By Subrato Banerjee and Komali Yenneti
India needs more than one-time zone in order to avoid a curse of development from catching up—obesity. To put things in perspective, it is important to draw a comparison with parts of the developed world. In this world, even a slight distortion towards the wrong time-zone has contributed to very strikingly visible cases of obesity.
Obesity is a time-zone problem
The 7:30 AM bus from Norman Park to Adelaide Street (at a ten-minute walking distance from the Queensland University of Technology) consistently witnesses passengers who give the impression that Queensland is a hub of fitness. But, as soon as one takes the same route at 10:30 AM, the reality of the obesity problem of Queensland becomes prominent. Interestingly, while under-nourishment remains a key problem in the developing world, obesity, it seems, does not fail to catch up with the developed world. It would not, therefore, hurt the latter to borrow some wisdom from the east.
A conjecture is put forth that the obesity problem of Queensland is, at least in part, a time-zone problem. All cities in Queensland must commit to the same time zone. This means that Brisbane (the capital city of Queensland) remains an hour behind Melbourne (the capital city of Victoria) for every half a year (between October and April), despite being on a relatively eastern longitude. This means that every year, Brisbane wakes up at least an hour later than it should for six months.
Practice Of Yoga-Sadhna
So why is this a problem? Yoga-Sadhna requires one to start the day early with a filling breakfast following a few breathing and physical exercises. One must wind up early with a very light dinner, preferably before sunset. The science is simple—the process of digestion that provides the energy to remain active throughout our work hours needs heat—and the heat of the sun facilitates better digestion. Unlike cold-blooded animals that solely rely on the warmth of the sun to digest food, mammals have their own heat-generating mechanism. Therefore, a heavy meal, late in the night, means that more resources of our brain are devoted to the process of digestion. This leaves us with less energy to do anything else efficiently.
The ongoing process of energy depletion eventually translates to a lesser capacity to digest food in the future, thereby leading to the accumulation of fats. Although Yoga-Sadhna is primarily associated with Hinduism, this piece of wisdom has been rationalised even among the followers of Jainism in the idea that eating in the dark causes the unintentional death of many (smaller) organisms, aligned with the ideology summed up in the words ‘live and let live’.
Adopting East-Asian food habits
Similarly, in China, the breakfast time falls generally between 6.00 AM and 7.30 AM, lunch between 11.00AM and 12.30PM, and dinner between 6.00PM and 7.30PM. A meal in China is accompanied by tiny cups of hot water or green tea. This traditional habit is supported on the grounds of health and hygiene (killing bacteria and avoiding water-borne diseases). In neighbouring countries, including Japan and South Korea, it is held that hot tea after a meal reduces cholesterol. In short, a hot drink accompanying a meal is an additional source of heat to aid digestion.
East-Asian food habits are well aligned with Yoga-Sadhna. This can be seen in the association of hot tea, vegetables, and whole grains with calmness and spiritual cleansing in various forms of Yoga, Zen and Buddhist meditation.
Rapid development: The cause of obesity?
However, as an example of a country that has recently witnessed rapid development, India has offered labour to call centres. The youth is being forced into night shifts at these centres. Staying up late often requires artificial stimulants like caffeine, which is often a key-ingredient in fizzy cola-drinks that are also responsible for vast amounts of sugar and soda intake. In other words, the digestive system is forced to remain active when in principle it needs a break so that it can work efficiently the following day, aided by the heat of the sun.
The depleting quality of digestion experienced by the Indian youth today is likely to have long-term consequences drifting from a healthy future. It is argued that obesity is not necessarily bad because it signals growth and development contrary to malnourishment. Unfortunately, this reasoning is as good as rationalising visits to night-clubs with pole dancers because the models may inspire the visitors to keep fit.
India’s growing obesity crisis
The obesity problem in India, should it catch up, is expected to be higher than in Australia, since we are moving faster than places at the poles. The transition from day to night is much quicker here, because, for any given latitude, the distance between any two places at different longitudes will be greater than that at the poles leading to a quicker sunset.
It is argued that India could benefit from the correct time-zones just as the Eastern cities of Queensland could benefit from day-light savings. As of 2013, the rate of adult obesity in Australia (57.7 percent) was not only the highest in Queensland but is also projected to reach about 63 percent by the end of 2017. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, these figures are some of the highest in the world.
Given that obesity is a well-known cause of ill-health and early death in Queensland, we do not want the average Australian meal to be accompanied with tall jugs of ice water. Brisbane at least needs to rethink its apt time-zone. It needs to learn from Melbourne that literally enjoys the physical pleasures of circling too close to the pole.
Featured Image Credits: Pixabay