24 December, 2007

Of Obesity in Hadhramaut

With the exception of Bedouins, most men and women here in Hadhramaut - seem to be on the fat side. Having meals (excessively) with high carbohydrate contents, such as rice and bread, seem to be the main cause; but, then - very few people here, do any form of physical exercise. Worse: schools here do not have proper fields or facilities for physical exercises or sports. No wonder we don't do well in sporting competitions. And even much worse: many men these days, spend much of their leisure time chewing 'qat'; true - qat makes one lose weight because it makes one lose appetite for food, but the chewing of qat is a very inactive process that requires almost no physical activity except, to chew. And qat, is a greater health risk.

Walking on any street here, most men I see, seem to have protruding bellies and are flabby. Even, the young. Whenever I go swimming, almost all men I find in and around the pool are pot bellied or are paunchy; many times, I have been asked on how I manage to stay trim. And my answer has always been the same: I control my diet, I brisk walk almost every day for five kilometers or more, whenever I have the time, I swim; and I would have very much loved to go out cycling every day. It's that simple. Had I not been doing that, I too would have been very much paunchy and flabby.

Obesity (and lack of physical exercise), is one of the greatest health risks here; just as it is, around the Arabian Peninsula. Not only does obesity look ugly, but many times, being overweight and obese increases the risk for many diseases and health conditions. Hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart diseases and cardiovascular ailments, arthritis (which is very common here), breathing problems, gallbladder disease, having high cholesterol and even some forms of cancer - have all been associated with obesity. For pregnant women, obesity has even been said to increase the risk of birth defects.

It seems we, here, have forgotten the very simple and yet very wise advice and instructions that our religion, Islam - gives: the Qur’anic verses. “Eat and drink but not to excess (7 : 32); and The Prophet's, many advises for physical activity, and against over eating and obesity. It's reported that - the physician of the Arabs, Harith ibn Khalada, was once asked: What is the best medicine? He replied: ‘Necessity that is, hunger.’ When asked what disease was, he said: ‘The eating of food upon food.’Ibn Sina, the renowned Muslim physician and philosopher said: ‘Never have a meal until the one before it has been digested,’ and preferred a diet of vegetables and advised against fatty and salty food. Even Ibn Khaldun, the great Muslim philosopher and thinker, advised against over eating: ‘Know that hunger is better for health than eating too much. Even if we cannot remain hungry, eating less is good. Eating less is better for the development of body and mind.’

As for physical exercise: the Prophet's life was full of recommendations and advise. Didn't he advise us to teach our children 'swimming, archery and horse riding'? He, himself used to walk at a fast pace even race with his wife, Ayesha; and was very active physically - most of the time preferring to work with his hands whether at home or out with his companions. His body was always slim, muscular and fit. It's a pity, that we here in Hadhramout, have become lethargic and sedentary. And fat!