Mukbang: Saudi health alert over new online eating craze

The concept of the mukbang originated in South Korea and was intended to bring people together virtually over a meal, as eating is seen as a social activity and doing so alone is considered depressing. (Shutterstock)
The concept of the mukbang originated in South Korea and was intended to bring people together virtually over a meal, as eating is seen as a social activity and doing so alone is considered depressing. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 30 June 2021

Mukbang: Saudi health alert over new online eating craze

The concept of the mukbang originated in South Korea and was intended to bring people together virtually over a meal, as eating is seen as a social activity and doing so alone is considered depressing. (Shutterstock)
  • The eating broadcast is now gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia with the rise of influencers
  • A slim and muscular body usually signifies that a person is physically fit. However, if this person is eating lots of unhealthy food and burning calories with a severe exercise regime to maintain their weight, that may not be an indicator of good health

JEDDAH: Mukbang is an internet phenomenon that has been steadily gaining popularity over the past few years. The eating broadcast originating in South Korea and quickly circulated the globe. It is now gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia with the rise of influencers.

Among Arab YouTubers who regularly upload Mukbang videos are Moe ASMR, with 188,000 subscribers; S7S, with 6.85 million subscribers; and Ameer Bros, with 7.08 million subscribers. Their content revolves around finding new food places in their countries that reflect their typical cuisine. S7S, for example, is known for trying out different restaurants in Jeddah and eating large meals.
The concept of the mukbang originated in South Korea and was intended to bring people together virtually over a meal, as eating is seen as a social activity and doing so alone is considered depressing. The word is a combination of “muknun,” meaning eating, and “bangsung,” which is the Korean word for a broadcast; together, they form a word that translates to “eating show.” The trend started in 2010 on the streaming platform AfreecaTV and was intended to be a subset of the popular content known as ASMR. The acronym stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” and videos featuring ASMR aim to elicit this pleasant sensation. When it comes to mukbang videos, the sounds of eating paired with the large amounts of food are found relaxing by some people.
These videos are rather simple, but they boast a huge viewership. The broadcaster eats large amounts of food while chatting to his or her viewers. Sometimes, this involves eating single food items, such as ramen or fried chicken, for the duration of the video. Other challenges involve consuming thousands of calories worth of junk foods, like chips or donuts.
However, the trend has health experts concerned, considering that healthy eating and portion control are essential to maintain optimal health and weight. Consuming large amounts of food can lead to a range of health problems, and studies have shown that the trend promotes disordered eating: Many broadcasters will eat abnormally large portions of food only to severely restrict their intake while off-camera.
Dr. Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News that such yo-yo diets can have grave consequences. “A slim and muscular body usually signifies that a person is physically fit. However, if this person is eating lots of unhealthy food and burning calories with a severe exercise regime to maintain their weight, that may not be an indicator of good health.
“The burn-and-refuel mentality is dangerous. If you burn 600-800 calories boxing, in a HIIT session, or while running then treat yourself to a double cheeseburger, then your fat loss has just become a Herculean struggle,” she said.
Idrees explained that eating should be planned according to the needs of one’s body — factoring in age, sex and physical activity — and that while the number of calories should be taken into consideration, it is equally important to consider the source of the calories.
“What you eat signals your hormones to store or burn fat, boost or crash metabolism, and build or break down muscle. Not all calories are created equally. You’d never say that the calories in spinach are the same as the ones in a pint of ice cream, right? The calories in spinach trigger different reactions in your body.”
Eating unhealthy food and burning it in the short term contributes to stress and fatigue and depletes the energy needed for normal activities, like work. In the longer term, it can contribute to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, eating disorders and depression.
The physical effects on the broadcasters are alarming, but mukbang shows also trigger eating disorders in viewers. Mattias Strand, a senior consultant psychiatrist from the Stockholm Centre for Eating Disorders, has conducted the first-ever study into mukbang shows and eating disorders and has said that these videos can be a destructive force.
“We found that watching mukbang could certainly be problematic for people who already suffer from disordered eating, in that it could trigger binge eating or serve as an inspiration for eating too little,” the psychiatrist explained. “Some people seem to keep coming back for more, and some of them probably have their own issues around eating.”


