The government of Dubai is paying its residents to lose weight. For 30 days beginning with a weigh-in on July 19th, reducers will be rewarded 1 gram of gold per kilogram lost, with a minimum of 2 kilos required for a pay-out. Lose 4.5 lbs, gain $82, roughly, and $41 for every additional 2.2lbs, lost, with no limit, until the final weigh-in on August 16. At the end of the month, one of the three biggest losers will be randomly picked to win a gold coin worth over $5,000.
The program corresponds, more or less, with Ramadan, the holy month during which Muslims fast from just before sunrise to sunset. Well, of course everyone will lose a few pounds if they’re fasting half the day; maybe, maybe not. Some people eat more during Ramadan than other months, perhaps overcompensating for the hours of deprivation once the sun sets, perhaps eating mindlessly, caught up in the daily celebration of Iftar, the evening breaking of the fast. But Ramadan fasting is about more than not eating. While the fasting lasts only a month, the ritualized practice of self-control is meant to have lasting effects. Maybe this year one effect will be a healthier Dubai.
Dubai’s economy has been booming since oil was discovered off shore in the 1960s. Growth went into overdrive in the early 1990s, based less on oil than real estate, international business and tourism. Since then, the population has increased 200 percent. Big changes in culture and lifestyle followed. Affluence and fast-paced living demand convenience; and so, Fastfood does very well in Dubai, gym membership, not so much. The city is full of lovely parks and meticulously groomed walking trails but it’s so very hot outside…
The government has been tracking this mounting health crisis for several years and has implemented public health education programs, mostly aimed at children.