Overweight women are keen to pack on more kilos
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.