EFFECTS OF EXCESS WEIGHT
A person who is overweight or obese is likely to suffer from a number of physical and emotional problems. In brief:
• Physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, aching legs, swollen ankles and aggravated back pain.
• Low energy levels.
• An increased likelihood of developing osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints.
• An increased risk of medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
• An increased risk of sudden death from heart disease.
• Emotional problems – including a poor body image, low self-esteem and depression – due to an inability to lead a normal, active life.
Western society places a premium on being slim, particularly for women. Because of the stigma attached to being overweight or obese, many people to turn to the ever-increasing range of weight-loss programmes.
BODY WEIGHT AND SOCIETY
Weight problems appear to go hand in hand with civilization. Whereas primitive societies rarely have problems with obesity, it is common for individuals in advanced societies with high standards of living to be overweight and unfit. In the past, plumpness has been seen as a desirable body image – a symbol of social success and good health; this is still the case in some countries today.
Modern attitudes, however, have moved to the other extreme as the media bombards people with images of stick-thin models and well-muscled men, encouraging people to aspire towards unrealistic body shapes.
Women, especially, have always been under enormous social pressure to conform to the fashionable female shape of the time as influenced by art and fashion. There have been times when the rounded curves and fleshy figure of womanhood (complete with cellulite) were held in high esteem – the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens is famous for his portrayal of the fuller-figured woman in the 17th century. A whole armoury of bodices, crinolines, bustles, corsets and padded bras have been employed to manipulate the shape of the breasts, waist and buttocks. The fashionable shapes are usually extremes of full-figured voluptuousness, flat-chested boyishness, or toned Amazonian strength.