Where We Are Going Today: Bee’s Ink

Where We Are Going Today: Bee’s Ink
Updated 25 September 2021

Where We Are Going Today: Bee’s Ink

Where We Are Going Today: Bee’s Ink

Beat the summer heat with refreshing ice cream from Bee’s Ink, located in Jeddah’s Mohammadiya district.

The brand has come up with healthy options to replace artificial ingredients used in commercial ice cream.

Bee’s Ink ice creamery offers a menu with unique tastes, using fresh raw organic cow’s milk and natural honey as both a topping and sweetener.

The signature offering comes with honey drizzle and honeycomb on top of vanilla ice cream, creating a beautiful garnish worthy of a social media post. The shop also offers coffee, matcha, shakes made with fresh organic milk, and for vegetarians, plant-based milks are used with coffee and matcha drinks.

Bee’s Ink also offers banana oat cookies, banana bread, oat-based waffles, and a wide range of healthy toppings such as all-natural peanuts, hazelnut, almond butter, sugar-free granola, and fruits.

To promote the idea of a healthier eating style, the shop serves a free fruit box for kids when they visit. For more information visit the Instagram account @beesink_sa.


What We Are Eating Today: Yabany

What We Are Eating Today: Yabany
Updated 24 September 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Yabany

What We Are Eating Today: Yabany

Jeddah-based home delivery sushi restaurant Yabany offers a range of traditional and extravagant options of raw and cooked sushi rolls.

Saudi fans of Japanese culture and food can enjoy a variety of flavors, mixing wasabi with soy sauce on sushi rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and maki orders.

Asian mains and appetizers are also available including dumplings, shrimp balls, beef, chicken, vegetable, and salmon teppanyaki, soups, salads, rice, and noodles.

Yabany’s home delivery service offers a sushi box of five flavors of choice and for special occasions and parties its catering service will provide an authentic and visually appealing sushi experience.

For more information visit Instagram: @yabany_sushi.


Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day
Updated 22 September 2021

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

RIYADH: A host of restaurants in Riyadh are celebrating Saudi Arabia’s National Day in style with special menus and entertainment.

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh

The hotel is offering its usual festivities with a twist, inviting a Saudi celebrity chef to cook for guests in Al-Orjouan restaurant. Social media-famous chef Abdulelah AlRabiah is set to host a cooking station while guests will be serenaded by live Saudi music.

Lunch will be held from 12:30pm - 5pm, priced at $120 (450 SAR)

The dinner buffet runs from 6:30pm-12am, priced at (450 SAR) $120 for adults and $60 (224 SAR) for children.

Four food trucks will be stationed outside serving coffee, ice cream and burgers along with face painting and gifts for children.

Yauatcha Riyadh

The dim sum restaurant and tea house is offering a special set menu inspired by the Kingdom’s national colors until Oct. 2.

The $66 (250 SAR) per person menu features chicken spinach soup, a section of dim sum, and main dishes consisting of chicken, seabass, and pak choi, as well as dessert.

La Brasserie

Riyadh’s La Brasserie is offering their traditional international brunch and dinner buffets with additional Saudi dishes to celebrate National Day.

The brunch buffet will run from 12:30pm-3:30pm and is priced at $101 (379 SAR).

The dinner buffet will be held from 7:00pm-11:00pm and is priced at $73 (275 SAR), excluding drinks.

Al-Bustan Restaurant

Al-Bustan restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh is offering a dinner buffet that includes a clutch of international favorites, including grilled lamb with traditional Saudi spices.

Running from 7:00pm-12:00am on Thursday, a local performer will entertain guests to celebrate the occasion and dinner priced at $89 (335 SAR) per person.  

Four Seasons

Elements restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh is offering an international buffet with a focus on regional favorites, including lamb kabsa rice, mandi varieties, mixed grills, cold mezze and, of course, Um Ali.

Live music will be played during the Thursday night dinner buffet between 7:00pm-12:00am.  

The dinner buffet is priced at $83 (311 SAR), excluding beverages.  

La, Gais

The Instagram-perfect, newly opened breakfast and specialty coffee spot will offer a selection of Saudi-themed breakfast and brunch items, along with live music.

Perfect for family brunch, the restaurant will be open from 4:30am-7:00pm during the National Day weekend.

