Obesity is ugly, wake up Samoa!

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Obesity is an ugly problem in Samoa. It’s not just an ugly problem; it’s an expensive one too. 

Just ask the government who has to spend thousands of tala that should be set aside for other developments simply to deal with non-communicable diseases, which are largely caused by obesity.

In this part of the world, we talk a lot about threats of different types. 

Truth be told, obesity and the problems it brings should be regarded as one of the most serious threats, if not the most serious one. 

Why do we say this? 

Well every day at the Moto’otua hospital and all over Samoa, people are dying as a result of obesity-related illnesses. Diabetes figures have shot through the roof, heart problems are approaching crisis level if it hasn’t already. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Look at issue of liver diseases, hypertension and to an extent the growing number of stroke patients we have. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is no secret we have a massive problem on our hands, which we cannot ignore. As it has been said time and time again, a healthy nation is a prosperous one. When you have a sick nation, you really have to worry.

Looking at Samoa today, we have to be concerned.   

Healthy living has many components. Exercising is one of them. We’ve seen over the years a lot of positive developments in terms of exercise and recreational activities as people are waking up to the realisation that we need to live healthier.

But exercising, as most of us know, is only a fraction of the solution.

For many of us here, our biggest challenge is diet – in this case extremely poor diet. And no one is immune. We are all guilty of overindulging in food and drinks. 

And it begs the question. Why do we have so many health problems that are linked to poor diets when we have so much fruits of the land? Why are our people eating themselves into a life of struggling with non-communicable diseases, especially the ones linked to food when fresh tropical fruits are readily available? If vegetables can be grown in our backyards, why are we not eating enough vegetables? If fish is the healthy alternative, why are we not eating fish when we have a ton of them available?

Everyone of course will have a different answer. Some will say it comes down to what people can afford, for others it is a matter of choice while for some they simply cannot be bothered – until they are on their deathbed.

Now we’ve highlighted this before but we want to revisit this today. We believe that one of the biggest problems is our mentality when it comes to food. We think we are poor if we don’t have lamb flaps for dinner even though it is probably one of the unhealthiest meat options there is.

In Samoa, people sell fresh fish so that they can buy a can of mackerel. We let the bananas, breadfruits and ta’amu rot outside while we slave away to buy a sack of rice. Our esi are being eaten by the birds while we snack on hard biscuits and lollies that wreak havoc on our teeth.

We look down at the humble laumoli and moegalo while we scab overseas-made teabags and cheap, instant sugar laden three-in-one coffee from the next-door neighbour for morning and evening tea. 

We cram our children’s lunchboxes with imported apples and oranges while our more nutritious ripe bananas, vi and mangoes go to waste on the trees.

They are choices being driven by ignorance and a mentality ingrained in us from a young age, that unless you drink the palagi-made coffee; you haven’t made it in life.

But look where that has landed us? Look at our N.C.D statistics? Look at the rate at which our young people are dying from heart diseases, diabetes and other health issues?

Is it wrong to enjoy some of life’s more modern pleasures in terms of food and drinks? 

Absolutely not. But we don’t know how to spell moderation. We don’t care that we have to earn our food in terms of exercising. The problem is that in a world that is constantly changing, we are ignoring what God has freely given to us as gifts in the pursuit of what seems to be the ‘in thing.’ 

It’s all about image, a fake one at that, too.

Indeed, it’s a mindset, an attitude.

It’s about changing our perception of ourselves, learning to value ourselves by valuing the simple gifts we have. 

In some cases, some of us have let ourselves go because maybe we don’t see too much value in ourselves; somewhere, somehow we’ve lost pride in our appearances and eventually our health.

Let’s be frank about this. Obesity is ugly. We were not created to be fat and unhealthy. We did that ourselves and sadly, most of us only learn when we are told we only have a few weeks to live. 

We need to change. We need to value ourselves. We need to fix our eating habits. And the government has a moral responsibility to address the issue of cheap unhealthy food that are being dumped on these shores, which are literally killing our people. Some of that stuff are not even fit for dogs, why then are they being sold to public?

The point is that if we want a healthier Samoa, we need to think seriously about changing our habits. It is about reversing bad habits and telling ourselves that what we have here in Samoa is perfectly fine for us and our health. 

That’s what we think anyway.

Have a safe weekend and God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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