Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

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suriyopama
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Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by suriyopama » Tue Jul 05, 2016 12:42 am

This is true. People offer food to the monks with the best intention, but they do not realize how unhealthy it can be.

I do not have kitchen at my apartment in old Bangkok, so I have to rely on the street food stalls, and even though I can choose what I eat and I don't eat spicy or deep-fry, I am under-weighted and constantly suffering digestive complications.

Letting go of unhealthy foods
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/special ... lthy-foods
Bangkok Post 4 Jul 2016 at 04:30

Every day, Phra Pisit Siriwathatano would leave his temple at dawn to conduct a daily alms round in his neighbourhood of Nonthaburi. Taking about two hours, the monk later returned to the monastery with food offerings from Buddhist laymen and laywomen. Sometimes, people would also visit the temple to offer lunch to him and other monks.

"Some people really take pride in their food. But when we ate it, it was just too salty," revealed Pisit. At age 58, luang por described his health as being in a degenerative state. One of his legs was hurting from unknown causes, and he also said he got sick easily. It was unclear if he was suffering from any diseases.

The food Phra Pisit received that day in his alms round consisted of ready-to-eat meals bought from local fresh markets, and even prepackaged food from convenience stores. He didn't comment on the meals. He cannot choose his food, and can only eat what's offered to him.

A monk's diet can consist of anything from everyday Thai cuisine such as stir-fried vegetables, hot soup, curry, chilli paste, and more, topped off occasionally with Thai golden sweets. As appetising and nutritious as they seem, some of them also come with high levels of sugar, fat and salt, and are unhealthy -- a fact most people seem to overlook. About 9% of monks also suffer from diabetes.

Jongjit has been working on her project -- supported by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation -- to study and improve the behaviour and nutrition of monks since 2011. The nutritionist said these health problems share a similar root, and it's borne from none other than the food monks consume each day.

Food such as curry with coconut milk, for example, is a source of fat and salt. Soft drinks, sweet green tea and processed juices -- a popular offering -- come with high sugar content. And when consumed repeatedly -- especially by monks who, by canon, cannot exercise -- the meals, offered to them in good faith, become a burden to their bodies -- a source of illness.

It used to be general practice for families to cook their own food and offer it to monks, enabling control over their own food selection. Today, however, busy lifestyles have reduced home-cooked meals to processed, prepackaged food, leaving most of the decision-making to food vendors.

At many fresh markets, food stalls now sell ready-to-eat meal sets in the morning to accommodate laypeople in their almsgiving -- a reflection on people's changed lifestyle. The meal usually consists ofcooked rice, a side dish, dessert and water -- all packed into separate plastic bags and containers. Each set costs around 20-50 baht.

One morning, Chaiya* dropped by such a food stall with his wife. He bought seven meals from the vendor to offer to passing monks. "I usually buy this food based on what I myself like to eat," he said, gesturing to the bags of fish curry, fried rice and larb moo in his hands. "It's easy to just buy and give away. Of course, it's a given that we don't really have that many options to choose from, especially in terms of controlling the ingredients or fat level. But it'll have to do when we're in a rush." It's quite a general practice to offer monks food based on one's own favourites or a deceased's favourites. Health is generally not people's number-one concern when it comes to meal selection for monks. Since monks aren't able to choose their own food, nutritionist Jongjit has developed four key solutions and concepts -- food, drink, physique and activity -- for monks to be cautious of in order to stay healthy. They require monks to alter some of their habits, though in ways that won't violate the religious code.

Some of this advice includes consuming an equal amount of rice and vegetables, and opting for water and milk instead of sugary drinks. The nutritionist also suggested monks watch their own weight and opting for water and milk instead of sugary drinks. The nutritionist also suggested monks watch their own weight and waistline. Generally, a man's waistline shouldn't exceed 85cm. "Waistline is at the is at the heart of taking care of your health. A big tummy correlates with high level of sugar, blood pressure and fat."

For activity, Jongjit said morning alms rounds, circumambulation (walking mediation), sweeping the temple grounds, and walking in general are some of the exercises monks can perform that won't violate their conduct. "I battle with people's beliefs in doing this project," said the nutritionist. "It seems to break cultural traditions and religious limitations. But, really, it's not for monks to start being picky about what they eat, but rather for them to watch out for what and how much they're eating. The diseases befalling them are preventable with a change in habit."