Each menu item is priced separately, including tax.


Misguided advice on diet, gym workouts ‘doing more harm than good’, say fitness specialists

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 September 2021

Misguided advice on diet, gym workouts ‘doing more harm than good’, say fitness specialists

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms. (Shutterstock)
  • "I have heard a lot of wrong facts and tips about sports. A lot of people on social media don’t have a certificate in fitness, and I see them advising people based on their personal experience and not studies"
  • Fitness myth-busters come out fighting

JEDDAH: With interest in sport surging in the Kingdom, Saudis embarking on gym and exercise regimes have been warned to beware of self-appointed “experts” peddling fitness myths that can ruin workouts and even damage health.

Fitness specialists say that unreliable information on the internet and poorly researched advice can have a negative influence on those eager to join gyms.

Extreme diets and exercise programs can cause more harm than good, they warn.

Yumna Khalid, a 23-year-old university student, told Arab News that she has had many such experiences at her gym but has finally learned how to deal with them.

Extreme diets and exercise programs can cause more harm than good, experts warn

“Someone once told me that the more she sweats, the more fat she will lose, and that if she is not sweating heavily, her workout will not work. I said nothing but sympathized with the woman since she was working out wearing a hoodie in the scorching heat of Jeddah.”

Khalid said that people “should just listen to their bodies” to judge if a workout or diet is right for them.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Yumna Khalid, a 23-year-old university student, said that people ‘should just listen to their bodies’ to judge if a workout or diet is right for them.

• Nouf Hamdallah, a fitness trainer with nine years’ experience, said ‘the problem with these people is that they think what they are doing is the only right way. ‘They should just focus on themselves and not spread information that they aren’t sure about.’

• Suliman Abduljawad, a Guinness world record holder in fitness, said ‘one of the mistaken things that people are trading is that the female body is harder to train — that’s not true, it’s a simple science.’

“The body has a way of telling you. Do the workout that makes you feel good during and afterwards. If a workout or a diet feels wrong then just don’t do it. Listen to your body and you will be set.”

She added: “But listen to it when it is being reasonable and not at 3 a.m. when you want to eat eight donuts and a tub of ice cream.”

Casey Ho, a YouTuber who has been uploading home workout videos since 2009, was subjected to a wave of hate after announcing that she wanted to lose weight and get in the best shape of her life.

In her video, titled “How I lost 17.5 pounds in 12 weeks — My 90-Day Journey,” she said: “No, I don’t have an eating disorder. No, I don’t have a body image disorder. No, I don’t hate myself and, no, this journey wasn’t for you — it was for me.”

In a podcast called Off the Pills, Ho said that the body positive movement has grown so much over the years that now if someone wants to lose weight and look a certain way, they are labeled “anti-body positive” and kicked out of the community.

Returning to unhealthy habits is not the answer, she said. “It is a commitment of a lifetime.”

The trainer urged gym-goers to avoid training others if they are unqualified, adding that there was a big chance the advice might be harmful. (Shutterstock)

Nouf Hamdallah, a fitness trainer with nine years’ experience, said: “The problem with these people is that they think what they are doing is the only right way. They should just focus on themselves and not spread information that they aren’t sure about.”

According to Hamdallah, the best way to deal with such people is to ask: “What is the source of the information?”

She added: “They will think back on what they have said and if they do have a genuine source, you can take their advice.”

The trainer also urged gym-goers to avoid training others if they are unqualified, adding that there was a big chance the advice might be harmful.

Hamdallah said that a healthy lifestyle is about changing habits little by little, and is not about following a particular diet. “People tend to get the two mixed.

For a healthy life, it’s just a caloric deficit, physical activity and enough sleep. It’s very simple.”

The trainer defined her personal experience as a series of trial and error, and said that still tries new approaches and methods in her diet and during her workouts.

She also said that her schedules are flexible, and she will not force herself to do something that does not feel right.

Depending on body type, results can take up to a year to show, while sometimes it is just three months, Hamdallah added.

I believe that a lot of Saudis can break a lot of records. I’ve seen the potential they have, but I think they just don’t know how to do it. I am more than happy to guide and help them.

Suliman Abduljawad, Guinness world record holder in fitness

However, according to Khalid, adopting a healthier lifestyle is not as tricky as it sometimes appears.

