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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Former world's heaviest woman to visit UAE schools to offer cautionary tale

Overweight pupils will be shocked into lifestyle change with visit of former 500kg patient, doctors hope

Eman Ahmed with Dr Muffazal Lakdawala at her home in Alexandria, Egypt in January. Courtesy Save Eman Cause.
Eman Ahmed with Dr Muffazal Lakdawala at her home in Alexandria, Egypt in January. Courtesy Save Eman Cause.

The use of a custom built electric wheelchair has given Eman Abd el Aty mobility for the first time in more than a decade.

Once weighing close to 500kg, she was unable to move or leave her home.

Now in the middle of an extensive weight loss and rehabilitation programme, courtesy of VPS Healthcare and Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, Eman is beginning to plan for the future.

Her doctors hope to use her compelling story to show the crippling dangers linked to obesity, an often self-inflicted condition that can have devastating effects.

Once recovered, doctors hope Eman will be well enough to visit schools to shock children and their parents into changing their lifestyles to help avoid future health conditions linked to obesity.

“Eman is the right candidate to help us create awareness about obesity in the country,” said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS healthcare in Abu Dhabi.

“People will listen to her story. Before, Eman was secluded and depressed, now she is communicating more and has become more sociable.

“She is beginning to enjoy life again, and that is a good sign but it will take time.

“We want her to talk to children and schools about her experience to show they need to be careful with their lifestyle and what the consequences are.”

Eman was flown for treatment in Abu Dhabi in May in an Egypt Air cargo aircraft converted into an air ambulance. She has been seen by more than 20 medical specialists to evaluate her condition.

The UAE is in the grip of an obesity crisis. Traditionally a western affliction, GCC populations are now feeling the pinch from obesity and related health conditions.

The World Health Organisation defines a body mass index over 30 as obese.

Among women in the GCC, 31.3 per cent of Emiratis are obese, compared with 38.4 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 35.2 per cent in Kuwait. In Oman, 29.2 per cent of women are obese and 42 per cent in Bahrain.

About 34 per cent of children in the UAE are classified as either overweight or obese, according to recent studies.

“This is about education and awareness, there is no short term solution to the obesity problems we are facing,” Dr Vayalil said.

“It is not just overeating, but often a combination of medical factors, stress and a sedentary lifestyle.

“We need to tackle everything, at every stage as one thing often leads to another.

“Obese people often get depressed and the psychological factors are not always considered.”