Youth and Obesity

By Maryam Al Sada, malsadaqlc@thimunqatar.org

Hungry? Three taps on your phone and a piping hot delicious delivery is 30 minutes away. Seems easy and helpful right? Yea, well, not until you discover that nearly half the students in Qatar are considered overweight and around a quarter are shockingly considered obese.

Obesity in Qatar 

Dr. Taheri, Director of Clinical Research Core at WCM-Q, described the overweight epidemic here in Qatar by stating, “We are in a region where we have some of the highest levels of obesity  in the world — 76.6 percent of people are overweight or obese and 42 percent are obese. What is most alarming is the prevalence of obesity in children. The high prevalence of obesity in adults and children in Qatar are comparable to those observed in some regions of the United States.”

Dangers of Obesity

Obesity in children carries high risks and is more likely to lead to continued obesity in adulthood, with the higher probability of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It not only leads to premature death but lowers the individual’s quality of life. 

The effects of obesity aren’t only physical. Psychological effects can also be damaging and are usually considered by sufferers as more hurtful. Obesity can, and does, lead to depression and anxiety. Many suffer from bullying and taunting about their excessive weight, which in most cases leads to low self esteem, dangerous eating disorders, and in some cases self harm. This all creates a decrease in an individual’s quality of life.

The Corrupt Food System

The main issue we are facing today is our easy access to food, especially non-healthy options. Unlike generations before us, the over-processed food we are consuming regularly is not providing us with the nutrients necessary but is bombarding our bodies with high calories and harmful additives and chemicals. Add this to the sedentary lifestyles of youngsters who prefer their phones and video games rather than exercising or just going outside to play or to simply take a walk. The result is an ever evolving overweight epidemic. Our consumer based society doesn’t help. Food outlets choose easy cheap processed foods which are high in sugar, unhealthy fats and chemicals. These unhealthy options are popular and have high margins of profitability as they don’t require as much time, land, or other resources fresh foods require.

Is Food Really the Only Issue?

Being overweight is a complicated problem, yet things as simple as a child not getting enough sleep can aggravate the problem. Therefore this issue should be targeted more holistically and a complete approach to reaching a healthy lifestyle for the whole family should be the aim. “Eating fast foods is just one behavior that results from those bad habits. Just because children who eat more fast food are the most likely to become obese does not prove that calories from fast foods bear the brunt of the blame.” affirmed Barry Popkin, PhD, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of nutrition at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, whose team led the study that proved fast food consumption is a minor factor to obesity in children. Popkin also stressed the importance of parent’s willing to put in the time and effort into providing their families with healthier options.

Local Efforts

In Qatar, efforts have been focused on intervention during the school years. These methods have been focused on promoting healthy lifestyle behavior through education. Children have been offered healthy food options at school and the rules preventing children from bringing junk food from home have been more strictly observed. One such project was Sahtak Awalan – Your Health First campaign – which has been incorporated in schools under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Education, and Qatar Foundation. In addition, schools and clubs have been encouraging children to do more physical activities. All these efforts have shown more success when the focus was not only aimed on children but also their families and school staff. Therefore, a complete involved approach to resolving the obesity issue plays a major role in improving the success rates.

The Overweight epidemic is a serious evolving crisis that needs to be tackled urgently to reduce current and future health complications. It is an ever-evolving dilemma. The rates of lives lost to obesity rose by 30% from 1990 till 2015.  Any investment now in facing this problem is essential to reduce the risk and cost of dealing with difficulties today’s youth, predictably, will face as obese adult

Youth Efforts

Youth all around the world are striving for what they’re passionate about. Nadim Rifai is a great example of commitment and passion. He’s a hard working Georgetown in Qatar Alumnus that spotted a setback in the larger society of the Middle East and worked to resolve it. After recognizing that obesity was getting out of hand, especially in the Middle East region, Rifai created a one of a kind device to tackle this epidemic. “FitTastic” is his invention. “People like to be challenged. This is why we enjoy games, we want to compete with ourselves and others and be our best at something. FitTastic merges this concept with fitness to get people off the couch and become more active,” claimed Rifai. His innovative creation includes technology, gaming, and health to encourage individuals in becoming more active on a day to day bases.

How ‘YOU’th Can Create Change

Time management is key. As teenagers, we tend to procrastinate a lot, leaving us with too little time that we will then have no choice other than using it in finishing tasks with due dates, such as homework, appointments, etc. Managing our time wisely will provide us with plenty of time for physical activity and will lead to more productivity. Prioritizing our health will not only improve our well-being but every other aspect of our lives. Healthy life, healthy mind. Creating challenges with our friends where we try new types of foods such as vegetarian, vegan, etc. is also a method in exploring new healthy options you might turn out to enjoy. In addition, choosing to enjoy an activity with our friends, such as swimming, is more beneficial to our well being then going out for a restaurant. Also, we must encourage each other to choose the healthy option instead of opting for fast foodmeals. Focus on a healthy lifestyle, not on a number on the scale. It is our responsibility not just to better ourselves but raise awareness and help people around us too. A healthy lifestyle will lead to a healthy and happy future. Your future health all depends on the small choices you make today. Choose for your health. Choose for you. Always remember, your health is worth it. You are worth it.

1 Comment

  • A reader

    September 4, 2019 at 9:29 pm Reply

    What a great topic to talk about, the community should read more about these critical topics and know the tough consequences which may destroy us.
    Good job Maryam and keep it up.

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