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14:40, 13 August 2018

In Thailand, ‘Obesity in Our Monks Is a Ticking Time Bomb’


In Thailand, ‘Obesity in Our Monks Is a Ticking Time Bomb’

In Thailand, &lsquoObesity in Our Monks Is a Ticking Time Bomb&rsquo

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Buddhist monks collecting alms final month in Bangkok. Devotees&rsquo abundant offerings of sugary or high-fat foods are contributing to a weight dilemma among monks.CreditAmanda Mustard for The New York Occasions

By Muktita Suhartono

BANGKOK &mdash The Buddha, in his laughing incarnation, is usually depicted with a jolly smile and a giant, quivering belly. That model of plenitude appears ever much more apt in Thailand, where the waistlines of the nation&rsquos Buddhist monks have expanded so much that well being officials have issued a nationwide warning.

In June, officials from Thailand&rsquos Public Overall health Department urged laypeople to offer you healthier alms to monks, who pour from temples in their saffron robes each and every morning to roam the streets collecting their meals in the Buddhist tradition.

Amporn Bejapolpitak, the division&rsquos deputy director general, also suggested that monks add a lot more physical activity &mdash like cleaning their temples &mdash to their sedentary lives of prayer and meditation.

Obesity has reached alarming levels in Thailand, which ranks as the second-heaviest nation in Asia, after Malaysia. One in 3 Thai guys are obese, while much more than 40 percent of ladies are drastically overweight, according to Thailand&rsquos national health examination survey.

Monks are at the forefront of the dilemma. Almost half are obese, according to a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University. A lot more than 40 percent have high cholesterol, practically 25 % have higher blood pressure and one in 10 are diabetic, the study discovered.

&ldquoObesity in our monks is a ticking time bomb,&rdquo mentioned Jongjit Angkatavanich, a professor of food and nutrition at the university&rsquos Faculty of Allied Wellness Sciences in Bangkok. &ldquoMany of the monks are suffering from illnesses that we know are in fact preventable.&rdquo

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Young monks throughout almsgiving in Bangkok final month. Virtually half of Thailand&rsquos monks are obese, and the government is urging folks to give them healthier food.CreditAmanda Mustard for The New York Occasions

When researchers started studying Thai monks&rsquo dietary habits, they had been baffled. The monks consume fewer calories than the general population, but more of them are obese.

One particular major culprit? &ldquoSugary drinks,&rdquo Professor Jongjit said.

Monks are forbidden to eat soon after midday, so to hold their power up, numerous rely on hugely sweetened beverages, which includes energy drinks.

Thai Buddhist devotees think that offering alms secures them good karma in this life and the subsequent. Often, they also hope to bestow excellent luck on deceased loved ones members.

But the nicely-meaning religious offerings of sugary drinks and fatty foods are getting unintended well being consequences.

&ldquoSoft drinks, boxed juice, sweet snacks, plus several of the foods are store-bought, which implies they are packed with MSG and are low in protein and fiber,&rdquo Professor Jongjit said, listing the unhealthy food items that monks routinely obtain.

Additionally, so several Buddhist worshipers donate store-purchased food that the excess is at times resold to shops. Some unscrupulous vendors recycle it, meaning that monks can acquire spoiled meals in their alms.

Some almsgivers still do issues the old way. Vilawan Lim, a homemaker in Bangkok, has been providing monks residence-cooked meals every single morning for much more than a decade. As a matter of principle, monks are not supposed to show preferences for particular foods, but she said the monk who comes by her house every single morning drops hints about what he genuinely enjoys.

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Prepackaged meals, sold to be offered to monks. &ldquoSoft drinks, boxed juice, sweet snacks, plus many of the foods are shop-purchased,&rdquo a nutrition professor says, describing some common donations.CreditAmanda Mustard for The New York Instances

&ldquoToday&rsquos spicy dip is his favored,&rdquo Ms. Vilawan stated as she mixed chiles, garlic, lime and shrimp paste into a pungent concoction served alongside blanched vegetables.

She waited outdoors her house for the monk, who arrived for the supplying at his normal time, chanting a short blessing just before leaving for the subsequent home. As his alms bowl was filled with bags of meals and packaged drinks, he transferred its contents to a bucket carried by an assistant. Inside 10 minutes, the bucket was filled to the brim with culinary offerings.

&ldquoI don&rsquot really know about obesity in monks,&rdquo Ms. Vilawan stated. &ldquoBut I do understand that the monk who comes at six o&rsquoclock is fairly heavy, and his health seems to have deteriorated lately.&rdquo

Working with the Thai government and religious authorities, Professor Jongjit manages the Healthier Monk-Healthier Nutrition Project. Funded by the Thai Well being Promotion Foundation, an autonomous government agency, its goal is to improve monks&rsquo lifestyles via education about nutrition and physical fitness.

Its pilot system in 2016 involved 82 monks at temples and a monastic college, and its results have been optimistic, with weight loss and lowered cholesterol levels recorded.

Now the project publishes recipe booklets that Buddhist devotees can use to make healthier and affordable meals for monks. Some recommendations contain brown rice with a modest quantity of protein and lots of vegetables. (Whilst traditional Thai meals mixes a tiny meat or fish with plentiful vegetables, modern day cuisine utilizes significantly far more fat and sugar.)

The project encourages monks to hold a log of their day-to-day physical activities. Physical exercise, anything as straightforward as walking about the temple for at least 40 minutes a day, can make up for the quiet pace of their monastic duties.

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Preparing rice to be provided to monks in Bangkok. &ldquoMonks should be mindful of what they eat,&rdquo said a former director of a Thai Buddhist college.CreditAmanda Mustard for The New York Instances

Monks told researchers involved in the project that they typically didn&rsquot recognize they have been putting on weight simply because of their loosefitting robes. Professor Jongjit and her team came up with a belt with knots to indicate exactly where they believed a healthful waistline should be. They also supply monks with a measuring tape divided into four colors, to indicate numerous belly sizes.

In a country that is 90 % Buddhist, Thai monks are revered as ascetics, dedicated to aiding laypeople on their paths toward enlightenment. Pointing out the community&rsquos weaknesses &mdash which have lately incorporated sex and corruption scandals &mdash can be difficult.

&ldquoWe attempted to develop something that is functional and that doesn&rsquot hurt the monks&rsquo self-esteem,&rdquo Professor Jongjit said. &ldquoIt is heartwarming to see how they playfully evaluate the knots of their belts and recognize they have gained weight and that it is time to cut back.&rdquo

The problem of overweight monks is not isolated to Thailand. In 2012, the Sri Lankan government issued guidelines from health-related professionals and nutritionists on the kinds of food that devotees must supply to holy men.

In December, the Thai Monk Council issued its initial policy suggestions on monastic overall health, which includes diet and workout tips for monks, as nicely as recommendations for the laypeople who feed and care for them. The council also urged monks to take charge of their personal nutrition and to promote healthier living amongst their peers as properly as Buddhist devotees.

&ldquoMonks should be mindful of what they consume, the amount as effectively as the type of food,&rdquo said Phra Maha Boonchuay Doojai, former director of the Chiang Mai Buddhist College in northern Thailand, who was involved in drawing up the suggestions.

&ldquoIt is one particular of the Buddha&rsquos teachings,&rdquo he stated. &ldquoWhen we are healthier, we can serve the people better.&rdquo

A version of this post seems in print on , on Page Afour of the New York edition with the headline: Thailand Confronts a Crisis Amongst Buddhist Monks: Obesity. Order Reprints | Today&rsquos Paper | Subscribe

Published at Sun, 12 Aug 2018 21:32:13 +0000


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