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Updated 28 November 2016

The fat of the land

Forget sky-high food prices and the credit crunch: South Africa is on its way to overtaking America as the world's fattest nation.

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Forget sky-high food prices and the credit crunch: South Africa is on its way to overtaking America as the world's fattest nation.

Nearly 50% of survey respondents say they're fat and 54% of all the respondents have never been on a diet. And 67% of them hardly ever exercise.

Almost half (48%) of South Africans think they're “carrying a few extra kilograms” they “wouldn’t mind losing”. And it's not their imagination. These stats tally with those of medical researchers, who say just under half of South Africans are overweight or obese.

While one in every two of us is wobbling down the street, a third (33%) describe themselves as “just right” and 8% as “overweight and I hate it”. Just over 4% think they are too skinny.

Where our stats come from
Business first: where did our stats come from? Just over 15 000 people filled in Health24’s Health of the Nation Survey, and the weighted results are representative of 2,5 million South Africans over the age of 20, educated to at least matric level, with a monthly income of over R4 500. If that sounds like you, then this survey is about you.

Are fatties social outcasts who have no friends, constantly listen to nasty remarks about their weight, and see a look of terror in everyone's eyes as they waddle down the aisle in the plane?

Men, women and weight
Oddly enough, as many as 72% of the respondents say they don’t experience any cultural pressure about their weight. By race, Asian/Indian people are most likely to experience cultural pressure about being too fat (11%) compared to the average of 8%. They are also most likely to say they experience pressure about being too thin (5%) compared to the 3% average.

And it comes as no surprise that women experience more cultural pressure over their weight than men do. The beer boep has almost become a status symbol among SA men.

Sixty-two percent of women respondents say they don’t experience any cultural pressure over weight, compared to 79% of men.

As many as 15% of Asian and Coloured women say they experience pressure about being too fat compared to 12% of black women and only 10% of white women. These people obviously never watch television ads, or read magazines.

The trends for men are different. Asian men are most likely to experience “fat” pressure (10%) followed by Coloured men (8%) white men (5%) and black men (3%).

And now for the really unexpected news: 54% of people in this demographic say they have never been on a diet. This drops to 34% among women and rises to 70% among men. Black women were most likely to say they had never dieted among women (42%) while 23% of white women have been on diets.

Meal stats
What do people's eating habits look like? How do you fare against these averages? Here are some interesting findings:

  • some 49% of people say they always eat breakfast
  • 13% say they don’t eat breakfast
  • only 37% of those who describe themselves as “too skinny” eat breakfast.
  • those who describe themselves as “just right” are most likely to eat breakfast (51%).
  • the “just-rights” were also more likely than average to be strict about planning meals (16%) along with the “skinny and love it” (19%) and “overweight and love it” (22%).
  • on average, 14% of the respondents were strict about planning meals.

Exercise stats
When you look at the revealing stats about the exercise habits of South Africans, it's not difficult to see why, as a nation, we're making the scales creak:

  • 20% of respondents never exercise.
  • A further 47% admit to doing so only occasionally
  • Only 6% exercise every day, while 8% do so five times a week.

The message is clear: before we wobble to a collective early grave, it's time to get out those walking shoes, cancel the season ticket at the local junk food joint, and limit our time slouching on the couch.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, October 2008) 

 
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