South Africans were in a state of shock during the month of September when the latest national health survey, commissioned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), found that South Africans are the "third fattest nation in the world". Nearly two in every three South Africans are overweight, obese or morbidly obese.
These figures on the growing size of our population are similar to those of the Medical Research Council (MRC), which also conducted a study in 2003 on overweight and obesity in South Africa.
What's interesting, though, is that South Africans seem to be in complete denial about their weight issues. "What extra kilos?" I hear you mutter. "I'm perfectly healthy, thank you very much!"
Well, look in the mirror again, and look really close. What do you see? The time has come to be honest with yourself!
According to the GSK survey 74% of South Africans think their fellow citizens are overweight, while only 34% of people consider themselves as overweight or obese. Are you one of those people who are in denial?
Sadly, the majority of South Africans believe themselves to be healthy, even when they are overweight and obese. According to the survey 78% of obese people think they are somewhat healthy/very healthy, 52% of morbidly obese people think they are somewhat healthy or very healthy and, a scary 42% have no health concerns at all. Only 47% of the survey participants recognise that exercise/physical activity is critical.
The big question on everyone's lips is: why is South Africa so fat? DietDoc has attempted to answer this complex question in her very informative weekly article by citing 1) malnutrition and low birth weight, 2) rapid westernisation and urbanisation, and 3) physical inactivity aka The Couch Potato Syndrome as possible reasons. Read it here.
I would like to add another factor: people's unwillingness to take responsibility for their own lives and their health. Every day we read in the media about obesity and its serious impact on our health. Overweight and obesity have been linked to heart attacks and strokes and also pose a major risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and certain forms of cancer. The evidence is there, however, we remain stubborn! Somehow we convince ourselves that it won't happen to us.
It is time to take responsibility and own up to our own health. We all, myself included, can improve on our lifestyles by becoming physically more active and by following a healthier, more balanced diet. Start your journey to a new healthier you by empowering yourself with information. Learn to recognise the components of a healthy diet, how to makehealthy food choices and how to read food labels in order to know what you are actually putting into your body. And remember, healthy eating doesn't have to be expensive or a major effort. It's all about making small changes and getting back to the basics.
(Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Nutrition Newsletter, September 2010)