An Indian woman, on an average, puts on multiple hats – contributing to the family income, saving for her children and the family, and looking after the household needs. The efforts she makes are praiseworthy. In doing this, she probably ignores a key support system and central figure in the family – herself.

The urban woman of today also knows her priorities. Her career and pay package only fuels her desire to make a position for herself in the home and in society. This comes with its own set of problems.

With the consumption of junk food, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle, urban women are growing overweight and obese as compared to rural women. The surprising thing to know is that their obesity level is not something small enough to be ignored but is three times more than rural Indian women. Ouch! This might hurt the urban sentiment.   

Obesity in Women – The Trend

As per Global Health Observatory Data (Source: WHO International), featuring all the WHO regions that were analysed, women were more likely to be obese than men. In the WHO regions of Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, and South East Asia, women had roughly double the obesity prevalence of men. Women’s obesity is growing at an alarming pace as compared to men. In low and lower middle-income countries, obesity among women was approximately double that of men.

The International Journal of Public Health revealed in a study last week that Indian women were 2.71 times more at risk for putting on kilos than men.

Senior endocrinologist Dr. S. Joshi threw light on this find by saying “There does seem to be some amount of gender divide in obesity”. He further added “The growing gadgetization of Indian households has increased the risk of Indian urban women becoming overweight.”

Dr. Joshi has made a very pertinent comment on the growing gadgetization of Indian households – women of today are definitely doing less physical work than the rural women. Less physical exercise means lesser burning up of calories, which cause fat deposits to get lodged in areas such as thighs, buttocks, arms, legs and affects the overall body structure of a lady.

If you were to monitor the daily schedule of a working woman today in urban metros, the frequency of desk jobs is high, with a bit of travel within India and abroad thrown in. The deadlines and night shifts naturally compel a lady working in cities and metros to order food from fast food joints. With basic household chores such as cooking, washing, cleaning, sweeping and even baby-sitting having been assigned to a maid, the active physical movement, running around and movement of muscles in a lady is at a bare minimum.

NEAT – The Right Measurement Tool of Obesity

Further research done on Indian shores would get you closer to the subject of obese women in our country. Rural women have scored a much higher NEAT score as compared to urban women.

Dr Joshi explains the twist. According to him “NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It means a score of the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. While rural women have consistently shown a NEAT score of 2,000, the number is around 700 for urban women.”

If one were to simplify it, a higher NEAT score in rural women is proportionate to the physical work that is being done by them, as against the lower score in urban women. If you read between the lines, urban women’s laid back lifestyle is aggravating their obesity as depicted by their low NEAT score.

Let us share with you another viewpoint made by reputed Delhi-based endocrinologist Dr. Anoop Misra. He feels “About 10% of adult Indian women are overweight or obese, but the figure is about 30% in urban cities. Furthermore, women who have abdominal obesity are going to be even more prevalent, nearly 50 to 70%.”

As you can make out, abdominal obesity poses a big risk in women living in urban cities. A chunk of women in metros are being seen with hanging bellies and bulging hips, which you know is not a good sign in the long run.

Overcoming Obesity – The Challenges & Solutions

Treating ailments such as obesity is not only a Herculean task, but a major public health challenge. In fact, obesity can lead to even bigger ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, problems of the heart and infertility.

Worldwide, there are a couple of nations that are devising some amazing health policies. These include ban on sugar-sweetened beverages, and decreasing the percentage of salt and transfat in packaged foods. The most encouraging step comes from Mexico where free metro rides are being offered to those doing 10 squats. Mexico has 32% adult population who are obese, so this is a calculated step taken to move people to fight obesity.

Back home in India, there are few problematic factors in the mission to control obesity. The overall awareness about weight gain and its health implications is not known to many citizens. Even those who know about the consequences of obesity ignore the problem.

Let us go back to the International Journal of Public Health (mentioned in the beginning) where a published study is reported to have said “High-risk estimates for overweight/obesity in urban settings along with socio-economic prowess in India and the resulting nutritional transition make a compelling case for public health policy on healthy lifestyles to avert the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases associated with overweight/obesity”.

This means growing lifestyle standards and purchasing power patterns are influencing the nutritional requirements of an urban individual. A public health policy on healthy lifestyles is the need of the hour so that obesity as a burden on society can be reduced.

A Few Lifestyle and Diet Recommendations to Lose Weight Naturally

The best way to treat this lifestyle ailment is to follow some simple lifestyle and diet changes. And this is a time-tested technique with no side effects at all.

  • Daily exercise or a brisk walk is a must, even if it is for half an hour.
  • Avoid fats and sugar-based foods.  It will only add blank calories.
  • Start taking Green tea, at least once a day. It is rich in antioxidants and helps cut down on calories.
  • Take the stairs instead of going by lift. This will expend more energy and burn more calories.
  • Eat a mouthful of almonds. They make you feel fuller and reduce your hunger pangs.
  • Park your car a little distance away from your office. When you walk down to your workplace, it would make you sweat a bit and burn calories in the process.

So if you are an achiever in your chosen career make the woman in you sit up and notice your bulging waistline. The more you neglect it and hesitate to take necessary action, the more you are asking for trouble!  Let us know about your battle with obesity.


Additional Reading:

Obesity – Situation and Trends – WHO

Women three times prone to obesity when compared to men – Times of India