This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 360 May 22 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Obesity and Humility

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The idea, in Ariels report that there are 23 million Americans going hungry is in stark contrast with the news headlines sitting in front of me warning, once again, of an obesity crisis in England and Western Europe as we rapidly catch up with our American cousins.  

Doctors worry that our health service may be overwhelmed by an increase in weight related diseases such as heart attacks and cancer.  They even reported on the death of one 3 year old child.  He was obese and he died of heart failure.  An extreme case, but one that highlights a growing problem.  

And its a problem that stretches way beyond Western Cultures.  Ive been following events with particular interest in India and South Africa recently.  Both those countries have been making immense strides forwards over the last decade.  We tend to hear the bad news stories most often, but remember that in South Africa , the economy is booming, the ANC is receiving some credit even from the white minority, more people have access to clean drinking water and electricity and the adult literacy rate has leapt to 89 percent.  

In India too we see a booming economy, especially in the IT sector.  Universities are turning out highly qualified graduates who are finding good jobs both in their home country and abroad.  

Yet in both these countries we also see a similar challenge to America , or to countries like Brazil .  The divide between the rich and the poor seems to be growing.  And a country with fewer middle income groups tends to become a country divided.  The poor have less chance to climb the ladder, to bridge the gap.  Yet Im proud of the progress these countries have made.  Proud, in South Africa , of leaders who have taken a humble course to reach leadership a course seeming to be followed in India by Sonja Ghandi and now the new prime minister, former finance minister, Manmohan Singh  

But back to the obesity story.  Its another of our stereotypical pictures that all Americans are overweight and overeating.  The reality is that the obesity problem there is more related to the poor who eat junk food because it is cheap and who cant afford to go to the gym or have a tailor made personal fitness programme.  

There are similarities here in Britain and its to that degree that the government is looking at regulations on the advertising of high sugar, high fat foods, and is encouraging people to develop lifestyle patterns that include the word exercise.  

Now if you are listening in India , China or parts of Africa you may be amazed to know that I see people jumping into their cars to drive just a few hundred meters to the shop.  Why?  It seems to take more effort to get in and out of the car than to walk.  Yet, despite increasingly high fuel prices,  people have become lazy. So the government is encouraging walking, cycling in fact anything that will reduce traffic and increase exercise.  

And exercise can be fun.  And no, Im not talking about the London Marathon or some gruelling game in the rain on a Saturday afternoon.  Im talking about the pleasure I get walking my dog each day and seeing the changing moods of nature in my local park.  Im talking about the joy of achievement I see in the faces of young people whove learnt to map read and hike in the country, or whove found that they can manage a kayak for 10 minutes without capsizing.  I talking about the satisfaction of seeing a piece of waste ground turn into a garden a wonderful community project I saw taking place in New York that could be repeated the world over.  

And if you dont like the suggestions Ive made, find some of your own that you do like something that gets you a little out of breath, that you enjoy, and that you can choose to do several times a week.  

And if you want a spiritual dimension on the subject note that exercise also stimulates the mind.  With the blood circulating better, the heart muscle stronger, and the oxygen coursing through the brain, its easier to ponder the meaning of the greeting that John gives to Gaius in his third letter:  

    Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.   3 John 1:2 (NIV) 

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