Saturday, December 1, 2007

You want fries with that?

Super Size MeI recently saw the Academy Award nominated documentary ‘Super Size Me’ by Morgan Spurlock. Though this film had been released in 2004, I did not get a chance to view it until recently. In this film Spurlock documents his life as he eats three meals a day for thirty days at McDonalds. All daily calories consumed by him (which are about 5000) must be purchased solely at McDonalds. Whenever an employee requests to ‘super size’ his meal ( in which one receives a much larger soft drink and french fries for a few extra cents), he must accept. He must also try everything on the menu at least once.

Throughout this ‘experiment’ Spurlock is frequently monitored by his doctors and nutritionist, who greatly advise him against it. This film documents the effect this diet has on him, both physically and psychologically. After the release of this film, the practice of ‘super sizing’ a meal has been discontinued at McDonalds, and more healthy alternatives have been added to the menu. Though this movie targets McDonalds and focuses on Americans and their appalling eating habits, the detrimental addiction of over-indulging in fast food is rapidly becoming an international predicament.

After viewing this film I felt compelled to write this entry, since this dilemma is pertinent here as well. Eating out is one of the national pastimes, and over the years, fast food chains have become exceedingly popular. So much so, that when a franchise opens a branch in a new location, it is announced in every major newspaper. Besides McDonalds, most of the fast food giants such as Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins have firmly established themselves here and are hugely popular. At food courts in malls, lines for these restaurants tend to be the longest.

Unfortunately, obesity is a rapidly growing epidemic here as well, among both the Qatari’s and expats. Sadly children are the fastest growing group. Diabetes has become the national disease. The traditional Qatari diet, however, is parallel to the so-called Mediterranean Diet, consisting of mainly fruits, vegetables, grains and lentils, while dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in moderate amounts.

Fortunately we also have many healthy alternatives, including numerous shwarma & falafel joints, freshly grilled kebabs and row upon row of glistening mahogany rotisserie chicken eateries, both which are served with khubz (unleavened Arabic flat bread), salad and small cups of plain yogurt. Also popular are the much beloved juice stalls found in almost every street in every neighborhood, where one can get an assortment of just-prepared, comparatively healthier, sandwiches and fresh squeezed juices from a large variety of seasonal fruits (just remember to tell them to hold the sugar!), all at a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere. My personal favorite is the club sandwich with layers of chicken, cheese, egg and fresh vegetables, along with refreshing pomegranate juice in the winter months and luscious mango in summer.

I would recommend this film/documentary to anyone who has an addiction for fast food or knows someone who has. With the exception of a few scenes, it is also appropriate to watch with older children. It has definitely been an eye opener.

The following are select web sites for further reference:

Super Size Me web site
Fast food facts from the Super Size Me web site
Qatar Diabetes Association
American Diabetes Association
American Heart Association
Recent article on childhood obesity in the Penisula newapaper
US Food and Drug Administration
Information on the
Mediterranean diet

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