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A still from the Obesity Clinic RTÉ

Obesity time bomb? It has already exploded, says expert

The Obesity Clinic, a new two-part documentary tracking the lives of eight obese patients at a weight management clinic, starts on RTÉ tonight.

IRELAND HAS AN obesity bomb – and it has already exploded, an expert on the issue has said.

Professor Donal O’Shea will feature in The Obesity Clinic, a two-part observational documentary which goes out on RTÉ One at 9.35pm tonight. He is the founder of Ireland’s first public weight management clinic in St Columcille’s Hospital, Dublin, and eight of his patients feature in the programme.

Speaking in advance of its screening, he said:

I am sick of hearing about the problem being a ticking time bomb. The bomb has exploded and we are working at the bomb site.

In an interview with, O’Shea said that “people keep saying if we don’t act we’re going to have a big problem with obesity – and that’s why we have 900,000 people in the country obese and another 1 million plus overweight.”

He said the medical industry is dealing with “the cancer, the Type 2 diabetes, the depression, the psoriasis” that results from this obesity.



Are people aware of the scale of the obesity problem?

I think people are aware but at a level, but they don’t apply it to themselves. Overweight begins for the average woman at about 10st 4 and the average man at about 12.5 – 13 stone, and most people who are that weight aren’t watching it.

Prof O’Shea said he hopes the programme shows the importance of prevention. “It’s so easy to stop weight going on – stepping on the scales once a fortnight and making sure you watch what you eat. It is so difficult  to lose it.”

“We have a cohort of 3 year olds and 25 of them are either overweight or obese,” said O’Shea, explaining that 82 per cent of these children will carry obesity into adulthood. To O’Shea, we are simply not doing enough in Ireland to tackle this issue. One in four adults in Ireland is obese.

He says that education is one part of it, but the “motivation bit – that is the bit that we haven’t quite cracked”. He hopes that asking eight patients to get involved with the show will demonstrate for people “how awful it is at the extreme end of the problem and people will do something to actively manage their own weight”.

“If people see how easy it is to happen and how hard it is to lose it they might be more active in preventing it. That is my hope,” he said.

My fear is that people will love the programme and just see the extreme end and think it is not relevant to them.

There are numerous reasons for the obesity epidemic, such as the rapid change in environment, decrease in physical activity, and consumption of convenience food and sugar-sweetened drinks.

People tend to blame obese people for their obesity, said Prof O’Shea. This can make them feel guilty and stigmatised, which impacts their weight loss.

People have great sympathy for the battle with cancer, or the battle with heart disease, but they have no sympathy for the battle with obesity. They are caused by the same things – genes and environment.


Prof O’Shea said that he would advise people:

For adults it’s really important to know your weight, and track your weight a couple of times a month to make sure it’s not going up. Every parent should find out what their kid’s weight is and find out if it’s right for their age and height. If we could solve the kids [obesity problem] we really would be on the way.

He added that children don’t have to lose weight – they can stay the same weight and grow into it as they age. The same is not true for adults.

Read: New York City’s ban on large fizzy drinks to take effect in six months>

Read: Ireland ‘not immune to global epidemic of obesity and diabetes’>

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