Jongjit's project has resulted in the development of educational materials such as information booklets, diaries, posters and calendars -- as well as an invention of colourful measuring tapes and marked sashes to keep track of one's waistline -- which aim to encourage monks to pay more attention and keep track of their own well-being.

These materials have yielded a satisfactory result in instilling and adjusting monks into new habits. Monks who started abiding by the four health concepts, claimed Jongjit, showed a statistically significant decrease in cholesterol, triglyceride and body-mass index after two months.

So far, Jongjit's team has organised a few workshops in the provinces, attended by monks and local nurses to help spread the knowledge to their respective communities. A set of posters and booklets was also developed for laypeople and temple cooks to educate them on the kind of food that should be given to monks. The nutritionist said the team also plans to partner with the Department of Health and religious organisations to expand the use of these educational materials nationwide.

"All these messages that we're giving monks -- they're applicable to everyone," said Jongjit. "And when monks have seen the benefits of this healthier lifestyle, they can become the community's role models nd educate the laypeople. When monks become stronger and healthier, the people will, too."

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Goofaholix
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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by Goofaholix » Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:27 am

From what I've observed the monks diet is no worse than the general population, probably less fatty than a westerners diet, and not eating in the afternoon is bound to reduce any affects of overeating.

I'd be more concerned about all the cigarettes laypeople offer the monks.
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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by ihrjordan » Tue Jul 05, 2016 2:06 am

The lay community and the monks operate as a unit. This is why the relationship between the two is so important. When the lay people eat crap they typically give the monks similar fare. I believe this is a self resolving problem in the sense that once all the monks are feeling unwell from lack of proper reflection on the part of the lay community then those people that go to hear dhamma teachings will not be able to due to the monks poor health perhaps on seeing this the lay people will eat better for themselves and thereby provide for the monks in a more thoughtful manner. But we must remember that this relationship operates from ends of the spectrum Monks who have evil intentions and fail to develop themselves rather than focus on political gain will receive few visits from the lay man with discernment and only find support from those without it those who are always looking for fast results, fast cash, fast happiness, fast food...those who barely visit temples but rather do it because it's part of the culture. Virtuous monks will always be taken care and never suffer because they got jasmine instead of basmati rice... it's really the law of the jungle (pun intended).

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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by akashdhamma » Wed Jul 06, 2016 6:50 pm

The situation seems better in the forest monasteries where they usually have an independent kitchen preparing healthier food.
I think when living on one meal a day, the negative effects of unhealthy food is reduced because the intake is much lesser than normal.
Whatever food monks receive is influenced by their Kamma.
Also, usually the monks in Thai cities receive so much that they are not forced to eat whatever they get and have enough choice to eat some and give away the rest.
Smoking is much worse than eating the unhealthy food, and the Sangha should ban this unhealthy indulgence.
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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by DC2R » Thu Jul 07, 2016 5:53 pm

akashdhamma wrote:Smoking is much worse than eating the unhealthy food, and the Sangha should ban this unhealthy indulgence.
Are there any statistics on the percentage of monks in Thailand that smoke?

I know that Ajahn Chah banned smoking in his forest monasteries. The others should as well if they have not already.
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akashdhamma
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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by akashdhamma » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:13 pm

DC2R wrote:
akashdhamma wrote:Smoking is much worse than eating the unhealthy food, and the Sangha should ban this unhealthy indulgence.
Are there any statistics on the percentage of monks in Thailand that smoke?

I know that Ajahn Chah banned smoking in his forest monasteries. The others should as well if they have not already.
Not that I'm aware of and such statistics can be sketchy.

From what I've observed, the ratio of smoking monks is similar to smoking humans.

The best way to tackle it is for lay people to realise that there is no benefit in offering cigarettes.
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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by robertk » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:02 am

https://m.bangkokpost.com/news/general/ ... -time-bomb


Bangkok Post - The world's window on Thailandtoggle menu

NEWS


NEWS > GENERAL

Obesity in monks ‘a ticking time bomb’
13 Aug 2018 at 17:28
WRITER: NEW YORK TIMES
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A monk carries his food container during daily almsgiving, in Bangkok, July 4, 2018. (Amanda Mustard/The New York Times)

The Buddha, in his laughing incarnation, is often depicted with a jolly smile and a giant, quivering belly. That model of plenitude seems ever more apt in Thailand, where the waistlines of the country’s Buddhist monks have expanded so much that health officials have issued a nationwide warning.


