Don't tip-toe around issue of obesity

Obesity is, once again, in the spotlight (S'pore risks hitting obesity rates of 15% in seven years; June 20).

We should not approach this elephant in the room with undue political correctness, fearful of hurting feelings, and succumb to misplaced empathy and mollycoddling (Show the obese more empathy, by Dr Yik Keng Yeong; June 23).

This deadly disease has potentially crippling and fatal consequences. It is a burden on the economy and medical resources. It can cause disharmony in the family, and pose a national security risk - 100 unfit soldiers means one less infantry company.

Fat is a storehouse for body toxins and chemical waste.

There are as many as 60 major health risks arising from obesity, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, poor blood-lymph circulation, compromised immunity, cancer, vision defects, pregnancy complications and obstructive sleep apnoea.

Visceral fat wrapped around vital internal organs is the most dangerous.

A wide girth also puts enormous strain on the lower back, knees and ankles, causing torn ligaments and a lifetime of arthritic woes.

Meanwhile, childhood and teenage obesity lends itself to bullying and emotional trauma, leading to poor self-esteem, psychosocial problems, eating disorders and even suicidal tendencies.

In times of crisis, such as a tsunami or terrorist attack, the lack of agility, nimbleness and speed can kill. A person with an unfit heart trying to run away may simply collapse from cardiac arrest.

Physically demanding jobs are out of the question for obese job-seekers. Employers may be apprehensive about selecting them for fear of job accidents, lawsuits or higher insurance premiums.

Often, obese individuals lack the mental strength, willpower, grit and determination to face up to the pain of physical fitness training.

They turn to food for comfort, adding on the empty calories and creating a vicious circle.

To break out of this, the seeds of motivation must first be planted.

A comprehensive programme of medical, psychological and emotional counselling, and a fitness regimen is called for.

The most efficacious combination may be stomach reduction surgery, a vegetarian diet and structured fasting.

Michael Gerald Hong Chun Pun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2017, with the headline 'Don't tip-toe around issue of obesity'. Print Edition | Subscribe