Obesity screening in youth a must!!

Excess body fat has become a rampant problem even in our children and adolescents. 

Government healthcare organizations in USA have urged doctors to routinely measure body weight of youth at clinical visits,starting at the age 6 year onwards. If the BMI (Body Mass Index) is found to be abnormally high, then a comprehensive behavior modification program is warranted. This entails structured educational counseling sessions for kids and their parents coupled with supervised physical activity. Such aggressive and sustained interventions are necessary to prevent obesity later in adult life. 

Carrying excessive fat in our bodies has become the modern scourge of mankind. Once an individual becomes obese, it often leads to a lifelong battle against willpower and body weight. What follows is a rather typical scenario of agonizingly resisting favorite foods, monotonous workouts and yo-yo diets with consequent weight fluctuations over the course of a lifetime. It would be prudent to instead avoid becoming overweight in the first place by inculcating a healthy lifestyle. Childhood represents the best time to start because then health-conscious habits become ingrained in the young person’s psyche. 

Socio-culturally, chubby kids are perceived as cute.However, science refutes that. Please spread the word and encourage your loved ones, especially to-be-parents and current parents of young children to understand the fact that this is an incorrect social perception.

Indeed, this misplaced belief spans across adult lifespan too. I have many overweight and obese patients grappling with diabetes, blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. To such individuals I intentionally prescribe medications addressing these ailments, which also have the added advantage of weight loss. When these patients return for follow up,most are grateful for their remarkable loss of body fat. However, there are plenty who complain about their sunken cheeks and gaunt appearance. They whine that relatives are startled by their frail countenance, worrying if an ominous disease (cancer, TB, HIV) has befallen them. I emphatically reassure my patients of the following facts: 

They do not look infirm just because they are leaner. The problem is that people are accustomed to being overweight as the new normal idea of weight. The majority of people globally are already on the unhealthier side of weight, mostly the excess kind. So those achieving and maintaining a healthy normal body weight, generally indicated by a healthful BMI of 18.5 to 23, are construed by others (mostly those who are themselves chunky) to be sickly ill, as if starving and undernourished. I urge these patients of mine to inform their ‘concerned well-wishers’ to evaluate their own body weight instead of misguiding my patients. Plump is not pleasant, nor was it ever so. Fuller cheeks and protuberant bellies may be symbols of prosperity but from a medical perspective, they are harbingers of wicked diseases.

So start with your family, relatives, friends and community at-large.  Kindly do not perpetuate this myth of ‘healthy’-looking’ as truly healthy. Advocate healthful routines in schools, for instance by propagating this message at PTA meetings. Ensure vigorous physical activity for our children in safe environments. Provide seasonal and regionally grown fresh produce for snack-times i.e. a broad variety of fruits and vegetables of varied colors. Banish the ready-to-eat tempting treats such as cookies, chips, tetra pack juices, fizzy drinks,pizzas, fries, dough nuts, cup cakes, pastries ……an exhaustive list of evil food items!

Save our children from the menace of ‘Adiposity’. It may often masquerade as cuteness. Living an obese life confers a heightened risk of most dreadful illnesses including cancer, and shortened longevity.

This may sound far-fetched but in reality it is not far from the truth: Obesity kills, and threatens the very survival of our species, perhaps more than an apocalyptic catastrophe that could potentially decimate the human race. Let us fight the one enemy that we face every day. Fat-ness Combat it with Fit-ness. 

Our world must take on this challenge on war footing. Anything short of that simply won’t be enough.