Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sugar Shortage Shock: A Good Thing!

Published February 2, 2010 - Muscat Daily
We often walk into our local supermarket and find that a certain item we're looking for like creamy peanut butter or soy milk is missing. We grumble, get the rest of our groceries, and leave while making a mental note to buy that item the next time we're in town. A couple of days ago I walked into one of the main supermarkets in Salalah and heard a lot of commotion at the back. I moved closer to hear what all the fuss was about. Turns out the store was out of sugar. Not a surprise considering the fact that there is a global sugar shortage due to bad weather affecting production in Asia.
There were several very upset customers. There was shouting and lots of complaining. I left the store thinking about why the lack of sugar would cause such an uproar. I could live without sugar, but for most people down here in the South, sugar is a staple. In fact, if I were to summarize the diet of most locals here it would consist of mainly sugary red tea, milk, rice, ghee, meat, chicken, fish, white bread, and Mountain Dew. It's no secret that people here aren't big on fresh fruit, vegetables, or any other type of healthy food. In fact, it's no secret at all that we probably have the worst eating habits in the whole of Oman. Every family I know has at least one or two people suffering from obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, and/or heart disease. I hate to think about the statistics.
Why don't we pay more attention to our health? Doctors have been preaching for years, children are taught about healthy habits in school, TV programs broadcast it every day. It's a mystery why locals refuse to listen. Our schools continue to sell salty potato chips, sugary drinks, and chocolate bars to our children. Hospital food continues to be basically less than healthy. New fast food restaurants are opening up on a frighteningly regular basis. Last, but not least, locals continue to eat rice, ghee, and animal protein at least once a day. This is bad food combining. The level of consumption of fruit and vegetables is so minimal per person, it is not really worth mentioning.
Not so long ago (but definitely before the 1970's), people in the South used to work from sunrise to sunset with their animals, or they would have been out fishing or working on their plantations. Red meat was a rare commodity (slaughtering took place on special occasions only), and so was sugar. They ate what they could get: beans, fish, milk, vegetables and fruit grown locally, etc. They were slim and very strong. The moment living conditions improved, eating habits changed. Rice and meat became available on a regular basis. So did sugar, tea, bread, cheese, white flour and other simple commodities. People started moving into town, driving cars, hiring servants, getting sedentary jobs and worst of all, setting up the satellite dish television as the focal point of interest in the house.
Somehow, over the past 30 years we developed an unhealthy lifestyle and the eating habits to go with it. Somehow, it became acceptable to have rice and meat dripping in ghee twice a day. The really bizarre thing is that, somehow, after all these years during which we could have changed our habits, slaughtering, or at least eating meat is still the main activity on special occasions. And now, it's not just the special' occasions, it's basically all occasions. No picnic is complete without meat, no family visit is possible without meat. For a group of men (all suffering from at least one each of the terrible health conditions I mentioned above) to go on a 3 or 4 day 'picnic' and take anything other than red meat as their staple, along with their bag of sugar for their tea would be unthinkable, and in fact, embarrassing.

I take hope in the fact that there are a few (yes, and I hope the number grows fast) people who are realizing that the game is up. They have watched close members of their family suffer through years of diabetes or repeated heart operations, and somewhere in the backs of their minds, they are aware of the repeated chorus from doctors, well meaning people and television: "brown bread, vegetables, fruit, no fat, no sugar, no red meat". I pray that the shock of many families as they search for and don't find sugar will force them to see that maybe they don't need it, and in fact feel a lot better without it. And from there, they might just begin to listen to those who know better and who are desperate to help before it's too late.


  1. I usually read your articles first on paper :p

    Diabetes is a dangerous disease and one should take percautions towards all sorts of diseases.

  2. كناباتك ممتازة تلامس الواقع المجتمعي في ظفار بالتوفيق