These days, the world may be getting smaller…but the people in it just keep expanding. In the 21st century, obesity has become an epidemic in certain developed countries. Adults are obese, children are obese—even our pets are obese.
The word ‘obese’, then, comes from the Classical Latin word obēsus, which literally means ‘which has eaten itself fat’. The ob- prefix means ‘away, completely’ and esus is the past participle of edere ‘to eat’ (which signals the origin of the adjective ‘edible’). These days, however, in medical terms, obese refers to an adult with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above.
Although there may be some scientific reasons why people become obese – some health problems (perhaps) – one thing’s for sure: most of us overeat. Not many of us can say ‘no’ to sugar – in whatever form it comes – and physical movement is not a key part of people’s days anymore. Portion sizes are also a major factor. Some of us manage the 21st century lifestyle better than others; some of us are on a downward spiral. As we sit at our desk or slouch-on-the-couch consuming calories, many of us are treading a dangerous path towards heart disease, cancer or diabetes – some would be lucky to ‘tread’ and need to be carried on wheels.
Returning to the food related part of the problem, when you visit the supermarket, do you ever find yourself thinking: there’s an awful lot of rubbish on these shelves? If you took out all the sweet, salty, fatty processed foods in there that our bodies don’t need, you’d be left with almost an empty warehouse – a skinny late of the grocery world when you’re used to the full fat late.
Why are people obese?
Let’s do coffee, let’s get some cake, too. Let’s do take-out. Supersize it! Add marshmallows on top. YOU FORGOT MY SPRINKLES! We all succumb to the gluttony. The food mecca, which is our local supermarket, calls us back for one more packet of chocolate covered, cream-filled triple choc-chip cookies…with a bottle of wine (because I’ve had a hell of a day and I just need to sit down and feed my face and make myself feel better…and it tastes so good and I deserve this moment). Some of us can stop ourselves at the first packet, some of us run it off the next day at the gym, but not all of us do. Not everyone can. And these people grow bigger and bigger, and their weight sags around them—like a prince sat on a large, fleshy throne that he has got stuck in and can’t quite get out of anymore. It follows him everywhere…and it’s wobbling. And people look at him with disgust…how fat and greedy he is! Why can’t he control himself? they think, as they look at him from the coffee shop window.
In an ideal world, we’d all have the strength to say no to the bombardment of bad food. We’d all be happy enough in our lives that we didn’t look to it for comfort. Poverty and social conditions wouldn’t factor into our waistlines. We wouldn’t succumb to the power of the sofa at the end of the working day. But this is not reality.
According to a report last year by the Health & Social Care Information Centre, by 2030 in the UK, 41 per cent to 48 per cent of men and 35 per cent to 43 per cent of women could be obese if trends relating to physical activity and diet continue. Its findings are brutal and there is no way to sugar-coat them.
In the face of such statistics, then, perhaps it’s best to stop typing and take a walk around the block.