Overweight women are keen to pack on more ki­los

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTER

OVERWEIGHT, mid­dle- aged black women have emerged as a po­ten­tial ma­jor stum­bling block in South Africa’s bat­tle against obe­sity, a new study has shown.

Un­like their nor­mal weight and obese coun­ter­parts in the study, these women were not only con­tent with their weight, but many wanted to pack on more kilo­grams.

They were among nearly 80 men and women aged from 35 to 70, all from Langa, in­volved in the study Per­cep­tions of body size, obe­sity threat and the will­ing­ness to lose weight among black South African adults.

Au­thored by School of Pub­lic Health doc­toral can­di­date Kufre Okop, doc­toral fel­low Fer­di­nand Mukum­bang, se­nior re­searcher Thube­lihle Mathole, Pro­fes­sor Naomi Le­vitt and Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus Thandi Puoane, the study was pub­lished in April in the UK-based peer-re­viewed journal BMC Pub­lic Health.

Although the overweight women had a Body Mass In­dex (BMI) of 25.5 to 30, as op­posed to the 18 to 24 of the nor­mal weight par­tic­i­pants, and cited over- eat­ing and fatty, junk and sug­ary foods as causes of weight gain, they be­lieved be­ing overweight equated to hap­pi­ness.

Only if they had strug­gled with a pre­vi­ous chronic dis­ease did they want to lose weight. If not, they in­di­cated they’d be happy to add some kilo­grams.

The re­sults come against the re­al­ity in South Africa, where ex­cess body weight (BMI over 25) was blamed in a 2000 study for 87 per­cent of Type 2 diabetes, 38 per­cent of heart dis­ease and 45 per­cent of strokes.

The au­thors pointed out that be­tween 2002 and 2012, the preva­lence of overweight and obe­sity spiked from 57 per­cent to 65 per­cent of South Africans.

More con­cern­ing news from the study was that women of all sizes be­lieved their cul­ture, or their ge­net­ics, de­ter­mined their size.

“We have big bones… Overweight is some­thing we in­her­ited,” one said.

The au­thors found while opin­ions on be­ing thin or overweight dif­fered, the com­mon opin­ion was that thin was bad, while be­ing overweight was “so­cially de­sir­able”.

If you were thin, you were viewed as un­healthy and as­so­ci­ated with peo­ple liv­ing with HIV/Aids, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, or bat­tling cancer. You were also re­garded as likely to have men­tal health is­sues, such as de­pres­sion.

One of the women in the overweight cat­e­gory went so far as to say that if her child lost weight, she’d be con­cerned.

Although the au­thors said the fact that three-quar­ters of study par­tic­i­pants were un­em­ployed, and of low so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus and ed­u­ca­tion lev­els, which could slant their views, they re­mained con­cerned.

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