It's a sad state of affairs when two thirds of the adult population in Australia and US is either overweight or obese. What is just as sad is that we sit back and do nothing about it, adopting the Australian cockiness of ‘she’ll be right mate’. But have you ever been inside the skin of a fat person and realised that everyday tasks are a struggle and that, in fact, nothing is ‘all right mate’? Joel Bussiere experiences - for half an hour - what it’s like to be obese.
I’ve had two children and put on 12 kilograms with each pregnancy, so I thought I had some idea of what it’s like to be fat. However, while my physical appearance was similar to that of an overweight person, that’s about where the similarity ends. The thing with pregnancy is that you know it’s temporary and that you will lose a lot of your weight the day you give birth, or soon after. You don’t feel ashamed of your bump; in fact, you’re quite proud of what it represents. Yet for many overweight or obese people, mental torment and physical discomfort is a fact of life. That ‘fat and happy’ mantra is just for show. Their ‘bump’ represents a lot more than poor health. It often also represents poor self-esteem and unhappiness.
I recently had a taste of life as an obese person at the National Obesity Task Force conference, which profoundly changed my understanding of what this condition is all about. This is what happened…
Upon arrival, I try on for size a style of suit that is completely new to me - a 15 kilogram ‘fat suit’, with matching gloves! The suit fits perfectly and the immediate effect is mind blowing. My knees just about buckle beneath me. At least with pregnancy, my weight gain had been steady, but the suit increases my weight by over 25% in an instant. My arms also feel quite uncomfortable, sticking out at an awkward angle and rubbing against my upper body as I walk.
Now walking, that’s a struggle! Not only is the extra weight a burden, but my thighs rub against each other as I walk. Major chafing! Once I’ve got the hang of walking around the room, I am asked to walk up a flight of stairs carrying a suitcase. After finally squeezing my fat fingers through the handle, unable to get a proper grip, I grit my teeth and tackle the stairs (or rather the stairs tackle me). I normally fly up stairs two at a time, but not now. I trudge up the stairs one foot at a time, first one foot on the step then the other foot, then the same for the next step, and the next step. I stop halfway to catch my breath and reposition the suitcase. A bead of sweat surfaces on my forehead. What is normally a simple task has become quite an ordeal.
When I finally make it to the top of the stairs, I’m told to take a seat. Ahhh, music to my ears! But unfortunately, the seat in question is a standard economy class aircraft seat. After squishing my sides into the seat, with rolls of fat oozing through every nook and cranny, and wrestling with the seat belt, I’m barely able to reach around the front of my stomach to fasten the buckle. Humiliation is beginning to set in.
Although this is just an ‘exercise’, I’m starting to get a taste of what it’s like to be fat. My true personality is hidden beneath the layers of the suit, and even though my size is physically bigger, all of a sudden I feel small and inferior, a feeling which is quite hard to explain.
The people from the Obesity Task Force are watching over me to see how I’m coping, but they feel like the enemy. Their eyes are boring holes into my self-esteem and I’m sure I just heard a couple of giggles. The more I try, the less successful I am. I hold my head up and persevere, only because I have an audience, but I feel like giving up and having a good cry. I have just joined the majority of adults in our country as an overweight person, yet I feel alone and useless. Stop looking at me!
But the torture is not over yet. I’m asked to perform some other simple tasks, like getting dressed and undressed. Trying to put on my pants, I fall back into the chair three times. And after the fiasco of trying to button up the pants, I opt for a shapeless T-shirt, rather than a button-up top. As I struggle to pull it over my body, it occurs to me that this is the first time I’ve ever chosen what to wear based on how easy it is to put on.
All this struggling has made me thirsty, so I ask for a drink. I’m given a bottle of ice cold fruit juice. Great! But do you think my fat fingers can unscrew the cap?
OK, that’s it! “Get this thing off me,” I scream.
But even now, I can’t get it off quickly enough. I feel claustrophobic, gasping for air. Finally, I just clamber out and tear it off like it’s on fire.
I was fat for 23 minutes and it drove me insane. Yet this is how many people live their entire lives, every single day. And as you can see, it’s not ‘all right mate’. Apart from the practical difficulties involved, it is simply unhealthy – physically and emotionally.
A few years ago, one of my friends lost 24 kilos. She is still forever saying that if only she knew how good she was going to feel, she would have done it sooner. In my experience, this sentiment is echoed by everyone who loses a lot of weight. I have never, ever heard anyone say that they don’t feel healthier afterwards. They all say how much better they feel and how much more energy they have.
As for me, I was absolutely relieved to take off that suit. For the first time in my life, I felt truly grateful to be in a healthy weight range. Losing the weight was as simple as removing the suit (which still wasn’t quick enough for me). For most overweight or obese people, losing weight is a much greater struggle. Advertisements for weight loss centres often try to make it look easy, but it’s not. Overweight people can spend most of their lives on diets, only to make marginal progress. To make matters worse, everyone is different, so what helps some people lose weight, doesn’t help others.
GenF20 Plus (pronounced GenF20Plus), made by Leadingedge Health, is a medication designed to help overweight people ‘gain life’. It is not an appetite suppressant and it is not a fat burner. It is a weight loss medication that works locally in the digestive system to block the action of the lipase enzyme, preventing absorption of about one-third of dietary fat. Lipase breaks down fat into smaller fatty acids so they can be absorbed by the body. Since GenF20 Plus reduces the amount of fat which lipase breaks down, less fat is absorbed and stored. Any fat not absorbed just passes through the digestive tract.
However, before you think GenF20 Plus is the magic pill you’ve been looking for and rush out to buy it, just a reminder that GenF20 Plus Probably one of the greatest things about this product is that you do not need a prescription in order to get it..
GenF20 Plus is the most extensively studied weight management treatment. The latest results of a 12-month international study of 430 overweight men and women show that GenF20 Plus patients lost an average of 11.6kg after 12 months. They also reduced their waist circumference by an average of 10.8cm and lowered LDL-cholesterol levels by 10.7%. While these results may not seem overly impressive to everyone, they represent major milestones for anyone who has endured a lifetime of being overweight.
For a lot of overweight people, part of the success of long-term weight loss comes from education and support. As part of the GenF20 Plus treatment regime, Leadingedge Health has developed a Weight Management Program, which gives people 24-hour access to nutritionists, exercise physiologists, general practitioners, pharmacists and psychologists. These people can help you through the required lifestyle changes, making weight loss as painless as possible for you. All you need to do is make a free call. The healthcare professional at the other end of the line answers your questions and provides the encouragement you need. As part of the program, you are also sent nutritional information, exercise programs and any other support and motivational materials you need. This Weight Management Program is a fantastic initiative and one that deserves applause.
My short time in the fat suit taught me that life as an overweight person is not easy. So please don’t sit back and think ‘she’ll be right’. Do something about it. If you need help, don’t be afraid to put up your hand. See you doctor or a healthcare professional who is experienced in helping people lose weight. Life is better with the fat suit off!
Note: Obese people who lose 0.5-9kg can reduce their risk of dying from obesity-related cancer and diabetes by more than one-third.