The issue of obesity has been getting a lot of attention in the UAE lately. In Dubai, the municipality is offering gold bullion to the person who can lose the most weight, while a similar contest conducted by a private fitness centre is putting prize money of Dh10,000 up for grabs.
Meanwhile, as The National reported this week, an Abu Dhabi hospital is offering Ketogenic Enteral Nutrition therapy - a 10-day "starvation diet" that promises immediate and radical results for those who need to shed unwanted and unhealthy kilograms.
There is no doubt that the war against obesity is well worth fighting, not just for individuals but for the nation as a whole. According to World Health Organisation figures for adults aged 20 or over, 30.2 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women in the UAE are obese. Obesity is linked to diabetes - a condition that affects one in five Emiratis - as well as heart disease and a range of other life-threatening or life-altering conditions.
It is excellent news that there are those - from government, the medical sector and private enterprise - willing, ready and able to help individuals with their battles of the bulge.
Apart from weight-loss procedures and incentives, the UAE also offers recreational and fitness facilities in the form of public parks - Abu Dhabi has announced that five more of those will be built in the next year - along with playgrounds, football fields and running tracks.
But more can be done. How about air-conditioned tennis courts, where any budding Andy Murrays, as well as social players, can hit a ball in summer without succumbing to sun stroke? Perhaps some of the themed malls that seem to be emerging everywhere in the Emirates could incorporate public health and fitness centres that offer free and fun physical activities.
The truth is that, in the long run, gimmicky incentives and wonder diets don't work. It's all too easy to put that weight back on once the prize has been won, you pull out the intravenous drip, give up the "health shakes" and return to eating normal food. Maintaining a healthy weight only comes with sustainable lifestyle changes.
The commitment to lose weight is ultimately a personal one, but government, medical professionals, business and the community as a whole also have their part to play in creating a truly healthy society.