“I promise you, a healthy lifestyle isn’t just boiled chicken breast and white rice or a sad piece of bread. Now, more than ever, you can find delicious foods on the internet that is so good that you won’t even miss the sugar-filled or fried foods that you crave.”

Khalid said that she was discouraged because people kept telling her that she was eating, drinking and exercising the wrong way, and she was not seeing results in fitness. She later discovered that it takes time to change.

“That is OK. I have my own pace and I am happy with that,” she said.

Adding to the warnings, a Saudi champ has joined the fight against fitness myths

Suliman Abduljawad, a Guinness world record holder in fitness, joined social media to campaign for better messaging around fitness and exercise.

“I have heard a lot of wrong facts and tips about sports. A lot of people on social media don’t have a certificate in fitness, and I see them advising people based on their personal experience and not studies,” he told Arab News.

Abduljawad said that he decided to step in and educate people about the “rights and wrongs” of training.

The fitness champ said that he receives messages every day from followers asking him about information they read online.

Female personal trainers in Saudi Arabia are expensive compared with other countries because of the myths, he said.

“One of the mistaken things that people are trading is that the female body is harder to train — that’s not true, it’s a simple science,” Abduljawad said.

He also rejects the claim that training is bad for children. “I have a son, I cannot wait until he is 3 years old to train him. People say that children should not train, which is wrong. Their training is fun and they will enjoy it.”

Abduljawad said that he read Guinness World Records books as a child and wondered why there were no Saudi record-holders. It was then that he decided to work hard on himself.

He eventually broke two world records after a long journey — one in side jump push-up and one in archer push-up in 2020.

“I believe that a lot of Saudis can break a lot of records. I’ve seen the potential they have, but I think they just don’t know how to do it. I am more than happy to guide and help them.”

Abduljawad offers online training and dreams of having his own gym one day. “I’m aiming break 10 more world records.”


Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
  • 58-year-old Tawfiq Qadri still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child

MAKKAH: A top Saudi cook hailed as the chef to kings is set to pass on more of his culinary skills and recipes with the release of a new book.

Tawfiq Qadri, who has worked in palace kitchens for a succession of monarchs, is due to finish his third cookbook, “On the Table of the Caliph.”
And the 58-year-old still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child.
“It all started when I was seven years old. I was fascinated with the sight of my mother in the kitchen, and I used to help in cutting carrots and cucumbers and cleaning rice. I was the only one of 16 brothers and sisters to help her at our home in Madinah,” he told Arab News.
“I joined the scouts during intermediate and high school and was the chef of my classmates at the time. I became famous for cooking the popular Hijazi dishes, which the scouts enjoyed despite my lack of experience.”
After moving to Italy to train as a chef, Qadri’s career took off as he later made a name for himself catering for royals, presidents, and celebrities.
But his rise to fame in the cuisine arts did not get off to a smooth start.
After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student.

BACKGROUND

• After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

• At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student. He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities.

On returning home, in 1981 he took up employment with the Royal Saudi Navy, based in Riyadh. There, he was head chef and supervisor of the navy officers’ club and would often fly to Toulon in France to join a ship that regularly sailed to Saudi Arabia, working on board as a chef. After four years in the navy, during which time he rose to the rank of sergeant, he moved into military supply management, eventually heading the operation, and organizing budgets for the whole of the Kingdom.
When the Gulf crisis started in 1990, he was commissioned to join the Ministry of Defense and became the chef of the Allied Forces, earning the rank of chief sergeant.
After taking early retirement from the navy, Qadri spent six years with Saudia airline’s catering division, developing a range of dishes, before advising international hotels on food provision and judging in many culinary competitions throughout the Arab world.
While working with Saudia airline, Qadri was featured in a Saudi newspaper article under the headline, “Passengers Love him Before Seeing Him.” On the back of the publicity, he was given responsibility for Hijazi cooking at the palace of the late King Fahd and went on to work for the late King Abdullah, and now King Salman, notably preparing the kitchen during the visit of former US President Barack Obama.
He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities. As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals, and created 42 new recipes. He is also the author of books “Saudi and the Star of the Table,” and “Guide of the Quick Cooking,” with “On the Table of the Caliph” due to be completed soon.