Show the obese more empathy

There is little doubt that the over-consumption of carbohydrates and saturated fats has contributed to the explosion of obesity universally (S'pore risks hitting obesity rates of 15% in seven years; June 20).

Eating too much is one of the prime factors for this.

The environment, where exercise and physical activity has been exchanged for modern conveniences, and where fast food has become a staple, has not helped either.

Yet, before we condemn the obese for their gluttony and indolence, it should be stated categorically that discriminatory "fattism" is as iniquitous as racism, ageism or sexism.

Fat people may not be able to help themselves.

Some people are born with more and bigger fat cells than others, a genetic predisposition which makes them susceptible to obesity.

The lucky few born with high metabolic rates are also at liberty to gorge their guts out and still remain lean, whereas those born with placid rates will still pile on the kilos just by bingeing on a few more calories a day.

Labelling, shaming, nicknaming and singling out people for embarrassing treatment, are legacies of an unenlightened past

Latest research has revealed that even gut bacteria may play a big role in preventing or causing obesity.

Then, there is the theory that the obese may have been unfortunately stricken by an, as yet, indeterminate virus.

The point is, playing the blame game and damning the obese among us may be unfair.

Tackling obesity requires a sensitive, informed and supportive family and school environment, with empathetic societal support and understanding.

Labelling, shaming, nicknaming and singling out people for embarrassing treatment, such as making fat students skip recess for physical exercises or passing overweight employees over for promotions, are legacies of an unenlightened past and must never be repeated.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'Show the obese more empathy'. Print Edition | Subscribe