Recently I was enjoying some good old school reggae, when I heard Maxi Priest burst onto the air waves with the rhythmic “Hey Fatty, Fatty”. I was always under the assumption that unlike the U.S., many African and Caribbean nations held fat women as desirable icons of beauty. I paused to really listen to the words, only to realize Maxi Priest was actually berating her for being fat.
He belts out– “Hey Fatty Fatty, why are you behaving like that (go long so)? When you come to the party/club (dance) you do your own thing! You move your hips like they are on a hinge. You do the “round-the-world”, you do the “electric move”, you do the “water-pumping”, and you say you want to “bubble” with me. You walk down the road as if you are slim, because you don’t know that in town you are the biggest thing.”
As a young woman in the 70’s, I did the “round-the-world”, “electric move”, “water-pumping”, S-90 skank, and have rented a tile or 2 to “bubble” with my honey. These were moves that exert great physical fitness and cardiovascular prowess; so “fatty-fatty” was no blob!!
Reflecting on myself and the proverbial 10 lbs I have been trying to lose forever, brings the reality of obesity trends to a personal level. Obesity in America is a growing epidemic, and two out of every three adults are either overweight (BMI of 25 – 29.9) or obese (BMI >30). BMI is calculated from a person’s weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. Our kids are not far behind with one out of every three being overweight or obese. Yet it remains the 1000 pound Gorilla in the room that most of us are afraid to address in a constructive manner.
Costs: Did you know that as a result of obesity, more than 300,000 lives are lost each year, second only to tobacco-related deaths? It is hard to not know someone today who is suffering from an obesity related disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, asthma, arthritis, gallbladder disease, liver disease, urinary incontinence, and depression. The burden of these obesity-related diseases equate to $147 billion dollar each year in medical expenses. Ours is the first generation since the Civil War to also have a shortened life expectancy!
OK, Ok enough of the statistics already. Here is the kicker.
No Civil Rights:
Did you know that although there are laws to protect you from discrimination associated with your race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, disability etc., there is none to prevent a prospective employer from denying you a job because you are fat? Yes! There is no federal legislation that protects the civil rights of fat workers, and the only state to ban discrimination on the basis of weight is Michigan. The negative stigma of being fat has worked its way into every layer of our lives.
The Boomerang of Stigma:
It’s no secret that being fat is rarely good for your career. However, when your weight determines how you are treated, it becomes personal and a major cause of intense stress. Stress heightens your immune system and puts the body on full alert, increasing blood pressure, increasing blood sugar, and all the other chemical responses the body needs to fight or flee. Over time, such chronic stress can lead to all the aforementioned diseases associated with obesity.
To bring home this point, let me share a couple of real cases. A few years ago, a woman (whom I will call Janet Lindsay) applied for a grant-writing job with a small nonprofit organization in the Boston area. After a successful phone interview, she was invited to the office. Ms. Lindsay asserted that as soon as she shook the interviewer’s hand she knew she would not be hired. The interviewer made a big deal about whether they should take the stairs or ride the elevator to the room where the interview was being held! During the actual interview, interviewer made no eye contact with Janet.
In another instance, the unintended consequences of preventing teenage obesity have led to taunting of heavier students. They have also been made to feel guilty about their lunch choices, even if it was exactly what the thin kids were eating. Doctors have also been known to describe obese patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment. It is very important to note that if your doctor believes you won’t follow his or her instructions, then they will treat and prescribe very differently based on this assumption.
What Can I do? I am glad you asked!
With a society bolstered by technological advancement and lifestyles that keep us continually on the go, a few tips to stay on the up-side of the curve are:
- Eat less and move more. If you spend more than you make, you tend to stay broke. Use the same principle with your calories. Ever hear of too much of a good thing? Smaller portions allow you to continue with all your faves. Stop before you feel full.
- Stay in the present and avoid “mindless eating”. The robotic moves to the refrigerator late nights as you watch TV are disastrous to your waistline. If you are bored – get a hobby that does not include eating. Do not combine eating with other activities.
- Choose foods in their natural state especially for snacks and desserts. This is where your fruit, vegetables, and raw nuts pay dividends. Processed foods are lacking in fiber and tend to be lacking in valuable nutrients.
- Hike the fiber!! If the package says less than 4 grams of fiber per serving, you are wasting your money. Fiber keeps you full, cleans your system, and slows sugar spikes. Mix it up! Variety is the spice of your life – literally. One way to increase fiber is to combine colors, textures and taste.
Here’s to our health.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.