Published: 22nd May 2019
Want to know how you could tackle obesity? Check out this book by Dr Kamal Mahawar
Mahawar, a Professor at the University of Sunderland and a surgeon, tells us about the need to address obesity at the earliest
Every other day, reports come in about the ill effects of obesity, especially in children, with the latest one being a study from the UK which shows that depression and obesity go hand in hand. In order to understand obesity and its consequences, we got in touch with the visiting professor at the University of Sunderland, Dr Kamal Mahawar. He is a consultant general and bariatric surgeon at the Sunderland Royal Hospital. He sits as a senior board member on a number of medical committees, has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and written several books pertaining to healthcare. Of late, he has focused his attention on the problem of obesity and why it needs to be tackled early. His recent publication, Fight with Fat, has an entire chapter dedicated to this. In a conversation with him, we try to get to the bottom of the menace. Excerpts:
Regarding your upcoming publication, Fight with Fat, could you explain what the book is about? What are the topics and subjects are covered in it?
Obesity pandemic is already wreaking havoc worldwide and though India is not far behind, somehow the issue has not caught the public's imagination. The book deals with determinants of obesity and what we can, as individuals and society, do to prevent and manage this epidemic. I have also explored what we can do, at a societal level, to curb this menace.
What motivated or inspired you to write the book? Was there any specific incident, observation or study that prompted it?
Given that in my day-to-day life I work very closely with patients suffering from obesity, it seemed natural to pick this as the topic for my second book. I care deeply about health issues in India because I was born in India and where I am today is largely the result of what the Indian society has invested in me.
You had mentioned that there was a chapter dedicated to obesity and ways to tackle it. Please elaborate further on this and how it might help young Indians?
Though all obesity is bad, childhood obesity is particularly worrying. This has the potential to destroy a child’s whole life. It affects almost every single aspect of their life — whether it is social, developing relationships, friendships, careers and even financial attainment. It can potentially affect their confidence and sense of self-worth and prevent them from maturing into confident, outward-looking individuals who can take the burden of society on their shoulders in the future.
What are your views on the current health situation in India? How efficient is the organisation and delivery of healthcare in India?
Public healthcare continues to suffer from underinvestment, bureaucracy and frankly, a lack of vision and accountability. The private healthcare, on the other hand, is mushrooming in the absence of an effective regulatory or ethical framework. Doctors and nurses (and indeed other healthcare professionals) have become victims of a poor policy where they are either at the mercy of the capitalists running for-profit healthcare facilities or the public sector where the facilities are archaic. A constant parallel with quacks and AYUSH practitioners (and being forced to compete with them for work) further demoralises the doctors and nurses who feel the society does not value their hard work and dedication.
You had also stated that you wanted to ‘give back to the country’. Please tell us more about this intriguing desire.
I spent the first 28 years of my life in India — studied in a charitable school, obtained free MBBS and MS seats and then, emigrated to the West. There are millions of Indians in my situation who take everything that India has to offer and then go abroad and settle in countries where the prospects for them and their families are obviously better. Now, if we all did that, the Indian society will take a long time to become truly developed. How will society ever come out of the mess if its educated population keeps emigrating? These issues have often left me wondering. It is also a fact that many people like me will simply perish in India and without the opportunity that developed countries like the United Kingdom have offered me, I will not be able to help myself — let alone the Indian society. But we are where we are and right now, the least I can do is share with my brothers and sisters in India the minuscule knowledge I have about a thing or two.
What advice or suggestions do you have for Indian kids or adolescents who are trying to shed their weight and what are some of the common mistakes they make while crash dieting?
My advice to my younger friends would be to watch what you are eating and drinking. Your body is a temple. You respect it and it will reward you. If you consume junk or fried food and drinks on a regular basis, this machine will fail sooner. Eat healthy without being obsessive, keep an eye on your shape and weight. Vegetables and fruits are generally good for health. Anything that tastes sweet — chocolates, sweets, juices, shakes and soft drinks — is a celebratory indulgence, reserved for occasional treats. Also, try to be as active as possible. Where possible, choose the physically more demanding option. It might be walking instead of taking the vehicle or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Pick up a sport or some other physical activity like swimming and jogging.
Are there any psychological impacts of being depressed over one’s weight?
Obese individuals and children, in particular, are very vulnerable to all sorts of abuses and bullying. Some of these children do not achieve their full potential because of the constant focus on their weight and many do not form strong relationships when they become adults.