Healthy, happy and accepting it

PHOTO: Healthy, happy and accepting it

[Above: Indra Balaratnam, consultant dietitian and president, Malaysian Dietitians' Association.]

HAPPINESS, which is strongly tied to contentment, is individualistic; it's how you feel internally. If plus-sized people are able to accept their body image, then no one should say otherwise, according to consultant dietitian and president of the Malaysian Dietitians' Association, Indra Balaratnam.

"A slim person who's obsessed with body image may not be any happier or healthier than an overweight person," said Indra.

"Also, you can't tell the status of someone's health just by looking at their body type or size. People who seem to be of normal weight could have high cholesterol or diabetes."

There's strong medical evidence that being overweight and obese puts one at a greater risk of illnesses such as heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, cancer, infertility, hypertension and joint pains.

"There are also studies linking obesity to lower life expectancy," said Indra.

On beauty pageants for plus-sized women, Indra says such events may serve only as a temporary fix.

"Most of these plus-sized girls join beauty pageants to get validation.

"But even if they're temporarily glorified, deep down, they may not be truly happy with their body size."

Claiming that you can't lose weight because you were born that way is unfounded, she believes.

"It's undeniable that there's a genetic predisposition to become overweight if your parents are on the heavier side.

"But a lot of it has to do with a nurtured lifestyle. You learn that lifestyle through your family circle, which is essentially your environment.

"When you grow up in a home with overweight family members, you assume that being big is normal.

"Hence, when those around you don't pressure you to lose weight, you soon forget that you're a walking time bomb.

"Soon, the window of opportunity for you to make a lifestyle change gets smaller and smaller."

Although some of these plus-sized girls claim they've tried all sorts of diets and exercise regimes, Indra believes they might be going about it the wrong way.

"Weight loss is truly successful when done for yourself and for the right reason. After a couple of failed attempts, many overweight people give up, they're left feeling helpless and hopeless," she said.

"That's why it's so important to see a dietitian who'll be able to assess, diagnose and formulate sensible and practical intervention steps to attain permanent weight loss.

"There's no short-term fix to weight loss, and it's only successful if you can keep the weight off permanently."