Zahrah Nasir Obesity is currently a raging global problem and a problem which, despite the financial downturn, Pakistan seems eager to add to the list of problems it already endures. It used to be extremely rare indeed to see a seriously overweight person here and, if one did, the chances were that the person in question had some sort of illness which was causing them to balloon, such as thyroid malfunction but, these days, obese people and this includes children, are an increasingly common sight. America and Britain top the global obesity chart with countries, including China and Japan, where childhood obesity is significant amongst the affluent classes, running a close second. Germany, France and many others are quickly following suit and, the way our own moneyed classes are going, we will soon be in a position to challenge them in the fat stakes. Surprisingly enough, it is not the traditional ghee laden diet that has caused fat molecules to multiply at an alarming rate, but the unnecessary calories, fat and preservatives disguised in the gunk sold as fast food plus, of course, the sugary calories and fats found in snacks, chips, biscuits, ice-cream and sweets of infinite variety. The aforementioned foods, if one dare to classify them as such, appear to be an integral part of many peoples daily fare right through from breakfast time to late night suppers and, as the majority of people are less physically active than in days of yore, choosing to spend untold hours sitting at computers, in front of televisions or with feet up while chatting on cell phones, then the kilos just pile on and on and on until even the thought of physical exercise is enough to make them breathless Fast food is somehow linked to life in the fast lane as perceived by so many: People, youngsters included, feel deprived if they are not rushing from here to there to do this and that with so and so and snacking on burgers, French fries, pizza, chips, biscuits and sweets to be washed down with calorie laden soft drinks along the way. This, to them, is subconsciously viewed as the ultimate way to swing and 'ultimate it could very well turn out to be when health and fitness completely desert them later in life if not before. It is reaching the stage where young people in urban localities, along with a much smaller number in rural locations, are dependant on packaged foods to the exclusion of all else other than rice and dhal. Pre-packaged food mixes and spices, along with other 'convenient foods, mean that learning how to prepare a meal from scratch is no longer the done thing: Simply toss this, that and the other into a pan, add a packet of this and a tin of that and that, my friends, is as far as it goes If unexpected guests arrive then the answer lies not in the household kitchen, but in phoning out for a home delivery of whatever it is that takes your fancy and slots neatly into the monthly budget with none, or admittedly in a few cases perhaps a little, thought of accumulative weight and health results. Unfortunately, the fast food syndrome is considered to be an example of modernity and of progress, while home prepared, wholesome dishes are looked down on as being desi and therefore retrograde although, it must be said, that there are still a few dishes, nihari is a prime example, that are able to cross the great divide without any adverse effect. Fast food, relatively speaking, made a rather late invasion of Pakistan where our own traditional versions of 'grab and run were so much cheaper to buy yet, while this is still the case, introduced fast foods that have suddenly taken over in even the most conservative of households and, corresponding with this is a huge surge in weight related and dietary associated illnesses. Heart disease, diabetes, gout, hypertension, skin and hair problems, osteoporosis and, surprising as it may sound, vitamin and mineral deficiencies have all rocketed since fast food made an impact on the culinary scene; the additional stress on the healthcare system, never great at the best of times, is raking in millions in profit for private healthcare services and overburdening the lacklustre government system, which has always had too much on its hands to cope efficiently. As people insistently make themselves ill, they also and equally as insistently, blame everything and anything other than diet for their health problems and the cost of treating the same yet, at no point will they deviate from their chosen path towards what they see as equality with the West where the health and well being of generations has been wiped out by what they have chosen to eat. In direct opposition to fast food trends in developed countries, a sub-culture of health freaks has slowly and surely come up and, it is to be hoped, that the same thing will, eventually, happen here. For the time being, however, the sad fact of the matter is fast food aficionados are hooked on the kick they get from consuming systematic fats and toxins and if this means waddling rather than walking then...so be it The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.