If you’re out shopping for local clothing labels, sizes tend to go from S to L. XL, if you’re lucky.
This may lead Singaporeans to believe that we’re largely a nation of smaller people, but in reality, around 30 per cent of us are overweight and about 10 per cent are people living with obesity according to the Health Promotion Board and Ministry of Health’s 2019/2020 report.
From 2017 to 2021, the number of primary, secondary and pre-university students who were overweight or living with obesity has increased from 13 per cent to 16 per cent.
Despite the prevalence, Singaporeans continue to face challenges when it comes to social stigma which may keep them from seeking help.
‘Someone said that I looked like their friend, and their parents said: No lah, she’s not as fat’
According to local initiative Your Weight Can’t Wait, people living with obesity constantly deal with bias, prejudice, criticism or judgement which greatly impacts their quality of life.
This can hinder their ability to talk to their family or friends, or even seek help from professionals to manage their weight.
‘You looked better last time, what happened?’
In a recent survey conducted by AsiaOne, over 90 per cent of polled users have the notion that obesity is a lifestyle choice; however, one should note that there are factors beyond personal choices that could predispose people to obesity, including genetics.
Other factors include stress and psychological disorders, socioeconomic status and a lack of sleep.
According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term medical management.
‘They don’t see it as an illness, but a measure of self-control or discipline’
It’s not just people around them: even those struggling with their weight can view obesity as a matter of self-control and not a real illness.
In fact, over half of the adults in Singapore whose body mass index (BMI) assessments are at potentially unhealthy levels feel that weight management is their sole responsibility, according to an obesity awareness survey conducted by YouGov Singapore.
‘Scared of being judged by people around us or healthcare professionals themselves’
While our survey shows that nearly 70 per cent of polled users think people with obesity should seek professional medical help, the YouGov survey also found that one in three overweight and obese Singaporeans would not consider discussing their weight with their doctors.
This shows that despite a plethora of treatments available, from medications to bariatric surgery, many still feel ashamed to seek help from their healthcare providers.
‘My problems unrelated to weight are overlooked by the doctor because I’m fat’
In AsiaOne’s survey, respondents noted that one reason why people with obesity may not seek medical help is because of the fear that their ailments will be reduced to their weight, and that they won’t receive adequate care afterwards.
However, according to The Obesity Society, obesity itself is a medical problem linked to over 200 diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, infertility and, according to the US Centre for Disease Control, 13 different kinds of cancers.
Though many think that obesity among adolescents will improve with age, losing weight itself as an adult could result in a slowing down of metabolism and hormonal changes which could easily result in re-gaining weight. If you’d like to learn more about obesity, please visit Your Weight Can’t Wait at www.yourweightcantwait.sg.
Your best bet if you or someone you love is overweight or living with obesity? Speak to a doctor to understand more on the issue.
Not sure where to go? Your Weight Can’t Wait includes an Expert Finder, curated by the Singapore Association for the Study of Obesity (SASO) council, on healthcare and medical professionals, so you know exactly who you can speak about weight management.
This article was brought to you in partnership with Novo Nordisk. As this article is for educational purposes only, please do not attempt to self-diagnose nor self-medicate any medical condition — always consult a qualified healthcare professional.
No part of this article can be reproduced without permission from AsiaOne.
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