equipped with a special wall used in Iyengar yoga, with ropes and steps to help people who are not so physically agile. There will also be a balcony with plants and Zen-like decor.

Madonna’s involvement in designing the concept was very hands-on and she “chose the graphics, colours, the machines. She has weighed in on the choreography of all the classes and given them a twist to make them more dynamic, more special and to better reflect her style,” said Chris Dedicik, who helped her created the gym.

The monthly membership is 2,000 pesos a month, about $160, and is in the same price category as the best gyms in Mexico City.

Read here about why celebrities love yoga.

Images: reallyrich.com and madonnascrapbook.blogspot.com

Ride a bike for a svelte figure

A recently conducted study has revealed that riding a bike for five minutes on regular basis can help younger females keep extra pounds at bay. According to www.inform.com, this might prove out to be a potential and relatively easy way to lose weight. The study was conducted by a panel of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The report suggests that the more women ride a bike the more they are likely to lose weight. However, the time of riding the bike should be increased gradually. As per the researchers women should replace diving car or walking by bike riding in their daily routines.

As per www.uk.news.yahoo.com, the team of researchers studied about 18,414 women who were still in their young phase and had not experienced menopause. At the end of the study it was found that women who rode a bicycle for two to three hours in a week were at 56 percent lesser risk of putting on weight.

“Unlike discretionary gym time, bicycling could replace time spent in a car for necessary travel of some distance to work, shops or school as activities of daily living,” the researchers added “Bicycling could then be an unconscious form of exercise because the trip’s destination, and not the exercise, could be the goal.”

Celebrities who have had weight issues include John GoodmanOprah WinfreyKirstie AlleySara Rue and Sharon Osbourne.

Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/818582,