In June, officials from Thailand’s Public Health Department urged laypeople to offer healthier alms to monks, who pour from temples in their saffron robes each morning to roam the streets collecting their meals in the Buddhist tradition.

Amporn Bejapolpitak, the department’s deputy director general, also suggested that monks add more physical activity -- like cleaning their temples -- to their sedentary lives of prayer and meditation.

Obesity has reached alarming levels in the kingdom, which ranks as the second-heaviest nation in Asia, after Malaysia. One in three Thai men are obese, while more than 40% of women are significantly overweight, according to Thailand’s national health examination survey.


Monks are at the forefront of the problem. Nearly half are obese, according to a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University. More than 40% have high cholesterol, nearly 25% have high blood pressure and 1 in 10 are diabetic, the study found.

“Obesity in our monks is a ticking time bomb,” said Jongjit Angkatavanich, a professor of food and nutrition at the university’s Faculty of Allied Health Sciences in Bangkok. “Many of the monks are suffering from diseases that we know are actually preventable.”

When researchers began studying Thai monks’ dietary habits, they were baffled. The monks consume fewer calories than the general population, but more of them are obese.

One major culprit? “Sugary drinks,” Ms Jongjit said.

Monks are forbidden to eat after midday, so to keep their energy up, many rely on highly sweetened beverages, including energy drinks.


Monks collect food donations during daily almsgiving, in Bangkok, July 4, 2018.

Buddhist devotees believe that offering alms secures them good karma in this life and the next. Sometimes, they also hope to bestow good luck on deceased family members.

But the well-meaning religious offerings of sugary drinks and fatty foods are having unintended health consequences.

“Soft drinks, boxed juice, sweet snacks; plus many of the foods are store-bought, which means they are packed with MSG and are low in protein and fibre,” Ms Jongjit said, listing a litany of unhealthy food items that monks regularly receive.

Additionally, so many Buddhist worshippers donate store-bought food that the excess is sometimes resold to shops. Some unscrupulous vendors recycle it, meaning that monks can receive spoiled food in their alms.

Some almsgivers still do things the old way. Vilawan Lim, a homemaker in Bangkok, has been offering monks home-cooked food every morning for more than a decade. As a matter of principle, monks are not supposed to show preferences for particular foods, but she said the monk who comes by her home each morning drops hints about what he really enjoys.

“Today’s spicy dip is his favourite,” Ms Vilawan said as she mixed chillies, garlic, lime and shrimp paste into a pungent concoction served alongside blanched vegetables.

She waited outside her home for the monk, who arrived for the offering at his regular time, chanting a short blessing before leaving for the next house. As his alms bowl was filled with bags of food and packaged drinks, he transferred its contents to a bucket carried by an assistant. Within 10 minutes, the bucket was filled to the brim with culinary offerings.

“I don’t really know about obesity in monks,” Ms Vilawan said. “But I do realise that the monk who comes at 6 o’clock is pretty heavy, and his health seems to have deteriorated lately.”


Rice is prepared for monks during daily almsgiving, in Bangkok, July 4, 2018.

Working with the Thai government and religious authorities, Ms Jongjit manages the Healthy Monk-Healthy Nutrition Project. Funded by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, an autonomous government agency, its goal is to improve monks’ lifestyles through education about nutrition and physical fitness.

Its pilot program in 2016 involved 82 monks at temples and a monastic college, and its results were positive, with weight loss and lowered cholesterol levels recorded.

Now the project publishes recipe booklets that Buddhist devotees can use to make healthy and inexpensive meals for monks. Some suggestions include brown rice with a small amount of protein and lots of vegetables. (While traditional Thai food mixes a little meat or fish with plentiful vegetables, modern cuisine uses much more fat and sugar.)

The project encourages monks to keep a log of their daily physical activities. Exercise, something as simple as walking around the temple for at least 40 minutes a day, can make up for the quiet pace of their monastic duties.

