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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 16:34 GMT
What's on your plate?
Nelson and his family

More than 400 million adults are obese, according to the World Health Organization, which predicts that the number will nearly double in 10 years. Eight readers from around the world describe their eating habits and share their thoughts on obesity.









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Name: Shuttie F N Libuta
Age: 52
Lives: Kitwe, Zambia
Works: Cashier
Lives with: Four sons
Height: 5' 1" (1.54m)
Weight: 10 stone 2lbs (65kg)

I start off very early in the morning while my digestive system is still slow, and I have to almost force myself to eat.

I say a quick goodbye to my four sons and dash off to work at 7.30 in the morning.

I have lunch in the staff canteen. It's usually a mixture of maize cereal boiled to make a thick porridge that one may choose to eat with meat or fish.

I don't eat my main meal at home with my family because I'm always at work at supper time. But we do have a meal or two together on Sundays when I'm off duty.

At the end of the month I have to balance every bit of my salary, and food may have to come second place. This is not healthy, but that's the way it its.

With all the junk food that humanity is being subjected to, it is hard to avoid obesity
In the past, my people used to think that being big was a sign of prosperity - until certain diseases were ushered in with the onslaught of so-called modern living.

These days each doctor you visit will first look at your weight. If your size is above normal, then the physician will spell out how you are reducing your life span.

In my opinion, the main cause of obesity is carefree living. But, what with all the junk food that humanity is being subjected to, it is hard to avoid this condition.


Bruce and his son Vince
Name: Bruce Rerek (on the left)
Age: 50
Lives: Brooklyn, New York
Works: Restaurateur
Lives with: By myself
Height: 6' (1.8m)
Weight: 13 stone 7lbs (86kg)
I eat a healthy diet throughout the day. I eat toast with bananas for breakfast and salad for lunch. For dinner I usually eat poultry or fish. I usually eat fruit for snacks.

I cycle to work across the Brooklyn Bridge when the weather's not too cold.

Having worked in the hospitality industry for over 30 years, I usually socialise around the dinner table - cooking for friends once a week.

But the trend toward not cooking or eating properly in America is amazing - and scary. Some don't even know how to make pasta any more.

These days both parents have to work and they don't seem to find time to cook properly or show their children how it's done. I got interested in cooking from an early age after seeing how my mother would prepare food.

A meal prepared by Bruce
Bruce: "You're never alone at the dinner table."
Because people don't think they have time to eat properly they just snack all the time. No wonder there's such a problem with obesity.

People think that eating fast food and processed micro-waved meals is just as good as cooking.

Eating properly at the dinner table is so important. If you learn how to cook and eat properly, then you learn how to relate to other human beings.

You're never alone at the dinner table.


Nelson and his mother
Name: Nelson Rivas
Age: 21
Lives: Merida, Venezuela
Works: Student
Lives with: My parents, brother and two sisters
Height: 5' 10" (1.77m)
Weight: 12 stone 2lbs (78 Kg)
My family's eating habits are changing. I think the same is happening across the country.

It's much easier to buy a family-sized bottle of fizzy drink than to make natural fruit juice like we used to. We use the lack of time as an excuse.

It's the same with dinner. We used to have the traditional "arepa" - corn bread - all the time. Now we are increasingly replacing it with hot dogs and hamburgers with chips.

I feel that the menus on restaurants are changing as well.

I eat my main meal around 12.30 or 1.00 at university. I usually eat a rice dish with meat or chicken. And I eat a lot of fruit.

After university I go to work at a fast food restaurant. I sometimes eat a hamburger or a hot dog there, but I couldn't do that every day - it's too heavy.

One way to tackle obesity would be for supermarkets to offer more traditional dishes
I also eat with parents about three times a week.

I worry, because I see people eating more fast and fatty foods over the last five or six years.

We're not as fat as people in the UK and the USA. But I'm worried because people are getting more into fast food.

One way to tackle the problem would be for supermarkets and fast-food restaurants to offer more natural food and traditional dishes.


Jane and her family
Name: Jane Siswanto (centre)
Age: 25
Lives: Jakarta, Indonesia
Works: English trainer
Lives with: My mother and brother
Height: 5' 4" (1.66m)
Weight: 14 stone 3lbs (90 kg)
I am part Chinese, part Javanese and part Thai. Our family are probably closest to the Chinese culture. And, as you may know, Chinese people love eating.

Be it a wedding, birth, anniversary, New Year's Day or even a funeral - we love to eat.

And no, we are not talking about snacks or appetizers - but a real meal.

In my family, it's a custom to invite guests to eat together when they are in my house.

On an average day I usually just have a drink for breakfast around seven in the morning. I take lunch at around noon at work - it will rice or noodles with various things.

My dinner time really depends on the traffic - it can be any time between 7.30 and 10pm.

Our family always eat together on Sundays, and when we eat, we really eat.

In Indonesia 'big' people are still considered weird
My eldest brother will ask my mother to cook his favourite food, such as curry with lots of chicken blood - it looks like tofu but the colour is dark red.

He also loves papa's leaves cooked with coconut milk and fried in soy beans. And trust me, it's not healthy because he asks for thick coconut milk.

I realise it is important to be careful about what I eat. Obesity does run in our family, and I don't really do any exercise at all.

In Indonesia "big" people are still considered weird. Most people judge fatter people as being lazy and unattractive, and it can even make it harder to find jobs.


