Equality and diversity are our major objectives, however within that, and overall, our highest aims are to reach and serve those where conventional support is a barrier.
Serving those who are obese is an ideal concept for our aims. Conventional team sport, not surprisingly, does not extend to or cater for this condition yet their need is greater than most.
As a Health Condition alone obesity and particularly morbid obesity of course is a serious health condition that can interfere with basic physical functions such as breathing or walking. Those who are morbidly obese are at greater risk of illnesses including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gallstones, osteoarthritis, heart disease, and cancer. Although many of these conditions are mostly either just tolerable or not imminently life threatening or, until more severe symptoms or actual damage occurs, risk of the conditions becoming worse can be rationalised as statistical, not certain probabilities.
We have consulted with prospective participants who in individual measure confirm that many of the commonly identified barriers/conditions apply to them, in that people who are obese must deal with constant, depressing emotional challenges: failed diets, disapproval from family and friends, remarks from strangers. Plus, they often experience discrimination and cannot fit comfortably in public places - among many other responses. But all agree that they have failed as individuals to find solutions to bring themselves back to average circumstances and that becomes progressively more difficult as time goes by and their condition increases.
Intellectually, our prospective participants appreciate that diet alone even supported in group advisory / support sessions remains an individual and not a group challenge. It also does not encourage other forms of challenge or activities to normalise their health.
Embedded in the barriers to adding physical health however are the facts that our participants understandably recognise that standing out like a sore thumb has more intense meaning when matched against individual approaches to physical health for example where their weight issues are more exposed and even exaggerated such as swimming or going to the gym, even aerobics classes, or otherwise appearing in public. And invitations to participation in conventional physically challenging team activities are simply fantasy.
There was a clear interest in participating in the project.
We also received comment particularly from individuals we consulted which commented about the academic and impractical nature of the best advice on taking physical activity.
Ultimately it is the same advice which applies to everyone but created some interesting comments e.g. the average daily calorie intake in the UK is 3,440 and men should have no more than 2400 calories a day. Literally the fourth line of the NHS’s comment on “Choose to Lose - Get active your way” says that “30 minutes of hoovering and dusting burns 100 calories!” Academically the individuals who commented on this recognised that the example was meant to be helpful and was just indicative of the options, it just isn’t.
We had a significant number of quotable examples which unfortunately summed up the fact that conventional advice is simply not focussed on or not fit for purpose when it comes to those who are obese. And, of course, it is just advice, without the provision of services and practical options to choose.
For someone significantly overweight or obese or more so morbidly obese i.e. potentially more than a 100 pounds over their recommended weight level - that sort of advice seems pitifully inadequate. Equally the more serious advice e.g. aiming for 10,000 steps a day is measured by the calculation that 1000 steps is the equivalent of a 10-minute brisk walk. We've have a number of variations commenting on the image and the reality of them taking a brisk walk - at all.
Finally, recent statistics confirm that while 65% of Scotland’s population is overweight, over 29% are obese. Helping people who have clearly tried and failed, alone, to support and challenge each other through teamwork, sporting activities and combined practical nutritional challenges, seems like a good idea to us and to those we’ve helped so far.