SMALL HELPING Members of the Obese No More club say cheese
h e G a m e r s
Ketan Tanna enters a society of seriously overweight people and finds that their hearts weigh the most
They are hard to miss. As they walk down the lobby of a hospital in north Mumbai, strangers cannot take their eyes off them. Some are amused, some pass comments. But all this attention and caustic remarks do not affect them. They are used to ridicule. They are members of the Obese No More group. That objective is not fulfilled yet but they are trying. While there is no set criterion for belonging to this group, none of the 125 members weigh less than 100 kg. Like Rafique, a 51-year-old television professional, who weighs 149 kg. Even at his towering height of 6 feet 2 inches, he is remarkably overweight. After an operation, he lost over ten kilos.
All members suffer from a clinical problem called morbid obesity. Morbid obesity is having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 37. Most members of the Obese No More group have a BMI that is well over that dreadful number. BMI is a ratio of body mass in kilograms and the square of the height in meters. An ideal BMI should range between 19 and 25. Obese people, chiefly victims of an unfortunate influence of genes that either makes them eat excessively or reduces their metabolic rate, are highly vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. A BMI of 30 or more raises the risk of death from various diseases by 50% to 150%, according to some estimates.
All members of the Obese No More group have suffered both physically and mentally. And in a last ditch attempt, many of them have either undergone bariatric surgery which involves an operation that seals a portion of the stomach or attaches the small intestine to the upper portion of the stomach, limiting the volume it can hold. Apart from direct medical help, they also want emotional support and the comfort of being with others with the same affliction, a reason why Obese No More was birthed in July 2006.
The group meets at least thrice a year. These are mainly interactive forums for consultation and moral support. Such meetings heal the
wounds of these morbidly fat people who survive in a world which looks down upon them. Most of the members have encountered situations where even passing strangers give unsolicited advice on how to reduce weight.
Members chat with each other, recounting the various travails of obesity. When a member speaks, the rest of the group nod in empathy. Rajesh, a businessman stands at 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 180 kg. He is a frequent flyer and he tells the group how he often tries to get upgraded to the business class. â€œMore than me, the person sitting next to me suffers,â€ he says, laughing. Medical advice and emotional support flow freely in the group. The members also discuss the best in medicine and diet. Bariatric surgeons, nutritionists and endocrinologists regularly counsel them.
Every member who is part of Obese No More has a heartrending story to tell. Rati Pujari is 23 and weighs 100 kg. She had gone into depression as she could not handle the pretentious advice of well wishers. â€œMany of them get inner satisfaction by putting you down and belittling you,â€ she says. She was a member of a well-known dance class but was asked to leave because she was overweight. Her mother saw her daughter sinking into depression but there was little she could do. â€œWe tried every trick in the book. But after losing weight, she would be back to square one in no time,â€ says Ratiâ€™s mother, Hema.
Rati could not even enjoy simple recreational exercises like shopping. Most stores do not stock the sizes she is looking for. Her only consolation in the depth of despair was eating chocolates and ice cream stealthily till one day she could not take it anymore and decided to go for surgery. She took a loan for the operation that costs over Rs 2 lakh.
Keerty Parikh, a 32-year-old Marwari housewife, weighs 111 kg and stands at 5 feet 3 inches. Her five sisters do not have a weight problem. Though she tried all sorts of treatments, her problem only worsened with each passing year. By 1995, she was 103 kg. At one point, she stopped her parents from shortlisting prospective grooms because she realised that she would only be humiliating herself by parading her large body in front of shocked men. Eventually, it was on the internet that she found the man she married. Keerty made it clear to him that she was obese and that there was nothing she could do about it. She was 115 kg when she married a Gujarati man who loved her. But when she wanted to have a baby, she was told by doctors that it was dangerous for women with morbid obesity to have children. So she went in for bariatric surgery to reduce weight.
And so it goes with this club. Stories unfold. Everyone listens keenly. Advice and concern flow, and then they go back to their difficult lives.
The group had met last July and November and now plans to meet in the middle of this year. It usually meets in halls or hospital meeting rooms in different parts of Mumbai. For the morbidly obese, every meeting is a catharsis. â€œFor me, it is a time to tell old and new members that being fat is fine and definitely not a sin. It is a disease and that is it. Donâ€™t let it engulf your life,â€ says Keerty. TNN