They may be known for their dedication to Buddhism and traditions of old, they may be known for their medidations and prayers, but modern-day food and drinks are taking their toll on Thailand’s monks. Their daily routine, beyond prayers and meditation, involves receiving alms and donations in the form of food and drinks received from the faithful. But the donations are made up in their majority from juices, sweet tea, snacks and junk food, all laden with fat and sugar. Not the best food, when you spend most of the time meditating and basically living a sedentary life.
“Obesity in our monks is a ticking time bomb,” Jongjit Angkatavanich, a health and nutrition expert at Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University, told the press.
According to a study, 48% of the monks in Thailand are obese, 42% of them were found with high cholesterol levels, while 23% are suffering from high blood pressure and more than 10% of them are diabetic.
To help battle this escalating situation, scholars from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, together with representatives from the country’s religious organisations have teamed up and are preparing a national programme which aims to combat monk obesity. The first step in this direction has already been taken: a trial project to train cooks for the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, one of Thailand’s two public Buddhist universities. The main points of focus are, at the moment, preparing meals with added protein, fibre and calcium and, of course, encouraging monks to increase their physical activity.
The overall goal is to promote a cleaner clerical living, drawing monks away from unhealthy food and teaching them how to cook their own balanced meals, while also aiming to convince them of the benefits of daily exercise.
The pilot project had some great results to show after the first eight weeks. The 82 monks with obesity problems who attend religious programmes at the university lost 1 kg on average and most of them cut their waistlines by a couple of centimetres during the programme, with one monk saying that he lost as much as 10 kgs in the past eight weeks.
The project will help the monks have a longer, healthier life, while also reducing medical fees, since the government is paying for everything concerning the welfare of the clergy.