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The Mental Health Price of Obesity
Dr Savita Date Menon
What did nature intend for man and woman to look like? The well structured but also well endowed figures depicted in Greek and Roman art, or the six packs and size 0 that Bollywood and the rest of the world seem to be chasing?

Does the body beautiful struggle impact your mental beauty in any way? Should the 20-year-old daughter and her 40 something mom look just as slim or will age naturally pile on loads of kilos? Let’s address some of these thoughts, doubts and even myths.

The terrific teens
At puberty most boys and girls are usually lean and thin. Even size 0 may be, as understood earlier –– more or less the same size of chest, waist and hips.

As a child grows, the thin, long trunk begins to broaden at the hips and shoulders, thereby showing a waistline. Since legs grow first, the waistline starts off high. Later as the trunk lengthens, the waistline drops, giving the body its adult proportion. Boys, who mature early, usually have broader hips than boys who mature late. Girls who mature late have slightly broader hips than girls maturing early.

By the age of 16-20, all boys and girls have achieved their natural, well proportioned body structure. Physical activity is sufficient, metabolism is high and this helps maintain the lean but well endowed look.

Upward mobility
Let’s cut to modern India that paints a picture of a developing economy, fast pace of urbanization and growth, the rich becoming richer and a huge middle class moving fast on their heels. Is there a price that we pay for this social and financial upward mobility? For sure!

Feed the child all that you couldn’t get, assuage your lack of availability and guilt with food for the eye and not food for health. Think of a well stocked fridge as a sign of success. Tempt the kids with a kitchen bursting with goodies. The result –– kids who are as fat as their parents’ wallets.

The demoralizing consequences of being lesser
With all this there is a physical and mental health price to be paid. What these young adults see in the mirror is not so complimentary. It creates a feeling of being less than peers who are better structured. After all the body is like the formal sitting room of a house. It is your prettiest foot forward. Not measuring up leads to insecurity, low self- confidence and struggling self esteem.
All of this could lead to social withdrawal, being quiet in a group. The feeling of being ‘less than’ percolates to other mental, social areas of development as well.   


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