When the first McDonald’s restaurant opened almost two decades ago in Johannesburg, a teenage boy named Thando Tshabalala was among the thousands who stood in line patiently waiting to try one of those famous burgers.
“We had seen this place in every movie we ever watched, and it seemed to be mentioned in every song, so I had to try it for myself,” he said.Hurrah for global culture, eh?
Tshabalala, now a successful 33-year-old corporate trainer, still enjoys fast food. When we met he was eating a steak sandwich in the food court of a smart shopping mall, sitting among scores of shoppers and families feasting on curries, pizzas, fried fish and the ubiquitous chips.
But that skinny teenager has grown into a 5’5” man weighing almost 17 stone – and today he struggles to find clothes to fit his inflated body and complains that seats are becoming too small for comfort.And this is a problem. Apparently.
According to the usual suspects, who’d rather the South Africans walked 40 miles a day for a handful of mealie porridge that they had to arm-wrestle a baboon for, I suppose…
Fat is no longer just a developed world problem. Forget those tired old clichés beloved by the aid industry. Today more people in poorer countries go to bed each night having consumed too many calories than go to bed hungry – a revelation that underlines the breakneck pace of change on our planet.Yup, we’ve solved the hunger problem, so don’t think we in the charity business are going to give up and find proper jobs, oh, dear me, no…
And let’s not forget that there are other reasons why obesity may be on the rise, and those reasons are cultural, not environmental:
Mchiza also pointed to cultural issues that fuel obesity in Africa, with big men seen as successful and big women seen as beautiful. “The majority of black South African men prefer chubby women,” said the 34-year-old scientist.
“If you are too thin it means your husband is not taking care of you or you are unhappy. And your children must be fat, too – we were force fed growing up, always told to eat up all our food and not waste anything on our plates.’And then we have to throw AIDS into the mix:
Several township women mentioned told me of another depressing reason not to diet. “There is a stigma that if you are a black woman and start losing weight you might be ill, you might have HIV,” said Dudu Masooana, a friendly 38-year-old mother of three from Soweto whom I met as she lunched on fried chicken and pap, a traditional porridge made from ground maize.
“This really matters if you are a woman coming from the ghetto.”AIDS in Africa was known as ‘slim’. So you can see why there may well be a stigma attached to being slim.
But at least the progressives have something else to obsess over, so everyone wins!