Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 31, Tuesday August 12, 2008



Dear Dr. Ara,
My daughter is eight years old and severely overweight. Her friends tease her at school and relatives never fail to pass on a judgement. She has now become reluctant to consume food altogether. She is more aloof and no longer wants to go out of the house. Her school records are also going downhill. How can I deal with this problem? Please help.

Body constitutional factors, genetic predisposition and other biological factors (e.g. endocrine problem, metabolic disorders etc.) need to be excluded first before pointing at mental health issues as a precipitating factor. A thorough physical check-up can give clues if this weight gain is a symptom of any other underlying physical health problem. A medicine specialist or endocrinologist can be consulted for this purpose.

Food habits often play a big role in weight gain. Indulging excessively in rich diet, fast food, etc. and maintaining that bad choice of food can eventually lead to excessive weight gain. Lack of adequate physical activity makes things even worse. A child can burn lot of energy by outdoor activities. Instead of focusing too much on food intake, it is wiser to focus more on its breakdown.

Some children are getting obese as they do very little physical activities and spend lot of hours watching TV, playing video games or reading books. Schools further contribute to this situation by overburdening our children with excessive homework that leaves the child with no time to spend outdoor. Many schools in residential areas have just a tiny front and back yard to be used as a schoolyard! Moreover, social insecurity of overcrowded urban life and lack of facilities for healthy living are taking its toll on our children's mental and physical health.

Overweight can draw people's unnecessary negative attention leading to embarrassment or shame. This can eventually damage self-esteem. Isolation can further complicate the situation as it might hamper her psychosocial developmental process.

Teasing at school is not acceptable in a civilised society where it is considered as bullying. Ideally schools should have clear guidelines about it and children should be encouraged both at home and at school to learn to respect others. Relatives passing judgement is also a hard one to deal with. Being able to brush off those intrusive comments and using a sense of boundary to stop these relatives from damaging others are essential social skills that one can learn from group therapy sessions.

Socially inept people and insensitive people are risky for a vulnerable child like her; teach her to maintain a safe distance from those people who make intrusive comments to hurt her. It is probably worth mentioning here that honesty without gentleness is equivalent to brutality. Again gentleness without any honesty is nothing but sentimentality. Well-wishers conveying their concerns in a sensible way and trying to be supportive is a blessing.

Your daughter has now become reluctant to consume food altogether. This is surely not a good sign. Attaching emotion to food can lead to eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia etc.), it can be a sign of clinical depression too. In modern culture, fleshiness is often seen as a sign of weakness, losing control or neediness over food. Controlling the size and shape of body by strict dieting, women attempt to hide this self-shame. Here dieting is as much related to mind as it is to the body.

An eight-year-old girl getting overtly sensitive to this body shame is not going to be helpful in the long run. Food can become an addictive substance when brain starts associating physical hunger with emotional neediness and the desire for connectedness with others. Comfort eaters indulge in compulsive eating habits to suppress their uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, eventually it becomes an automatic unconscious response and they find it hard to break the cycle. Here, addiction is not simply a lack of will, a failure of spirit and morality or a series of bad choices; it is rather a call for help, a way of connecting, and a way of lessening a roaring invisible ache.

Encourage her to eat regular healthy meals. Nibbling on food or having snacks in between meals should be discouraged. Low calorie diet, fruits and vegetables are often recommended by dieticians. Avoid buying soft drinks, sweets, chocolates etc. on a regular basis though having those once in a while is not going to kill her. Know her better in order to create some motivation, encourage her to talk about her feelings, acknowledge and reward all of her small successes and assure her about your unconditional love for her. If possible, reach out to some of her classmates who can help her to sail through this period of life. Maintaining a fit healthy body should be a personal need, make it an enjoyable fun thing to do in life instead of making it a terrifying experience of failure or success.

Under A Different Sky

Apolitical politics

Politics and I just don't go together. It's not that I don't understand politics, it's just that I don't care to keep up with it. I am never the one reading memoirs of ex-presidents or their wives. Why? Well because I don't need to…things either move quite slow in politics or so fast that you can't miss it, at least in terms of actions. There is of course a lot of talk involved and I don't like listening to empty words, and overrated speeches.

Usually I can skip reading the paper for a week and then one Sunday morning browsing the Washington Post I can pick up all the details if I need to. I usually ignore the heated comments, criticism, speculation and opinions that I hear throughout the week from friends and co-workers who are into politics, everyone with a solution in their hands. Only if McCain had said this, only if Hillary had worn that, only if Obama had sported his perfect teeth a little less at times. Solutions… too bad they not reaching the right ears.

