You just need to walk through Villagio, Landmark or City Centre shopping malls and take stock of the people and their girth to realise that there is an obesity problem in Qatar. Rated six in the top ten countries of “growing obesity” in the world, Qatar is sure to have resulting health issues in the future, some are which are already apparent. Diabetes being at the forefront, as the percentage of adults with diabetes goes into double figures, the percentage of children with diabetes is ballooning also. The number of children walking through the school gates (just about), carrying their insulin kits, balance the number bringing fast food for their lunch and together, they out-weigh the children taking healthy lunches, literally.
While obesity is recognized as one of the leading contributing factors to preventative health issues in Qatar, the most contributing factor to health issues from birth are inter-family marriages. Actually, apart from the black Abaya and the golf cufflinks glinting under the mall chandeliers, on the pristine white garb, as they enjoy their buckets of deep fried chicken and supersized cokes one can see the similarity between these kissin’ cousins and their fellow hilly-billy-sister-kissin’ friends down south. East meets West.
Given that in Ireland my visits to shopping centers were instigated by the need to purchase something, there was only ever a need for a quick coffee or a sandwich at most. But now being forced by heat, societal pressure and mounting laziness to spend family days out hanging around Malls, we now take the opportunity to eat our main meal there. Before your heart bleeds at the thought of me having to have my “Sunday” (Friday in Qatar) dinner in a shopping mall, let me clarify, the food courts at these shopping malls have every food chain there is and then some. Of course fast food is rife and the chance of finding a humble sandwich or a scone is nil.
Having previously placed significant emphasis on the importance of family eating their meals together, ok, it was more than significant emphasis, it was more like, “eat at the table or die”. I have also been known to voice and exercise the merit in everyone in the family eating the same meal, no second dinner in my house, no leaving the asparagus on the side of your plate, no siree. ”. I look back on the days of our mealtimes in Ireland, meat, spuds and two veg and the satisfaction of knowing that even though nobody enjoyed it, it was the right thing to do. The fond memories of complaints from the husband about watery spuds, tears from the children about onions in the gravy and my own personal heartache of having to fill the dishwasher, I sit back and wonder where have we gone wrong, our valuable family mealtimes gone forever. Long evenings spent processing tiny tubs of butternut squash and carrot for baby, lost. Broken down or reformed I’m not sure which, it was in these free for all food-courts that I’ve gradually lost control, sorry, grip on the eating thing.
The new family system is now as such, we each order from our preferred outlet, the first one finished, grabs the table in the food court, we then proceed to share our meal, one Indian, one Arabic, a KFC ,a McDonalds and a jar of strawberry custard for baby [stepping stone to chicken nuggets]. This new arrangement leaves us with no common topic of conversation, other than, “how was your queue?” “what did you get?” and while it’s a recipe for happy children something seems amiss at this family meal time, just the common conversation about the dinner , “spuds are nice”, kinda thing or “that’s a nice piece of beef”. All this is gone now and the words, “are you finishing that” can be heard more often.
All those years in Ireland spent re-training our minds to reduce portion size and replace high cholesterol foods with healthy alternatives, wasted. I’m disappointed to say that rather than setting a healthy trend, I dive into my Big Mac and looking across at my husband I seek comfort from the fact that at least we’re not cousins.