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Tackling Obesity: Nicaragua’s Battle Against Unhealthy Eating Habits

Ronaldo Mena’s belly measured 193 centimeters (76 inches) in circumference, enough to win in a peculiar contest among several men with bulky bellies held Friday in Nicaragua in celebration of Father’s Day.

Celebrating his triumph, Mena, 47 years old and father of seven children, thanked his family for their support in his fight against obesity, caused by “uncontrolled eating”, in the midst of social criticism of the “fatties”.

“In one part it is hard because the truth is not only in social networks, but also in the street, on the buses, they criticize us for being obese, fat, but we have to cope with all that,” said Mena, who also won in 2014 with a measurement of 185 centimeters.

As first prize winner, Mena won the equivalent of some 280 dollars in cash, as well as groceries and miscellaneous products for family consumption.

“It’s 10 years of sharing this beautiful event” that seeks to celebrate responsible fathers, said Arlen Hernández, announcer of La Nueva Radio Ya, the Sandinista radio station that organizes the “Papá Panzón” event.

Against obesity

“It’s not easy to fight with this, but there we are,” said Mena, a cab driver who said that he has managed to lose from more than 600 pounds a few years ago to 490 pounds now “by controlling meals, I no longer make the same mess I had before.”

“My message to people who have this obesity problem is to control their meals, to take care of themselves (…) I have control over my food now, that’s why you have seen that my belly is hanging,” she added.

In Nicaragua, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among people aged 15 years and older amounted to 58.2% for 2016, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Among the causes of obesity are the increase in the intake of high-calorie and high-fat foods and the decrease in physical activity due to the sedentary nature of some jobs, according to PAHO.

“We Nicaraguans never stop at the mouth, we always eat, even if it hurts us afterwards,” María Rodríguez, 53, owner of a popular eatery in a Managua market, who says she has a high demand for grilled food without much fat, told AFP.

For her part, Liseth López, who usually eats food at the Oriental Market, says she knows of people who like foods rich in fat, but also that “there are people who do take care of themselves and balance the type of food”.

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