Saturday, 3 March 2012

Desperate to be Thin

A women models a pair of skinny shorts -- but is she for real?
Many Hong Kong young women are obsessed about their figures.

They perceive that thin is pretty and will go to great lengths to become stick-thin.

Some will skip meals, others eat only salads or even resort to "diet pills" and gimmicks that claim to help people lose weight.

One of them entails adding a kind of powder to water and drinking it a few times a day to make one go to the bathroom more often. The product claims it has bacteria in there to clean out one's system so that the bloated feeling will disappear and thus be reflected in the waistline.

This desire to be thin has resulted in nearly 40 percent of young women 20 to 29 years old in the city to be underweight. This proportion has doubled in the past 15 years and the consequences can lead to them being more at risk of osteoporosis, according to a study by a Queen Mary Hospital doctor.

Dr Annie Kung Wai-chee used the World Health Organization's classification of body mass index (BMI) calculated by dividing a patient's weight by their height squared. An index of 18.5 to 22.9 is normal. However one in four Hong Kong young women had a BMI lower than 18.5.

And this could lead to a higher change of developing osteoporosis as the women's bone tissue decreased as well as bone density over time.

"When a female is in puberty and she tries to control her body weight by eating less, she can't get enough calcium and vitamins to sustain bone growth," Kung said.

Other possible contributors include low body weight, smoking and too little calcium in the diet. Osteoporosis can also lead to height loss and stooped body posture.

Kung described a 19-year-old whose weight was 36.3kg and her BMI was 14. When the young woman slipped on a wet floor, she broke her leg.

At the time the teenager ate twice a day and only dry food. After four years of treatment she now weighs 41kg but is still underweight.

Part of this obsession particularly in Hong Kong is due to the materialistic culture and constantly being exposed to images of thin models on advertising billboards, in magazines and television. They also don't seem to realize that many of the images of women they see are photo-shopped to the point where they don't look natural anymore.

There is very little knowledge about proper diets as well as the importance of exercising in Hong Kong. Many still believe lifting even the lightest dumbbells will result in large manly muscles which is physiologically impossible.

This kind of basic health information is so critical and yet parents, schools and senior officials seem more concerned about top grades than physical and psychological well being.

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