Monks told researchers involved in the project that they often did not realise they were putting on weight because of their loose-fitting robes. Ms Jongjit and her team came up with a belt with knots to indicate where they thought a healthy waistline should be. They also provide monks with measuring tape divided into four colours, to indicate various belly sizes.

In a country that is 90% Buddhist, Thai monks are revered as ascetics, dedicated to aiding laypeople on their paths toward enlightenment. Pointing out the community’s weaknesses -- which have recently included sex and corruption scandals -- can be tricky.

“We tried to develop something that is functional and that doesn’t hurt the monks’ self-esteem,” Ms Jongjit said. “It is heart-warming to see how they playfully compare the knots of their belts and realize they have gained weight and that it is time to cut back.”

The problem of overweight monks is not isolated to Thailand. In 2012, the Sri Lankan government issued guidelines from medical experts and nutritionists on the kinds of food that devotees should offer to holy men.

In December, the Thai Monk Council issued its first policy recommendations on monastic health, including diet and exercise advice for monks, as well as guidelines for the laypeople who feed and care for them. The council also urged monks to take charge of their own nutrition, and to promote healthier living among their peers as well as Buddhist devotees.

“Monks should be mindful of what they eat, the amount as well as the kind of food,” said Phra Maha Boonchuay Doojai, former director of the Chiang Mai Buddhist College in northern Thailand, who was involved in drawing up the recommendations.

“It is one of the Buddha’s teachings,” he said. “When we are healthy, we can serve the people better

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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by budo » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:35 pm

They should have farms and only give them the foods from those farms. It's nearly impossible to be overweight if you eat what comes from nature, and not from factories. As the article says, they drink too much sugar.

Every person should have in their garden: potatoes, carrots, onions/leeks and a few chickens for some eggs. If you have this as your foundation then you will never be overweight.

Last time I drank pop/soda was 8 years ago, even fruit juices are unhealthy. I drink natural carbonated water, tap water and mint tea made from mint leaves I grow in the kitchen.

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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by lostitude » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:18 pm

Sugary drinks in the afternoon? is this legit?

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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by Nicolas » Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:02 pm

lostitude wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:18 pm
Sugary drinks in the afternoon? is this legit?
Fruit juices are allowable in the afternoon (Mv.VI.35.1).
The five tonics and medicines are also allowed to be taken in the afternoon if there is a reason for it.
Sugar-water is allowable when one is not sick, as opposed to lump sugar (Mv.VI.27), so I imagine that sugar-water is thus considered akin to a fruit juice and not considered a tonic or medicine, and would also be allowable in the afternoon.


From The Buddhist Monastic Code, translated & explained by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu:
Nissaggiya Pācittiya - Three: The Bowl Chapter - Nissaggiya Pācittiya #23 wrote: There are these tonics to be taken by sick bhikkhus: ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, sugar/molasses. Having been received, they are to be used from storage seven days at most. Beyond that, they are to be forfeited and confessed.
[...]
‘Bhikkhus, I allow that the five tonics, having been accepted, be consumed at the right time or the wrong time (from noon to dawnrise).’”—Mv.VI.1.2-5
[...]
Also, the Commentary to this rule says at one point that one may take the tonic at any time during those seven days regardless of whether one is ill. At another point, though—in line with the Vibhaṅga to Pc 37 & 38, which assigns a dukkaṭa for taking a tonic as food—it says that one may take the tonic after the morning of the day on which it is received only if one has a reason. This statement the Sub-commentary explains as meaning that any reason suffices—e.g., hunger, weakness—as long as one is not taking the tonic for nourishment as food. In other words, one may take enough to assuage one’s hunger, but not to fill oneself up.
Mv.VI.27, however, contains a special stipulation for the use of sugar. If one is ill, one may take it “as is” at any time during the seven days; if not, then after noon of the first day one may take it only if it is mixed with water.
Pācittiya - Four: The Food Chapter wrote: Juice drinks include the freshly squeezed juice of sugar cane, water lily root, all fruits except grain, all leaves except cooked greens, and all flowers except liquorice (Mv.VI.35.6).
[...]
The Commentary notes further that if [...] the juice is made by a non-bhikkhu and formally offered before noon, one may “also” drink it with food before noon—the “also” here implying that the original allowance, that one may drink it without food after noon and before dawnrise, still holds. If the juice is made by a non-bhikkhu and formally offered after noon, one may drink it without food until the following dawnrise.
[...]
According to the Mahāvagga (VI.3.1-8), any items in the six following categories that, by themselves, are not used as staple or non-staple food are medicines: roots, astringent decoctions, leaves, fruits, resins, and salts. For example, under fruits: Oranges and apples are not medicines, but pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom are. Most modern medicines would fit under the category of salts. Using the Great Standards, we can say that any edible that is used as a medicine but does not fit under the categories of staple or non-staple food, juice drinks, or the five tonics, would fit here. (For a full discussion of medicines, see BMC2, Chapter 5.)

