Obesity: a challenge that requires joint action

Obesity is a global challenge that transcends individual boundaries, encompassing a complex intersection of psychological, environmental, social, and economic factors. World Obesity Day emerges as a platform to promote an inclusive and transdisciplinary dialogue.
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World Obesity Day stands as an opportunity to address one of the most complex and multifaceted public health challenges of our era. Obesity is not just an individual health issue; it is a global phenomenon intertwined with psychological, environmental, social, and economic factors. This year, World Obesity Day aims to foster inclusive dialogue, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. By sharing knowledge and advocating together, we can begin to view obesity from a different and more compassionate perspective ("World Obesity Day," 2023).

It is necessary to acknowledge the importance of addressing the psychological aspects of obesity, emphasizing that the journey towards a healthy weight also requires a healthy mind. Among these, psychological inflexibility, characterized by rigidity in thoughts and behaviors, has proven to be a significant obstacle in combating obesity. Studies suggest that this inflexibility is associated with disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating, and with an increased tendency to use food as an emotional regulator (Arbinaga, Mendoza-Sierra, & Fernández-Acosta, 2024).

Furthermore, the environment in which we live plays a crucial role in our metabolic health. Research has revealed that features such as a greater number of points of interest and an active living environment are associated with lower risk factors for metabolic syndrome (Koohsari et al., 2023). This underscores the importance of designing our neighborhoods in a way that promotes active and healthy lifestyles, leveraging the principles of nudge theory to encourage healthy choices without imposition (Hallsworth & Kirkman, 2020; Thaler & Sunstein, 2009).

Although diet and exercise are fundamental in treating people living with obesity, the simplistic recommendation of "eat less and move more" has proven to be insufficient as a population-level strategy to combat obesity (Scully, 2014). This is due to the complexity of the factors contributing to obesity, including social stigmas and discrimination. The stigmas associated with "fatness," such as signs of laziness or lack of self-discipline, are not only unfair but also hinder public health efforts (Brewis & Wutich, 2019; Brewis et al., 2011).

Obesity must be addressed with a comprehensive strategy that considers the diversity of experiences and needs. It is essential to foster environments that not only offer healthy options but are also inclusive and free of stigma. Building infrastructure that promotes physical activity, such as spaces for walking and biking, can play a vital role in this approach (Tcymbal et al., 2020).

World Obesity Day reminds us of the importance of joining together in a collective effort to address obesity with compassion, knowledge, and action. Through a holistic approach that recognizes the complexity of obesity, we can move towards more effective and empathetic solutions. The fight against obesity is not just a medical challenge; it is an opportunity to build healthier, more equitable, and supportive societies.

References

Arbinaga, F., Mendoza-Sierra, M. I., & Fernández-Acosta, G. (2024). Index of healthy eating and emotional eating in relation to psychological inflexibility in dance students. Humanit Soc Sci Commun, 11(146). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-024-02663-9

Brewis, A., & Wutich, A. (2019). Lazy, Crazy, and Disgusting: Stigma and the Undoing of Global Health. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Brewis, A. A., Wutich, A., Falletta-Cowden, A., & Rodríguez-Soto, I. (2011). Current Anthropology, 52(269-276).

World Obesity Day. (2023). https://es.worldobesityday.org/

Hallsworth, M., & Kirkman, E. (2020). Behavioral insights. MIT Press.

Koohsari, M. J., Yasunaga, A., Oka, K., et al. (2023). The contributions of neighbourhood design in promoting metabolic health. Humanit Soc Sci Commun, 10(401). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-023-01902-9

Scully, T. (2014). Obesity. Nature, 508(S49). https://doi.org/10.1038/508S49a

Tcymbal, A., Demetriou, Y., Kelso, A., Wolbring, L., Wunsch, K., Wäsche, H., Woll, A., & Reimers, A. K. (2020). Effects of the built environment on physical activity: a systematic review of longitudinal studies taking sex/gender into account. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 25(1-25).

Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press.

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