Name: Wajeha Zeb
Age: 53
Lives: Peshawar, Pakistan
Works: Volunteer for an NGO
Lives with: My husband and his brother's family
Height: 5' 6" (1.6m)
Weight: 10 stone 2lbs (65kg)
My diet is quite different from most people in Pakistan - because I usually eat plain food.

I would like to eat with my family in the evening because eating should be a social thing. Unfortunately, I find most of the food too heavy and end up eating a separate meal after my family.

There is still the attitude here that if you are fat you are healthy. Parents worry about skinny children and will do everything to feed them up.

I lived for a number of years in Australia, where media and education campaigns helped to improve public attitudes toward healthy eating. People were encouraged to go back to good old home cooking.

When I came to Pakistan I naturally thought the predominance of home and natural catering would mean food would be 'closer' to its natural state.

Unfortunately, too much food is fried. People even start the day with a fried pancake-like piece of bread.

Family members prepare a meal
Wajeha says cooking is still very traditional in Pakistan
There are many overweight people here but they don't see it as a problem and don't understand how it decreases their life expectancy.

At the same time, there is a lot of potential in Pakistan.

You can grow anything in here, so the country could be self-sufficient. And food is eaten in season - rather than being flown for miles across the globe.

Cooking is still very traditional. People make their own bread - which is very nutritious.

Because women usually stay at home in this part of Pakistan, they have time to cook proper meals for the family.


Name: Roger Bainbridge
Age: 39
Lives: Dunblane, Scotland
Works: Architect
Lives with: My wife and two children
Height: 6' 2" (1.86m)
Weight: 15 stone 5lbs (98kg)
Food is incredibly important to my family. My house is designed with the kitchen and its table at the heart.

We spend so much time in there, talking, tasting, reading, eating and cooking.

The whole family will get up around 6.30am so that we can begin the day by eating breakfast together.

I don't get much time to have lunch at work and usually just grab a sandwich.

We all eat dinner together at around 7.00 every night. I think it's shameful in modern society that people don't find time to sit down with their family for a meal.

I often do the cooking - I find it a great way to relax and to be a little creative. It's also a chance for my children of 7 and 15 to get to learn about ingredients and flavours.

We eat freshly made food. Fresh fish, organic chicken, beef steak. My children will eat anything. A bowl of spaghetti vongole will be gone in seconds!

Roger's son
Roger says his children will eat anything
Food is not just calories. It's cultural and emotional. So many people have forgotten that in Britain.

They've forgotten how to sit, talk, cook and enjoy. We go on holiday in the Mediterranean and we see how to eat and how to live but when we get on the plane, its back to Turkey Twizzlers!

I think the problem with obesity also comes down to people not eating properly. Many have lost the culture of sitting down to eat a meal together.


Name: Haluk Dag
Age: 28
Lives: Istanbul, Turkey
Works: Journalist
Lives with: My parents and sister
Height: 6' (1.8m)
Weight: 13 stone 8lbs (87kg)
Turkish cuisine is inherited from the Ottoman Empire. It's very rich and delicious.

I think the Mediterranean diet of West Turkey is pretty healthy compared with most other European countries.

I have breakfast in my office at about 9.00 - usually just a small sandwich or toast.

Like most large firms, my company provides quite a nice lunch. I usually eat lentils or yogurt soup, then a vegetable dish or chicken with green salad, fruit and natural Turkish yoghurt.

I often go out to eat but I don't like to eat snacks. Many people grab donor kebabs, but I try to avoid them - even though they're much healthier than the variety you find in Western European countries.

I rarely eat dinner at home because of my working hours. I usually just have soup or a fish or rice dish.

Haluk sharing lunch with friends
Haluk says Turks are not really into fast food or ready-made meals
Sunday breakfast is always a big deal in Turkey. I have a large spread with my family: green olives, cheese, green salad with olive oil, marmalade and eggs.

I think exercise is important, and I go running along the Bosphorus at the weekends.

We're not really into fast food or ready-made meals. And, unlike the British, we don't think a fatty sandwich is a main meal!

Unfortunately our balanced diet is changing. It means more cases of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressures are waiting for us.

However, in recent years there has also been a growing interest in organic food in Turkey.


Name: Vicky Hatton
Age: 23
Lives: Canberra, Australia
Works: Student
Lives with: My partner
Height: 6' (1.8m)
Weight: 11 stone 10lbs (75kg)
I love food, I adore food and I eat lots of it. I'm not overweight nor underweight - I'd say a healthy size.

I ride my bicycle to and from university every day making it a 20km round trip.

I have breakfast at 7.30 - usually cereal with Soya milk and fruit. For lunch I have salad, or leftovers from the previous day.

I always try to eat dinner with my boyfriend at home around 7.00 and because I'm vegetarian he is too by default. We try to eat healthily - brown rice, wholemeal pasta and tofu or beans for protein.

I like to use a variety of foods and cooking methods and create dishes from recipes from around the world.

I also do volunteer work in a local food co-op in my town and enjoy the variety that we have.

I try to buy certified fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate
We like to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, good nutritious grains and beans, and healthy snacks and treats. It's really not that hard to be prepared and eat good healthy balanced meals.

I have little patience for those who claim not to have enough time or money for healthy food.

It's all about simple choices when you are at the supermarket or at home. Like buying wholemeal pasta rather than the white variety.

I also think it's important to try to reduce the negative impact we have on the world. So I try to buy certified fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate.

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