«Obesity is a disease, a mortal disease… we are addicted to food, which made us forget our body and our life, and that is why we need to take control back of our life»Maria Carla Ossola, president of the organisation Small – Mai Più Obesi
Obesity is a serious disease that is tough to recognise, in contrast with other physical illnesses. People seldom realise they have a pathology, as many think that obesity is only linked to sloth or gluttony. Maria Carla Ossola, president of the organisation Small Mai Più Obesi, wants to eliminate this line of thought and make everyone understand that obesity is a real disease, and the cure does not reside in simple dieting but in lasting lifestyle changes together with psychological and surgical interventions.
The difficulties of people who suffer from obesity
“You just need to diet!”, or “You have to practise sports and stop overeating”. Every day, a sentence like this is told to someone who is obese. And, slowly but steadily, people with obesity start convincing themselves that maybe it is their fault if they are in that condition. This is wrong: obesity is a disease. «Common places prevent society from ever going forward. The obese person feels like they have to justify themselves with other people that cannot understand their condition» says Maria Carla Ossola, president of the Small Mai Più Obesi no-profit. Ossola speaks from experience: «I was an obese person. Better, I prefer to call myself an obese person who has been at a healthy weight for 23 years, exactly from the moment I started to change, because change is indeed necessary» the president says.
The major difficulty for those who suffer from obesity is changing: not only changing habits, but also changing mindset. «You have to start thinking as a healthy person, not a fat person. There is a difference» Ossola states. Indeed, obesity is a disease comprising both physical and psychological problems, however it is difficult for obese people to understand this if they have been at an excessive weight since childhood, or if they have always lived in an obese family. «People who have been at a healthy weight until adulthood have it easier, as they only need to look at their old photos to recognise their body. Those who have been obese since they were kids have it harder, as they were probably born in an obese family» continues.
Family and childhood contribute to the onset of obesity. But this has not to be an excuse to give up. Ossola focuses on helping families, too. «When someone comes to me, I always say that if they take control of their life and change their way of looking at food, then they are giving a good example. Children need good examples, not lectures nor lessons. It’s useless to bring your kid to a dietitian if you yourself are severely overweight». And this is the change needed to start a long-lasting healing journey.
Surgery, psychology and group support: how Small helps obese people
Small Mai Più Obesi was born from the experience of Maria Carla Ossola, who managed to recover from obesity, in order to help people who have the same difficulties she had years ago. «The fundamental principle is that obesity has to be considered a disease. Especially from the obese patient» she says. This is the only way people with obesity can understand the gravity of their condition, and the need to start a multi-disciplinary journey lasting their whole life. Starting from bariatric surgery and counseling. «We accompany patients during their healing process, telling them that obesity is a disease to recover from, and that they need not be scared by surgery».
However, the organisation’s work doesn’t stop there. Bariatric surgery cannot cure obesity if it is not performed in conjunction with a radical lifestyle change and a reset of taste buds. Groups of healthy cooking, webinar focusing on correct nutrition, group physical activity, group therapy and even research on the healthier foods: Small accompanies obese and ex-obese people in a long-lasting journey made of reciprocal support. «We learn to eat better, paying attention to how food tastes and what we ingest, instead of just eating to fill the void in our life».
What if someone relapses? «It can happen that life brings us to face hard and serious problems, leading us to lose ourselves. However, if you are with us, you can get back on track if you want to. It is our mission. The world “failure” does not exist with us» Ossola states, highlighting that in this journey no one is left behind, especially in the Small Mai Più Obesi community. Change is always difficult, and it is seldom fast and painless: consistency and effort are key. But the result is a life of freedom and health. «We need to live our life with our difficulties knowing it is not easy. There is no magic wand. But with us you can recover from obesity».