Adult obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. Two in three women in metros and every eighth woman in Indian villages are overweight or obese. (Photo: iStock)
| 4 min read

A Tidal Wave Of Obesity Is Coming and Women Are At the Heart Of It

(26November is the Anti-Obesity Day – an international day to raise awareness around obesity as a public health hazard.)

Haircuts are more expensive for women, so is dry cleaning, and even clothes, shoes and accessories cost us more. And now studies have found that financially, physically and psychologically, obesity is far more expensive for women than men.

It isn’t about not being able to squeeze into that LBD on date night.

Obesity raises a woman’s risk of seven types of cancers (like breast, pancreatic, bowel, kidney) by 40 percent. A massive number of newborns are at risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and asthma in adulthood because their mothers were obese in pregnancy. In 2014, 10 million men were obese in India but the number of obese women was 20 million.

The problem goes far beyond statistics.

Obesity In Women Is a Catastrophe In Slow Motion

(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)
Snapshot
Click here to collapse

There Is a Problem and a Rather Heavy One:
Two in three women in metros and every eighth woman in Indian villages are overweight or obese: Pan-India survery done by AIIMS and Dr Anoop Misra

60 percent urban women are vulnerable to heart disease.

Indian women face a fat-bias at workplace and in personal life when they hit a BMI of 27 or above: Research.

This leads to a vicious cycle of emotional eating, women feed their depression and get depressed because they can’t lose weight.

In India, five women vis-a-vis one man suffer from depression. Psychiatrists say many depressed women are obese.

Obese women or Indians in general don’t look half as huge as their Western counterparts, but we have much more fat than muscle at the same body mass index. Genetically we are designed to live with lesser calories than the developed nations. Over centuries we were under-nourished and now with the sudden exposure of calorie dense food, obesity is spiralling out of control.



(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

And it’s not just hormonal imbalances; a sedentary lifestyle, a high-carb and low-protein diet, postpartum weight gain, the fact that health and fitness are not high on the priority list of Indian women, and the tradition of putting their families’ needs above theirs, have resulted in this widespread obesity crisis.

And it’s correlated to a host of expensive, chronic diseases. A whopping 80 percent of urban Indian women are battling some sort of abdominal obesity, the crippling double burden of ‘diabesity’ means that out of 65 million diabetics in India, 8 out of 10 are caused by obesity.

60 percent of urban women in the reproductive age, 30 to 40 years, are at a risk of getting heart diseases. One in 10 women suffers from PCOS or poly cystic ovarian syndrome, a metabolic disorder that often impairs fertility, alters the period cycle, causes weight gain, diabetes, acne and excessive body hair.

Also Read: PCOS- When Missed Periods is a Metabolic Problem

Plus Size and Pregnant



(Photo: The Quint)
(Photo: The Quint)

Big moms have big problems. Besides what noted bariatric surgeon Dr Ramen Goel observes, obesity in pregnancy ups the chances of autism in the baby by 40 times and alters brain functioning at the DNA level forever. Whether these changes are reversible in adulthood with lifestyle changes, are yet to be studied.

A 2014 McKinsey and Company analysis found that “obesity costs the world nearly as much as war, armed violence and terrorism," yet in fighting the battle of the bulge, our approach is like that of the ancient 16th century mariner, who used maps with missing islands and misshapen continents.

Obesity is still not a national priority but grim scenarios and scary statistics aside, you can control obesity with a complete lifestyle overhaul or medical attention. And when the pot bellies and muffin tops start oozing, don’t hop to the tailor to loosen an extra inch, head to a nutritionist for a consultation. It’s time we stopped kidding ourselves that obesity is not everyone’s problem.