I am not surprised that we are among the top 10 fattest countries in the world. In 2012, the average adult in Trinidad and Tobago weighed 159.92 lb. (Source). We were number 23 in the ranking of the fattest country. This year, we are ranked as the third fattest country in the world according to a UK study.
This study compared the average body mass index for adults around the globe. It stated that the average body mass index of men in Trinidad and Tobago is 26.6 and 30.6 for women . Compare this to Kuwait which was ranked as the first with the average body mass for men as 27.5 and 31.4 for women. How reliable is this statistic leaves for much debate. But the point remains, we are probably already an obese nation.
T&T Among The World's Fattest Countries
When I first saw this article in the papers, I must truthfully say I was concerned more for how this would affect the website. (I had other concerns, mainly when some people chuckle at the idea that we are third. They were impressed that we had big and beautiful women to showcase every Carnival. They seem delighted to have yet another statistic in our favour placing us in the top 10, along side us having one of the most romantic accents, having a best dressed Prime Minister, and being fun-loving). But I digress.
Yes, this website is all about food, Trini food. And yes, we Trinis love food. But, should everyone really point at our food? Someone commented on a forum that doubles was the culprit. Should we really blame our food. I would boldly say, "No".
There are a number of reasons we are at number three. We are aware of these reasons that is why few Trinbagonians are surprised at the claims of this study. We knew the stats were creeping up on us. Over a month ago the Minister in the Ministry of Health stated openly during the campaign for the celebration of the World Kidney Day that more than ½ the population (55.5%), 15 years and over, are overweight or obese. In 2012, the same minister was inviting citizens to "fight the fat" and follow his example towards getting active and eat healthy.
The Top 10 Fattest Countries: Why Are We in This List Anyway?
I can place these reasons into three categories: the individual, economic needs and the present social norms. You may be saying right now, "So, food not getting people fat?" Just hold on.
We are a busy people, always rushing from here to there. Many can't seem to find the time to cook a simple meal for the family, far less learn new recipes or expand their cooking repertoire. This has lead our income earners to cook less and buy more ready made food and fast food, which are known to be low in nutrient content and high in fat content. Our mindset is that cooking takes a lot of time, and time is hard to find.
Our growing needs for fast food and take-away is fueling the growth of the food service industry. As more and more women enter the workforce, we see an exponential growth in the food service industry. There are over 3,800 food service outlets in T&T (Source). Many American fast food companies have established their presence here in T&T within the past 5 years. Now, this growth in the food service industry is not entirely a bad thing. The food industry employs many, especially women.
But with its growth comes a number of challenging issues, many that have been yet to be addressed. I am quite sure that when these issues are addressed responsibly it could lead to changes in our mindset and even in our legislations. However, our economic needs have affected families, how families interact and how knowledge, especially concerning cooking skills, are passed on.
The social norm
Our economic needs have in turn affected our social norms. We are not an active group of people like times gone by, and we are teaching our children these lessons. Most of our children have a computer. So the 25% of primary school children who are obese does not look good for us. Most children don't play much like the children from the generation gone. They did not have the distraction of internet, Facebook , PS3, cable television etc. Today's children spend more time indoors, than outdoors.
Most are also thinking that the gym is the only place to get some exercise and remain fit. Are we telling them that in order to keep fit one must become a member of a gym? When last you saw the checker box drawn in the ground in your neighbourhood that is reminiscent of girls playing hop scotch or "moral"? So while our minds are being active, our bodies are stationary.
Also, I would like to add that our country is not exercise friendly either. For economic convenience, there are more uncovered drains along the roads, so the sprinter or walker is forced into the road. (Please remember, the seasons here are dry and wet season.) I guess this confirms the fact that a gym is the best place to keep fit.
Now if you don't have the time or extra money for the gym, is it no mystery that we are number 3? In our daily scurry to make the fast buck, we are becoming more and more engrossed in ourselves. The responsibility for maintaining a healthy society does not just rest on the individual, but rests on families, businesses, society and policy makers. Of course, we need to eat a healthy balanced meal, but if many do not know what makes up a healthy meal or how to cook a healthy meal, how are we going to get healthier?
There are many recipes, including the many that have passed on from generation to generation, that we can use to make up our daily and weekly meal plans. These recipes are varied and can contribute to us becoming healthier. They make use of local foods, thus helping us control our food bill.
Not all our Trini recipes are entirely carbohydrate- filled meals, as we have been mislead to believe. If I can whip up a healthy meal using only the recipes handed down from my grandparents within 45 minutes, you can too. Once you find the joy in preparing your own meals you eat less and less of the fast food that is very addictive.
MSG is a common ingredient in many fast foods and has been know to be addictive and encourage overeating. Once we become conscious of what we eat we will also encourage the food service industry to become more aware of our health needs and be cautious in what they serve the public. Then we will begin our way towards a healthier Trinidad and Tobago. And, the next time a survey is done we will be toasting towards our own health.
A Short Note From the Author:
Simply Trini Cooking prides itself in being the first Trinidad and Tobago food blog devoted to bringing you detailed step-by-step recipes with pictures, that have been passed on from generation to generation. Our goal has been and will always be one to encourage our readers to follow a healthy lifestyle that can lead towards physical and emotional well-being.
We invite your support to share our recipes, recipe eBooks, health articles and health eBooks with your friends and family. Also, you are welcomed to join our Facebook fan page and discuss with like- minded persons the joys of eating healthy Trini food. Finally, it is always a pleasure hearing from our readers. (Note: All comments are moderated). Don't forget to leave your comments about Trinidad and Tobago being among the world's fattest countries in the comment box below.