My disinterest towards politics probably comes from growing up in Dhaka, where politics nearly became a dirty word when I was growing up. Student politics, Jamate Islami, Jatiyo Party, Awami League and BNP.

I grew up in a Dhaka with strikes every week, even curfews once in a while; the same two families switching powers every four years, except in the middle when a strange corrupted man took over Bangladesh and then wrote loads of bad poetry. If that was politics then it was not something to feel respect towards. I had respect for our past, 71, but somehow I never related our liberation war with politics, it was above all of that.

Now, living in Washington DC where trying to remain apolitical is almost a sin, it's a little hard for me to stay out of it all. So for the sake of the city I live in, I engage myself once in a while in conversations about politics and the upcoming elections and the current president of USA and his minions.

I realised how so many people around me from taxi drivers to lobbyists, from street vendors to doctors can feel so much passion towards political figures, all because they want to believe. And therefore they follow. They understand in their own way what's right and what's wrong.

I am fascinated talking to them because for me while I don't feel much for the people they are rooting for, I feel a lot when I see the passion in other people's hearts and minds. It's like religion: you support without questioning much, you stay with it even if it disappoints you; higher powers, invincible individuals because you have made them into that.

I am attending the Democratic National Convention in a few weeks in Colorado. Don't ask me why, let's just say I am going to feel the energy, not the politics. I am going to see the people and the man they are there for, and I am being selfish and wanting to be a part of history- an African American running for president with a high chance of winning. A first! An election where shameless games of blame have taken over the policies and actions they stand for. Even Paris Hilton gets to be a part of the face of this election…now that's history. So how can I miss it?

I am sure I will be writing more on this…and you will have to put up with reading about the Democratic National Convention through this apolitical Bengali American's eyes. I want to see what we call history, and what people will do to build it, and how we will remember it…so I too one day can claim a piece of this history…it's my own private politics with selfish agenda…a step towards blind passion.

check it out


International Domine Energy Ltd. has recently introduced 'O-Rice' made especially for diabetics and patients with high blood pressure. The incredible new version of rice has been considered a potent food containing all vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed to help fight disease, and ageing. Low glycemic index of brown rice can help to balance blood sugar levels, regulate weight loss and energise the body. Among other items, International Domine Energy Ltd. also imports Thai food items- Sanfaz spices, Motorex lubricants, Kampongkoh sauce etc O-RICE are available in all leading pharmacies and convenience stores.

Khazana Mithai on Shab-e-Barat

After successful launch with its flagship store, Khazana Mithai is now ready to serve its esteemed patrons with special Shab-e-Barat delights. ‘Mishti' is an integral part of all occasions and as 'the night' is at the doorstep, it's time to embrace festivity with religious fervour.

Khazana Mithai is all set to bring an assortment that will tantalise taste buds, all wrapped in distinct traditional warmth and hospitality.

Some of the specialties of Khazana Mithai for the above occasion will be halwa treats made of carrots, lentil and shujee.

The other popular items would be motichur-ke-laddu, son papri, kaju barfi, rasmalai, chamcham, gulab jamun, kalakand, chanar payesh and sugar-free sponge rasogolla.

Art of tradition

Kay Kraft has a name for incorporating traditional motifs in their designs since its' inception. From 17-21 August, Drik Gallery will play host to an array of designer wear by Kay Kraft highlighting inspiration derived from 'nokshi' patterns in rice cakes.

The effort that goes on from concept to skilful execution on fabric, is an integral part of fashion. Students of design are familiar with the metamorphosis but aspiring fashionistas
need to come in terms with this idea.

Kay Kraft design team hopes to bridge this gap between designers and the consumers, but mostly address people who want to delve into the length and breath of designing. Don't miss!

By the way


The bright, sunny colour of yellow roses evokes a feeling of warmth and happiness. The warm feelings associated with the yellow rose are often akin to those shared with a true friend. As such, the yellow rose is an ideal symbol for joy and friendship.

Red roses are the traditional symbol for love and romance, and a time-honoured way to say "I love you." The red rose has long symbolised beauty and perfection. A bouquet of red roses is the perfect way to express your deep feelings for someone special.

White roses represent innocence and purity and are traditionally associated with marriages and new beginnings. The white rose is also a symbol of honour and reverence, and white rose arrangements are often used as an expression of remembrance With their blazing energy, orange roses are the embodiment of desire and enthusiasm. Orange roses often symbolise passion and excitement and are an expression of fervent romance.



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star