Thursday, July 07, 2005

Super Size India

Yesterday for lunch, SK drove us to the West Coast Mc Donald's outlet and I ate a Mc Chicken after ages. AG and I, both, hate the Mc Donald's food. We think it tastes like hay and the mountains of calories in everything they offer is a major deterrent. So as AG says... "As far as I can see, eating at Mc Donald's only has a downside."

Over the past few years, America seems to have been in the throes of an obesity epidemic which according to experts is worsening. But the good news is that the people are awakening to the fact and slowly there is a movement taking root which is urging people to eat and live healthy.

My Singaporean colleagues though, seem to have no qualms about eating a thousand empty calories at a sitting. Blessed with genes, I could kill for, they don't put on easily and can plough through a basket of goodies from the local bakery without wasting a single thought to the 'C' word (calories).

At lunch, all of them seemed to be regulars at Mc Donald's. Many of them breakfast at Mc Dee's regularly. YW even takes his 2 year old daughter to Mc Donald's for lunch every Saturday! And according to him, she loves it there! Well that's what Happy Meals are for. But seriously... how good is it for her? And are you not hooking her onto a terribly unhealthy habit at so young an age. I am not being neurotic here. An occasional meal of chicken rice or fried noodles or the Quarter Pounder is hardly what constitutes the definition of unhealthy. But making a habit of it... now that is taking it too far. And yet you see dozens of Singaporean school children spending hours in the local Mc Dee's or Burger King outlets... catching up on their schoolwork, chatting, giggling, sms-ing and all the while chomping down on heaps of food and gallons of coke!

SK wanted to know whether we have many outlets of Mc Dee's back home in India. "There are quite a few these days, but not as many as in Singapore" I informed him. Set me thinking... his question... Indians really don't seem to be going to the Mc Dee's as much as the rest of the world does. We still prefer our economical Lunch homes and Sukh Sagars over the phoren fast food outlets. And then above all this, is the ghar ka khana, which all of us still swear by; unlike a huge percentage of the world which has conveniently forgotten how to cook! The cool quotient, though, is definitely missing when it comes to the indigenous food outlets, and more and more people seem to be converting over. The day is not very far away, when our kids will be weaned on Coke and a Mc Dee's burger will be their first bite of solid food. Do we need a Super Size Me or a lawsuit storm to wake us up.

Also, isn't it time we learnt that the ghee and dalda and sugar we consume in such heapfuls are not helping either. This high fat food might have been okay, even ideal, for our hard working ancestors but for a generation which spends most of the day sitting around, this kind of food is hardly healthy... far from it actually! Indians, typically have higher body fat, according to the experts, making us especially vulnerable to obesity and its related health problems like diabetes and heart disease. And with the economy boom powered fast food industry growing like a juggernaut, coupled with the increasingly sedentary lifestyles we tend to lead... India is at a great risk of being hit by a major obesity epidemic... the starting signs of which are already visible. Nationwide, 31 percent of urban Indians are either obese or overweight. The mean age of 45 for Indian heart attack victims is 10 years younger than for Americans. More than half the females and a third of the male population from the affluent class is currently overweight. And naturally, we seem to be passing this onto our kids as well. A new study indicated that one out of 15 school going kids in the high income group is obese.

Where weight is only a sign of affluence and the big bellied still command respect in some areas... it is not surprising that India is blissfully unaware of the danger alarms going off throughout her. There are among us, many indulgent parents who, when pointed out that their child is overweight, smile proudly and answer... " Arre Nahin Jee... He is not fat, he is just a healthy baby... Lagna chahiye na ki khaate peete ghar ka hai? ". Touché.