Obesity is on the rise, and gyms are becoming increasingly popular
With improving standards of living in Kurdistan, obesity appears to be a growing concern as people have more money to buy food. That has driven many people to head to gyms to overcome the problem and the government to try to raise awareness of the health consequences of obesity.
The standard of living in Kurdistan has improved tremendously in the past years. With the emergence of supermarkets, hundreds of franchised restaurants, mega shopping malls and easy transport, people are increasingly turning to a luxurious lifestyle. The new changes in a relatively short period of time has its own consequences, one of them being obesity.
In the past there were few fast food restaurants, but since 2004 every residential area has a fastfood restaurant. Of course obesity is not a new problem in Kurdistan, but with globalization and the new image of women, as ‘slender’ and ‘fit’ gyms are becoming a popular place for them. Similarly, men are using gym to work out and for bodybuilding. However, there seems to be a greater number of women that go to gym than men.
At the International Bodybuilding Center, a 36-year old woman who regularly visits the gym to work out said, “I gained weight because I was addicted to eating sugary and fatty things, I just couldn’t help myself”. She registered nearly five weeks ago, and suffers from diabetes. Parween, beaming with pride explained that the level of sugar in her blood was 380 and has dropped to 125 since she first registered herself at the gym.
Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Health and Education in cooperation with their Iraqi counterparts, and the World Health Organization have held numerous workshops in schools within Kurdistan to raise awareness about the consequences of obesity among children, its dangers. The Chief Press officer for the Ministry of Health commented, “Obesity is in all age groups, especially among children. This is why we have concentrated extensively on them”.
There are several factors that play a role in obesity, namely genetics and lifestyle. Eating too much processed food, and leading a sedentary lifestyle contributes significantly to obesity. Those who are obese often feel ostracized within their community, or even ‘left out’ as a result this can cause them to be inactive, and harm their health even further. Parwin explained that, “I feel embarrassed when I am in social gathering and people talk about my weight, as if I don’t have a mirror in my house, or need them to remind me of my weight”.
One of the fitness trainers at International Bodybuilding Centre, said women at her gym are curious and frequently ask about the workouts they should concentrate on for toning, and losing weight. She said, “Customers are given a schedule, and a list of food products that have low calories, and are healthy for them”.
Exercising on a regular basis has not become incorporated into our lifestyle. We don’t have a culture where healthy food is given precedence. Our traditional dishes are often oily and fatty, especially the much-loved ‘dolma’, which is more than often a dish served excessively. If we want to be healthy, we have to change our attitude towards food completely.
A middle aged man performs exercise to lose weight in Ahmed Rambo Bodybuilding Sports Hall in the capital city of Erbil.