Opinion: How to lose weight

POSTED: 01/5/14 10:41 PM

Is it okay to be fat? Depends how you look at it. It is a bit like smoking – everybody is entitled to his or her own method of voluntary euthanasia. It is almost impossible to open a magazine or to watch a program about health without getting confronted with the dark side of being overweight. It leads to diabetes, it leads to all kinds of diseases and of course your girlfriend or your wife could decide to go and find someone else.

Asha ten Broeke, not one of the really slim people among the columnists in the Netherlands, notes that the society massively opts almost blindly for dissatisfaction. Medical reports about overweight have scared people to such an extent that they have started all kinds of projects that are designed to prevent especially children from becoming overweight. In nursery school, Ten Broeke observes drily, kids are singing songs about not eating too much.

Information leaflets disapprove of overweight and promote being slim as the ideal of a healthy lifestyle. That this information is completely ineffective seldom results in criticism or even amazement. Nobody was surprised when it appeared last week that an attempt to let children in daycare drink water instead of sugar-rich fruit juice had failed miserably.

Ten Broeke’s sad –and correct – conclusion is that information officials have nothing to offer, that overweight is almost always chronic and that chubby children usually turn into fat adults in spite of all efforts to prevent this.

Overweight also leads to stigma, though, as Malcolm Gladwell would happily point out, there is something like a tipping point. Fat kids that live among truckloads of fat kids will not feel the stigma, because in their group being fat is the new normal. If everybody is overweight, kids will be excused for thinking that this is the way they are supposed to be. Those kids will never make an effort to lose weight.

We happen to know an example of a young man who was living on the island of Crete, in Greece. He was a nice guy, but he was also horribly overweight. Still, the girls loved him. In a community where most of his peers were fat, the thought of losing weight never entered his mind.

Then this boy moved to Australia to study. That is where he met the beach going crowd that was a lot of things – but fat they were not. When the young man returned a year later to Crete for a vacation he was unrecognizable. He had shed all his excess weight and turned into someone whose weight most people would consider normal. So losing weight is doable. Just move to Australia or to any other place with a shortage of fat people.

 

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