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Wednesday 22 May 2019
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Khan rant masks obesity message

THE EDITOR: A recent video making its rounds on social media features former health minister Dr Fuad Khan chastising a “plus size” young woman and obese citizens by extension.

Khan spewed venom when he accused the woman of promoting obesity, citing that it is a disease associated to many ill-effects and resulting in a relatively early death.

While Khan’s message was arguably a frank appeal to the citizenry to denounce gluttony and embrace a healthier lifestyle – eat less and exercise more – his delivery/tone was reprehensible.

At one point he was clear in stating that the issue is not about victimising or shaming fat people, of whom he revealed made up 60 per cent of the population. But rather, his deep concern is from a health perspective, specifically diabetes and high cholesterol in young people.

One would have been inclined to believe Khan about not shaming obese people until he did just that by promptly advising the mentioned woman to shut up.

He further degenerated to aligning words like tub, hanging arms and big aprons to our overweight friends and family.

He followed that rant by other cruel words to essentially convey that people are fat because they eat too much and do little or no exercise, having no self-control.

In effect, his diatribe of a public health issue has, at least temporarily, overshadowed the more important agenda – a travesty for which he should apologise.

Getting back on track with managing obesity in TT, it must be first acknowledged that apart from plain gluttony and lack of exercise there are excusable factors that contribute to a person being obese. These include eating disorders and underactive thyroid.

But there is no evidence made public to suggest that these conditions afflict significant numbers of people, and so we must no longer deny that too many of us simply eat too much and make little or no effort to burn the excessive calories.

At lunch tables throughout my life, I often heard parents ask their children, “Yuh full?” If the reply was no, the parent assumed the child was ill or did not care for the taste of the food.

It is a grave misconception to believe that we must be “full” after a meal, as that feeling indicates one has eaten too much. This is where it started for many people. Overeating is instilled in us from childhood by parents that don’t know better. Let us break that cycle now.

And as we berate Khan for his arrogance and insensitivity, so too we must extract the good in his message: Obesity is a high-risk factor for diseases that can make life miserable from an early age and eventually shorten one’s time on Earth. Should we promote or glorify such a thing?

DEXTER RIGSBY, Mt Lambert

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