28th November 2011
The Fat Gap
Here’s one area Romania does not want to ‘catch up with the rest of the EU’ – obesity. The latest study by Eurostat shows that Romania has the lowest incidence of obesity among the 19 EU Member States surveyed, with 8% of women and 7.6% of men recorded as obese. At the other end of the scale is my own country, the United Kingdom, where almost one in four women are obese (23.9%) and 22.1% of men.
I am no nutritionist so I can’t offer a scientific explanation as to why Romanians are in much better shape than Brits. But here are a few ideas.
Romanian food is great. It’s natural, it’s usually organic, and it’s low in chemicals and salt. When I took my family for a holiday in a village in northern Romania we spent a whole week eating nothing but the food that was grown and produced in the hills and valleys around us. It was only when I drove out of the valley at the end of the week and stopped at a garage to buy a bottle of imported ice tea that I realized I was consuming the first artificial product of the holiday – a concotion of e-numbers and sugar. It showed up the difference between the healthy traditional fare of the village and the unhealthy diet that modern society serves up.
Most Romanians have a strong link to the countryside. Over 40% of the population lives in rural areas. Many others have family in the countryside or a plot of land to retreat to at weekends. So the good food and healthy eating of the countryside extends into the towns too. In fact, when I asked the son of the family we were staying with on holiday whether he missed his Mum’s home cooking when he was away at university, he explained that she sent a food parcel with the bus to him every week. Lucky man! I had to live off beans on toast and pot noodle for most of my student years.
I just hope that Romanians can preserve their healthy diet and their traditions of good cooking and eating as the economy grows and develops. I hope that people in the cities don’t succumb to the relentless march of fast food – cheap ingredients expensively marketed. This is the challenge for Romania – how to catch up with the rest of the EU without repeating the rest of the EU’s mistakes, and how to preserve the best of Romania for the next, slim, trim generation.