By Thembela Ntongana
An alarming 22 percent of children between the ages one and nine in South Africa are obese, according to the South African Society for Obesity and Metabolism (Sasom).
Child obesity is a medical condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child’s health or wellbeing. According to an article by Health24, obesity in South Africa is increasing but is being ignored.
A parent of an obese teenager, Nozizwe Bozo, from Scenery Park, said: “I didn’t see anything wrong with my daughter. I didn’t want to listen to the doctors because growing up most of my family were fat. Now with an ever-changing society she has to face insults every day of her life.”
With the rapid growth of technology children are less active in sport as well as natural exercises such as walking from home to school. This together with ‘junk’ foods is why obesity is increasing.
Zanele Ntungwa, a dietician at F Matanga Nutriclinic in Southernwood, says when the body mass index (BMI) is above 30 then the person is classified as obese which is mainly caused by increased food intake with decreased physical activity.
Zenzele Mntambo, aged 13, who weighs 127kg, told the SNA that her weight problem started because of her love for food. She says she now eats to ease the pain of emotional and verbal abuse that she endures every day of her life.
“I have a serious problem I know that but everything that I have tried doesn’t seem to have worked. I can’t afford those expensive diets. I am scared for my life because my health is not looking good at this point.”
Culturally speaking, Ntungwa said: “If you were fat you were seen as healthy and a sign of wealth, if you were thin then you were unhealthy, poor, and stingy and probably even sick. People don’t want to be labelled so they tried to avoid it by not being thin.”
Obesity reduces the life span of a person because of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, high cholesterol and some form of cancers.
“There is not much obese people can do on their own as they require a lot of education, but they need to decrease fat, sugar and calorie mainly starch intake, increase fibre, more vegetables – people should grow their own vegetables and increase physical activity,” said Ntungwa.