India is the land of Yoga, martial arts like Kalaripayattu. Fitness; not the term per se, but in its essence, has always been a central part of Indian culture. We have always espoused the belief that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Our forefathers lived simply and did not have to put in conscious efforts to stay fit and active. Indians have been regarded for their knowledge of healthy habits and foods.
But modern India has been exposed to a variety of luxuries like mechanised means of transport along with instant foods high on sodium and preservatives. Life has become faster and so has the degeneration of our bones and health.
We eat heavy and unhealthy, processed foods and then sit in front of the television or the ultra-modern gizmo- cell phones. We wish to visit some places in the city and we immediately start our cars or two-wheeler and zoom away into the distance without moving our bodies at all.
Life is comfortable in our modern, urban India, but for how long? One fine day we wake up writhing in stomach pain due to all the unhealthy food consumption. Next, we find ourselves physically unable to even walk a kilometre or climb a short flight of stairs without heaving and panting.
The weighing scale indicates a weight that sends us reeling into shock and we hate every ounce of our being for being incompetent and ugly. The rolls of fat enveloping our skeletal look repulsive. And here begins the vicious cycle of self-loathing followed by emotional eating and so on.
This is obesity: a problem that is not skin deep. It is a problem of habits; a clear depiction of lack of discipline and a haphazard lifestyle. Modern utilities developed for man’s convenience have morphed into addictions that are eating away at our mental and physical health. India and its youth are in grave danger!
Obesity in India – Statistics
According to reports, 135 million people in India are affected by obesity. A study by the National Family Health Survey in 2016 shows that obesity has doubled in the 10 years since it was previously conducted (2005-06). It is ironic since India is home to 24% of the world’s population suffering from malnutrition. However, this difference can be attributed to the polarity in the economic status of various households.
The families that have high income tend to suffer from obesity or weight gain issues at the very least while the low-income families, at the other end of the spectrum, find means to fill their stomach and maintain a healthy body weight that allows them to function properly in their daily lives.
The upward trend in obesity can be linked to the sedentary lifestyle of the modern day. Most millennial children possess smartphones which hog up their entire day and even messes with their sleep patterns. Add to that, little to no obligation of playing outside because they have so much to keep them occupied, indoors.
Schools in India are ill-equipped with infrastructure such that allows them to indulge in physical activities. Children find themselves cooped up in classrooms 8 hours a day, on an average. Apart from this, there is immense pressure from schools to complete assignments and other related academic activities which compel the child to stay indoors in order to keep abreast with the school curriculum.
Parents patronize the child to work harder at certain stages of their school life so that they may have a bright future, which again makes the child withdraw into his cocoon.
Stress-eating is also common among millennial. Teenagers and youth, today have to deal with extra pressures apart from the ones that are an inseparable part of growing up. Social media has brought a deluge of testimonies that show people having a good time in their life.
Many youths succumb to the false display of perfection and fall into depression. They foster an inferiority complex and body image issues, courtesy the airbrushed images on social media that they cannot love their bodies and instead keep on shoving down food to make up for the feelings of self-loathing. Food is not treated as a part of life; it is treated as the only means of salvation and happiness in life.
The biggest cause of this problem is not food or over-consumption of that food; it is the consumption of poisonous garbage that goes into the gut to give birth to innumerable toxins that flood all the organs of the body with diseases. India, the land that has always considered the body sacred and the source of all powers, has been degraded and continually weakened through disrespect for all things natural.
Parents who should lead by example also neglect their duty. They lessen their burden of cooking by bringing packed foods that can be cooked in minutes. Apart from that, any achievement of the child is rewarded with fast food which reinforces the wrong behaviour among them. Children do not understand the value of natural foods and the harm they are causing their bodies by eating all such foods from a young age.
Long- term Effects of Obesity
Obesity is a serious problem that can lead to other life-threatening diseases like heart disease, type-2 disease and, bone and joint disease. This can even increase our susceptibility to various cancers, especially breast cancer in women.
A healthy height-to-weight ratio is what defines a fit individual. If the body mass or fat is more than the required amount at a particular height, then this condition is termed as obesity. Body Mass Index is a formula that divides our weight in kilograms with the square of our height in metres. This gives us our BMI.
- If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
- If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal.
- If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
- If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.
Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:
- Class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35
- Class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40
- Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “extreme” or “severe” obesity.
These values remain uniform for all people and more than weight, BMI shows if we are healthy or not.
We have seen how obesity is a crushing blow to our health and needs to be worked on immediately. However, this is no way, means that we should be mean or judgemental towards people who suffer from this problem. Excess weight, if not obesity, is genetic. Certain other conditions can also trigger extreme weight gain.
These have to be kept in mind while treating obesity. However, those who have a skinny body type can also not have anything they like without paying heed to their body. Granted they may not gain weight, but their body will definitely react to the unhealthy elements entering into the organs.
Body-shaming is another trend associated with obesity. No one should have to endure insults because of a certain body type but the recent campaign against remarks on the body can also deter the drive to make people healthier. Being fat cannot be justified and should never be.
Being comfortable in your own skin is confidence but being confident and continuing to gain weight by eating everything is equal to suicide. The goal is not to become skinny or look like someone, it is to become a healthier person and eat natural foods that contribute to physical as well as mental well-being.
The biggest solution to control obesity is to allow children, after a certain point, to cook for themselves. When they understand their ingredients and see what goes into the food, they will start to appreciate natural ingredients. Each person should be able to understand their particular tastes in food and then make the dishes healthier.
An hour each day should be set aside for physical activity of any kind. The optimal time for this would be in the morning. Children, adults and students should take in the natural beauty and indulge in any activity they like. Children should not be forced to take up sports but should be taught to do any such activity which they enjoy and which guarantees their health in the long run.
The alarming proportions to which obesity has risen in India has been understood. People are taking steps to reduce their size but caution is advised when trying out various methods of doing so. No magic pill or tea can cure obesity in a few days. Sitting around and waiting for pills to work isn’t going to change anything.
On the other extreme, gymming is the new craze among people of all ages and the lure of a bodybuilder or model-like physique drives them to try steroids or other harmful supplements that give the desired results in a few months only to deteriorate the body’s natural strength and agility in the future.
Youths and gym-goers should stay away from shortcuts and try natural ways to get rid of fat. The fight against obesity does not in the desired body. It is a campaign that wishes to inculcate a healthy and happy attitude towards eating and living. Bad foods and sedentary lifestyle bring with them negative thoughts and self-loathing. Nothing can be achieved in life with a negative attitude and a tired and unhealthy body.
The age-old adage-“health is wealth” stands true in all centuries and eras. Nothing is guaranteed to us in life, so we should always cherish and value what we have. If God has blessed us with a melodious voice, it is our foremost duty to do justice to it by practising each day and honing that talent. Similarly, a healthy body is a dream for many and when we have been blessed with a fully-functioning one, we have to treat it with utmost care and devotion. This is where our soul resides.