Vincentian culture, heritage a major factor in obesity
July 16, 2010
Vincentian culture, heritage a major factor in obesity

Health care professionals and one social scientist here say that the nation’s culture and heritage contribute to the problem of Vincentians being overweight.{{more}}

“In every society, culture has a role to play,” Chief Medical Officer St. Clair Thomas told SEARCHLIGHT,

“If I feel that I am big and fat and people like me that way, or as some women would say, I want to be big and fat because my husband or my boyfriend wants it that way, then they want to remain that way. Or, the guy may say the same thing,” Thomas said.

Sociologist Albert Edwards supports Thomas’s view, saying that desire for well covered bodies is “part of the Caribbean lifestyle”.

“If you check some of the calypsos, they talk about some men wanting women with big bottom; or the proverbial big thing,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

“Caribbean men love women with big bottoms,” said Edwards, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of the West Indies.

Edwards further said the history of Afro-West Indians sees them gravitating to salty food, a vestige of the salted meats eaten during Slavery.

“If you cook without salt in the Caribbean, they tell you that you can’t cook.”

Alcohol is also a factor, a point that Burgin also noted, saying that each gram of alcohol contains seven calories.

“For instance, cricket – if you look at sports, after the fellas play a game on a weekend. What do they do? Somebody call you and tell you to fire a drink for them. They drink a little strong rum… one for the road,” Edwards said.

But while Thomas acknowledges that “culture does have a part to play,” he points out the negative repercussions of following the crowd.

“Also, in culture, we tend to follow the crowd and eat what the crowd eats so we might think fast food is good because everybody is going there; but it has its effect. You will put on a lot more weight if you go down that way,” he said.

In the five years ending 2009, the Ministry of Health, in its normal screening, collected information on the nutritional status of 17,606 Vincentian children under five years.

On average, each year, 9.86 per cent – 347 – of these children have been deemed “obese” by local health standards, while a further 4.2 per cent are “moderately overweight”.

Assistant Nutritionist in the Ministry of Health, Joyce Burgin, believes that statistical analysis will reveal similar numbers for the adult population in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

She said Vincentians should do aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling or sports, at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. (KXC)