Venezuela's increasing weight in the world

Euromonitor found out, as Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported, that our nation is one of the top 10 weightiest countries on Earth - hipwise, that is. Around 29.6% of Venezuelans are obese. The percentage of belt-challenging people among Mexicans is just a little bit higher, but just a bit. Guatemalans follow suit. Venezuelans are really putting up on more than one front.

This is making the country even more inefficient and it is becoming an extra burden for our health costs. Unlike what the regime says, this does not have to do with improved diets and more food for the poor. It is a complex issue but it has a lot to do with more fast food because of lack of time, a more difficult environment in which to do some exercise and the loss of culinary traditions. It also has to do with an education system that is not delivering on practical education about health issues.

I don't think a president - or a future prime minister when we have one - should be talking about people's body weight as Hugo did. That is not her business. I do think the education and the health ministries can do something about this issue. The basic thing is to inform people.

Some things we need to do are fairly standard procedures already in Europe and the USA:

  • teaching children at school about food values in a fun way (I actually got some information about the food pyramid and some other basic points when I was about 11 or 12 years old, but I know most Venezuelan schooling is rote-learning)
  • forcing food providers to label the calories and ingredients of their products
  • expanding on green areas where people - grownups - can bike and walk (right now there are few places to do that and there are hardly any in particularly poor areas, which look more like war zones after sunset
Venezuela's government needs to work in particular on improving security, which has deteriorated dramatically in the last eleven years. Security is affecting all the rest. The government should introduce fast lanes for buses as in Europe. This is an idea the opposition government in Miranda was trying to implement in their area, but the regime opposed, even if people supported the plan, just because it was the opposition's idea.

Potamito was not a Venezuelan

Obesity is like a contagious disease, it spreads and spreads faster all the time. Last time I was in Venezuela with my family I was looking at some old pictures of my parents, aunts and uncles. There were some where they were all on the beach. A cousin of mine made this comment: "cónchale, they all looked so fit and we at the same age now look like real Potamitos". It was so very true!

Take a relative of mine: he spends hours and hours on the horrible jams of Venezuela (NY traffic? that is peanuts). He arrives very late at night. He lives in a working class area. When I was a child I used to walk with my parents in the evening along those streets. Last time I did it some years ago, just in the early afternoon, a gang wanted to rob me. I was just lucky they did not have a gun. My relative could only do sports at home or at a gym, which is an expensive, very time-demanding endeavor in Venezuela. He can also use part of the weekend, but that is not enough, specially if you need to build up a habit and again, sunset limits the time he can be walking outside.

So: security will have to play a big role in improving health in Venezuela even in this context.