I'm reeling. There are turning out to be more reasons to stay slim (or at least below the BMI 30 level) than there are flavours in a sweetie selection box.
There have always been loads of reasons to not let yourself go into the elasticated waistband zone. Being able to buy clothes off the peg is one; ditto a reasonable level of physical gung-ho-ness; the fact that the world is bigoted against fat people is a problem no-one wants to share an aeroplane seat with; and of course there are loads of health reasons.
Here's a fine illustration of how fat can weigh you down: in the second-to-last episode of Biggest Loser SA, the remaining contestants had to hold up weights equivalent to the amount of weight they'd each lost during the course of the show (see DietDoc's take on the exercise). How they sweated and strained to hold up what was, just a few weeks earlier, part of their own bodies!
But what's got me jumpy today is a study which reveals that fat makes you lose your marbles.
It turns out that if you have a jiggle-belly in middle age, you're much more likely to get dementia in old age. Not just a little bit more likely: a full 360 percent more likely. As if it's not enough that obesity makes you more susceptible to heart disease and various cancers – now it turns out that even your brain takes strain.
But it's also true that obesity isn't simply a function of energy in/energy out (as naturally slim people like to sneer). 'Obesity isn't rocket science,' says Canadian specialist Dr Diane Finegood, exploring some of the reasons behind the worldwide obesity epidemic: 'It's a lot more complex.'
Health24 writer Carine van Rooyen tells us that around 17 percent of South African children are overweight or obese, and that undernutrition in poverty-stricken households – rather than eating too much – appears to be one of the issues behind this. Tell that to the 'just eat less' brigade.
It turns out pets are also suffering (though this is probably limited to wealthier households): at the Pets Obesity Epidemic Conference in London last month, attendees reported that pet owners' weight made it difficult for vets to serve their four-legged patients properly: '80 percent of delegates admitted they were reluctant to mention pet obesity and its dangers for fear of offending the owners about their own weight'.
Oy. This is going to have to be the year of cleaning up, for you and your family, right down to the dog.
(Heather Parker, Health24, March 2008)