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Busting Obesity Myths

7 months ago / by Melanie Fourie

In recognition of World Obesity Day, which falls this month, here are five common myths about obesity

Woman showing how much weight she has lost
Woman showing how much weight she has lost. Shutterstock

The prevalence of obesity has almost tripled across the globe since 1975, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports. According to them, about 1.9 billion people aged 18 and up worldwide were overweight in 2016. More than 650 million of them were obese. And in 2020, about 39 million youngsters worldwide were overweight or obese. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher indicates overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity.

In recent years, South Asia has seen an increase in the prevalence of obesity too. In fact, data on South Asia’s adult obesity rates in 2023, per the World Population Review are:

  • Pakistan: 8.6%
  • Bhutan: 6.4%
  • Afghanistan: 5.5%
  • Sri Lanka: 5.2%
  • Nepal: 4.1%
  • India: 3.9%
  • Bangladesh: 3.6%

So here are the five common myths about obesity:

Obesity Has No Negative Effects on Your Health

This is untrue. Obesity is linked to many health problems. Hypertension, gout, diabetes, coronary disease, sleep apnea, and certain mental health problems become more likely as weight increases.

Even a moderate reduction in weight can improve health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that even reducing 5-10% of your body weight can result in improved health.

Just Reduce Calories and Increase Activity to Combat Fat

Obesity can be a direct result of ingesting more food than the body requires over time. Most efforts to combat obesity focus on modifying diet, exercise, or both.

However, numerous variables outside of food and activity can have an impact on weight. Among these are anxiety, sleep deprivation, using certain drugs, persistent pain, and hormonal imbalances. In such cases, obesity would be a result of these causes.

Calories Are All the Same

When it comes to physics, “a calorie is a calorie,” but when it comes to human beings and nutrients, it’s not so simple. Calories from fiber are lower than those from other carbs because some of the fiber is not metabolized. Protein is believed to increase metabolism because it requires more energy to metabolize than other macronutrients.

Some researchers believe that the fast weight drop seen on low-carb diets may have other causes besides the diet’s metabolic benefits. For instance, if you eat 100 calories worth of low-calorie foods such as fruits and veggies instead of sugary snacks or manufactured foods high in saturated fat, you are less likely to gain weight. This does not undermine the validity of calorie tracking. An appropriate number of calories from healthy sources ought to be enough.

Metabolic Rates are Lower in the Obese

People who are obese are often told that their metabolism is slower than people who are not. The formulae used to determine basal metabolic rate (BMR) do depend on and are relative to the individual’s weight. Therefore, a greater metabolism would be expected from a bigger person.

Numerous studies demonstrate that fat people do, in fact, have a greater metabolic rate, while other studies demonstrate that, after dropping weight, people’s metabolisms slow down, preventing them from shedding any more weight. Nonetheless, a slow metabolism is still a contributing factor in the development of obesity. However, it would be unfair to assume that everyone who is overweight also has a slow metabolism. It’s possible that some obese people have a low metabolic rate due to their hereditary makeup or a medical condition.

Rapid Weight Loss Is Inevitably Counterproductive

Those who have been told that rapid weight loss is ineffective because the lost pounds will simply come back should think again. You can’t expect rapid weight loss if your metabolism is slow. You can lose weight more quickly and keep it off for longer when you have a fast metabolism.

To help maintain your weight loss, try speeding up your metabolism by eating smaller meals about five times daily, doing strength training, and ingesting adequate protein, calories, and water.

So, there you have it — five common misconceptions debunked to help you understand obesity better.