‘I thought obesity was my fault, but then I realized it’s a disease’ – 05/07/2022

“I thought it was my fault because that’s what the doctors said. It stuck in my head for a long time.”

The phrase is from English Becky Smedley who, since she was a child, knew she was overweight, but always blamed herself for it: for not eating properly or not exercising enough — and that’s what doctors constantly told her and the mother.

In an interview with Live wellduring the European Congress on Obesity, held in Maastricht, Netherlands, the 26-year-old told that she heard from health professionals that she was lying about her eating habits.

“My mom went so far as to prepare different foods when I was hungry — because people said it was my fault — but my father and brother are skinny. So it was never about that, it’s something much more complex. “, says the current influencer of issues related to obesity.

Becky remembers doctors talking about food and exercise at appointments and then asking her to come back in a few weeks. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence blaming herself for being overweight.

And this really seems to be a reality in this age group. A global study released a few days ago showed that 65% of adolescents feel that it is up to them to change their weight status, ignoring the fact that obesity is a chronic, complex disease that requires individualized and multidisciplinary care.

Becky didn’t understand that obesity was a disease until 3 years ago, especially when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. “Before that, doctors didn’t really care about my health,” she says.

Loneliness of obese adolescents is reality

In the same survey cited above, one in three said they felt unable to talk to their parents about it, or to friends and doctors.

It was the same way Becky felt. In addition to her mother’s support, the Englishwoman from Birmingham was always alone, especially at school. “I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was very afraid of not being accepted,” she recalls.

But today, it tries to reach more and more people through social networks — especially on Instagram. This is still something new for Becky. It’s only recently that she started talking more about the topic.

“If I could say something to obese children and adolescents, I would say it’s not their fault,” he says. “I hope people can feel comfortable and, with that, enjoy life.”

Currently, taking care of the disease, she hopes that one day the image that people with obesity are “lazy people who only eat ‘junk'” will cease to exist. “I’m always active, walking, and eating well. I’m much happier now that I know obesity is recognized as a disease. It took a weight off my back.”

‘It’s not about your weight, it’s about your health’

Irish woman Susie Berney, 46, has always thought that if she could resolve her issues with being overweight, her life would be better. But, little by little, he discovered that the number that appears on the scale would never be enough for people.

Susie Berney created support groups for people with obesity - Luiza Vidal/VivaBem - Luiza Vidal/VivaBem

Susie Berney

Image: Luiza Vidal/VivaBem

Since childhood, she has been dealing with an eating disorder (known as “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder“) which later turned into overweight — even though he ate well and practiced a variety of exercises.

It was at age 13, close to her first period, that Susie noticed her weight gain. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, ovaries polycystic and other health problems.

Constantly, the Dublin resident reported that she lost about 20 kg and then gained it again. Several times. “It was always two steps forward and two steps back,” she recalls.

Over time, he became involved with groups of people with obesity. He had so many ideas and a desire to help other people that he ended up becoming a spokesperson for the group. Today, she is chairman of the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity and secretary of the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity.

In 2015, when she had bariatric surgery, she lost about 20 kg and people said she was too thin and needed to stop. Then the lost weights came back.

“It is necessary to accept and learn to live with obesity. This does not mean that you are not responsible for it, but that it is not just your fault”, he says.

It’s not about your weight, it’s about your health. Susie Berney

Currently, Susie takes medication with medical advice and has lost almost 20 kg again, but she has found her balance on this journey. As she created this group of obese people, she always tries to help them with examples from other people. Groups like this help people feel more welcomed.

“One day, a person wrote that he had broken his chair at an event and, therefore, he was ashamed. But in this same post, several participants said they had gone through the same. That is, your experience could be that of someone else. is not alone in this”, he said, in an interview with Live wellduring the congress.

Canada tries to empower people with obesity

Recently, the country released a new guide to dealing with obesity. In this new material, they recognize that weight does not define disease and propose to improve health outcomes with a focus on the patient, not just weight loss.

During the conference held in the Netherlands, the philanthropic group Obesity Canada told about creating a support group for patients. The idea is that they find a “safe space”.

Ian Patton - Luiza Vidal/VivaBem - Luiza Vidal/VivaBem

Ian Patton is part of Obesity Canada

Image: Luiza Vidal/VivaBem

As a person who treats obesity, Ian Patton, ddirector of advocacy and public engagement for the initiative, was responsible for creating this virtual space called OC Connect.

The focus is more on Canadian citizens, but there are people from different parts of the world. In total, there are about 2,500 people. “It’s a private community created by people with obesity for people with obesity. There are no doctors there, for example,” he says.

But everything posted on the site goes through careful moderation beforehand. Fake news or non-science based information is filtered out. “The idea is that people can use it as a source of information to empower themselves,” says Ian Pattonwho specializes in kinesiology, the science that studies body movements.

We often don’t want to be recognized or attention. It is something that we live in silence. So it’s very exciting to see something like that. Ian Patton

Finally, Ian explains that he hopes that the group’s participants can be empowered with information, including that they receive from a doctor, with overly simplistic suggestions, such as “you just have to exercise”. “We know it’s much more than that.”

understand obesity

The WHO (World Health Organization) defines obesity as the accumulation of fat in the body capable of being harmful to health. The disease is considered a pandemic, chronic and complex, and ranks 2nd among preventable causes of death, second only to smoking.

The goal of treatment is not aesthetics, but health improvement by reversing or controlling obesity-associated comorbidities. In addition, it seeks to improve the quality of life so that the person achieves physical, mental and social well-being. This is why the support of a multidisciplinary team is considered ideal.

The therapeutic strategies available today must be applied in a staggered way, that is, they start from changes in lifestyle, and advance according to the responses or severity of the condition. Therapy takes time, requires commitment and constant monitoring.

  • Lifestyle changes: adoption of a varied, healthy and low-calorie diet, physical exercises;
  • Sleep hygiene measures;
  • Treatment of psychiatric conditions (depression, anxiety) and cognitive behavioral therapy;
  • Medicines to reduce appetite;
  • In some situations, bariatric surgery may be an option.

*The reporter traveled at the invitation of Novo Nordisk. With information from a report published on 04/12/2022.

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She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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