If many people were to measure their Body Mass Index (a phenomenon used to check if one’s weight is right for your height), one would realise that obesity is increasingly becoming common in Botswana.
This epidemic is made worse by the fact that many of our local restaurants use lots of fat in most of the dishes.
Obert Morgan, an Exercise and Lifestyle Management Specialist, told The Sunday Standard, “Batswana are overweight. According to my own analyses, two in every five people are overweight.”
This can pose a major risk for serious diet-related chronic diseases, including type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and worse, certain forms of cancer.
The health consequences range from increased risk of premature death to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life.
Of special concern is the increasing incidence of obesity among children. The dangers are not only a problem for an individual but a risk in whole world economy as chronic diseases caused by obesity and overweight mean high expenditures on national health care.
According to experts, this can also be attributed to our lifestyles.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, Doctor Tuelo Ntwaagae said, “Nowadays many Batswana have adopted the western style of living. We eat lots of fast foods, fatty and sweet meals, large food quantities, especially energy foods like refined cereals and fatty meats, increased alcohol intake, and lack of proper and regular exercise. In our society, weight gain is also seen as a positive thing. Our people think weight gain signifies good life and happiness.”
Many of the men interviewed by this paper revealed that they prefer “full bodied” women over slender ones, whom they refer to as “Twigs”.
Ntwaagae warns that “Obesity, especially abdominal obesity, where fat accumulates around the tummy, is associated with diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol disease with all their associated complications such as stroke, heart disease and blood vessel disorders. Obese people are at risk of joint problems, especially knees or hip joints in the elderly age (the above 50s).”
To overcome this, the Doctor says, “We need to eat healthy. Choose more vegetables and fruits over fatty meat and sweet meals; cut the sizes of our meals, limit alcohol intake, join health clubs such aerobics, brisk walking and jogging, and we should change our mindset towards weight gain and start understanding it as an undesirable thing.”
His sentiments are shared by Morgan who called on society to promote healthy behaviors to encourage, motivate and enable individuals to lose weight by eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains and to engage in daily moderate physical activity for at least 30 to 60 minutes, including cutting the amount of fatty, sugary foods in one’s diet, moving from saturated animal-based fats to unsaturated vegetable-oil based fats.
We should mounting a clinical response to the existing burden of obesity and associated conditions through clinical programmes and staff training to ensure effective support for those affected to lose weight or avoid further weight gain.