A sugary mess

By Shakir Reshamwala

World Diabetes Day was marked on Nov 14. Kuwait, having one of the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world, observes this day religiously. Various seminars are held and many specialists dish out advice. After a few days, interest begins to die down or another ailment is highlighted.

But for those living with diabetes, the struggle is real – and a daily affair. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly – two key elements to control one’s blood sugar – is extremely difficult. Temptations are everywhere – from fast food restaurants on every street corner to aisle after aisle of sugar-laden products in supermarkets. Combine this with a sedentary lifestyle where people jump into their cars to traverse walkable distances and searing heat most of the year that makes even a short foray outside unbearable, and you find it is nearly impossible to motivate yourself to cut those calories.

It has been said that as a country becomes more affluent, it becomes more susceptible to chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes. But this is not necessarily true, as the rate of diabetes is exploding in many developing countries. Cheap unhealthy food, spending hours on the phone or desk instead of moving around and unwise aspirational choices are leading to all kinds of chronic diseases.

A heat map of fast food restaurants on the website of the Dasman Diabetes Institute is an eye-opener – the entire populated area of Kuwait is a deep burning red. This addiction to junk food is not only causing a rise in diabetes, but also obesity. So it’s no surprise that Kuwait is one of the most obese nations in the word.

The coronavirus pandemic has made people more health-conscious, which was evident during the two-hour exercise window during the total curfew earlier this year, when scores of people took to the streets to stretch their legs. But there has been a downside to this new health awareness – as people were confined to their homes in the past few months due to the lockdown, prices of treadmills skyrocketed. Despite the steep prices, they were also out of stock in many places. They are now back in stores, but generally unaffordable for many.

Bicycle prices have also seen a jump as demand rose considerably, not only for exercising, but as a means of conveyance. During the lockdown when public transport was halted and taxis were taken off the roads, a lot of people cycled to work. With many facing financial difficulties in these trying times, paying more to buy a treadmill or bicycle is simply not an option, let alone paying hundreds of dinars to join fancy gyms or sports clubs.

But all is not lost. Nearly every area in Kuwait has a park and walking tracks. The weather is also pleasant these days, so slip on those sneakers and hit the trail – laziness is your only enemy!