Rub my belly: Why half of Thailand’s Buddhist monks are now obese
by Alex Ward
A heavy set Buddhist monk reads Buddhist philosophy at the entrance to his temple in Chaing Mai, Thailand.
Buddhist monks strive to reach spiritual enlightenment but their growing Buddha-sized bellies might stop them achieving nirvana.
A health study of Buddhist monks in Thailand has found that nearly half of them are obese.
They blame their weight gain on sweet treats given to them by worshipers and officials have decided that what the monks need is a diet plan.
A study of 246 monks from the Dhammayuttika Nikaya and Mahayana movements in 11 Thai provinces revealed that nearly half of them are clinically obese and suffering from lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
The research pointed to the oily, sweet foods monks are offered by worshipers as the reason behind their unhealthy lifestyle.
Food is traditionally offered to monks as they beg for food on the streets to survive.
Beg to survive: Monks eat one or two meals a day, their last by noon but they also beg for food on the streets which is where they are given unhealthy treats which have been blamed for the weight gain.
The monks leave their monasteries early in the morning and walk single file, with the oldest monk first, with their bowls in front of them, collecting food from people as they go.
The monks do not do much exercise either according to the study.
It said: ‘To make matters worse, the only exercise an average monk takes is sweeping the courtyard and walking the streets asking for alms, or food.’
Figures showed that 45 per cent of the monks in the study were either obese or morbidly obese and 40 per cent face diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
They are also more likely to develop allergies due to their rich, oily, sugary diet.
A major cause was the amount of fizzy, sugar-loaded drinks drunk by monks, particularly in the evenings when they abstain from eating.
Only 21 per cent of the monks questioned have regular health check-ups and doctor visits.
ealth officials now plan a food education program to help the huge holy men to slim down.
They hope to offer dietary and exercise advice appropriate for their lifestyles, teaching about them about nutritional alternatives to their unhealthy food and drink choices.
They also plan to prepare guidelines on what worshipers should and should not offer to their holy men in order to keep them healthy.
It is believed that the giving and receiving of alms creates a spiritual connection between the monastic and lay communities who make the offerings.
Some monks eat their only one meal a day, others eat two but all of them have consumed their last meal by midday.
Their diet consists of staples, desserts, preserved and dried food, fish and meat.
[Daily Mail Online]