Each of the four basic classes of edibles—food, juice drinks, the five tonics, and medicines—has its “life span,” the period during which it may be kept and consumed. Food may be kept and consumed until noon of the day it is received; juice drinks, until dawnrise of the following day; the five tonics, until dawnrise of the seventh day after they are received; and medicines, for the remainder of one’s life.
[...]
Mv.VI.40.3, the passage underlying these rulings, can be translated as follows (replacing the formal terms for categories of food with the primary examples of each category):
“[...] A tonic-mixed-with-juice, when received that day, is allowable through the watches of the night and not allowable when the watches of the night have past. Medicine-mixed-with-juice, when received that day, is allowable through the watches of the night and not allowable when the watches of the night have past. Medicine-mixed-with-a-tonic, when received, is allowable for seven days and not allowable when seven days have past.”
[...]
The Commentary, in treating the issue of foods mixed by a bhikkhu, translates Mv.VI.40.3 as follows:
“[...] A tonic received that day, when mixed with juice, is allowable through the watches of the night and not allowable when the watches of the night have past. Medicine received that day, when mixed with juice, is allowable through the watches of the night and not allowable when the watches of the night have past. Medicine received, when mixed with a tonic, is allowable for seven days and not allowable when seven days have past.”
[...]
Medicine, such as salt, tea, or cocoa, received at any time may be eaten mixed with any of the five tonics on any day of the tonic’s life span.
The Khandhaka Rules - Food wrote: “I allow eight juice drinks: mango juice drink, rose apple juice drink, seed-banana juice drink, seedless banana juice drink, madhu (Bassia pierrei? Bassia latifolia?) juice drink, grape juice drink, water-lily root juice drink, phārusaka (Bouea burmanica (Anacardiaceae)?) juice drink. I allow all fruit juice except for the juice of grain. I allow all leaf-juice except for the juice of cooked (§) vegetables. I allow all flower juice except for the juice of liquorice flowers. I allow fresh sugar cane juice.”—Mv.VI.35.6
[...]
“Seven-day medicine mixed with day-long food, when received that day, is allowable through the watches of the night, but not when the watches of the night have passed. Life-long medicine mixed with day-long food, when received that day, is allowable through the watches of the night, but not when the watches of the night have passed. Life-long medicine mixed with seven-day medicine, when received, is allowable for seven days, but not when the seven days have passed.”—Mv.VI.40.3
The Khandhaka Rules - Medicine wrote: “I allow that the five tonics, having been accepted, be consumed at the right time or the wrong time.”—Mv.VI.1.5

“There are these tonics to be taken by sick bhikkhus: ghee, butter, oil, honey, sugar-molasses. Having been received, they may be used from storage seven days at most. Beyond that, one is to be dealt with in accordance with the rule (NP 23).”—Mv.VI.15.10
[...]
“I allow sugar lumps for a bhikkhu who is ill, and sugar-lump water for one who is not ill.”—Mv.VI.27
[...]
“I allow that, having accepted root-medicine—i.e., turmeric, ginger, sweet flag, white orris root, ativisa, black hellebore, khus-khus, nut-grass, or whatever other roots are medicines and do not serve, among non-staple food, the purpose of non-staple food; or, among staple food, the purpose of staple food—one may keep it for life and, when there is reason, consume it. If there is no reason, there is an offense of wrong doing for one who consumes it.”—Mv.VI.3.1
edit: made a small correction regarding sugar-water.
Last edited by Nicolas on Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lostitude
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Re: Thai monks suffering consequences of unhealthy food

Post by lostitude » Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:29 pm

Nicolas wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:02 pm


Fruit juices and sugar-water are allowable in the afternoon.
Oh, I see, thank you. No wonder, then...

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