Moscow has halted imports of sodas, candy, junk food and other processed food from the West in retaliation for economic sanctions on its oil and banking sectors.
The sudden unavailability of processed Western foods — notorious for unhealthy amounts of trans-fats, salt, sugars, artificial flavors, and high-fructose corn syrup — has created an unexpected health and fitness boom as Russians turn to more nutritious foods.
“I thought I’d starve when the supermarket stopped selling cheap American microwave dinners and candy bars,” said Maxim Ves, a 380-pound Moscow resident at a farmer’s market as he ate a salad and a low-calorie prosciutto, avocado, and olive sandwich made with 100-percent whole-grain bread.
“Who knew fresh, healthy food was so good? Yet I only eat it when I’m hungry, not just because. It’s like a curse has been lifted.
“And walking to market every day has been great: I’ve lost 10 pounds!”
Obesity has become a major health problem in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, especially since Western fast-food chains have rushed to open local franchises.
But since cheap, fattening processed foods have become difficult to obtain due to the ban, Russians have started eating healthier local meals.
Outside Moscow’s first McDonald’s on Pushkin Square, protesters have demanded it be shut down and replaced with an organic food market.
Twenty-four hour gyms across the country have seen a surge in new members, with 99.9 percent keeping their membership instead of quitting after a month.
The ban has even affected Russians’ legendary fondness for alcohol and cigarettes, as liquor and tobacco shops across the country have set up fruit juice and smoothie bars to meet the sudden demand.
“Who needs vodka and cigarettes when you have ginger tea and carrot sticks?” said Zhaloba Portnoy, a 75-year-old babushka who’s lost 25 pounds and has taken up yoga and kickboxing. “I feel 40 years younger!”
Moscow’s Gorky Park is unusually crowded with joggers and bicyclists who shared the park with outdoor tai chi, karate and yoga classes.
“After work I’d eat frozen pizza or fast food for dinner, and I’d just have enough energy to watch TV or play video games before going to bed. I didn’t even have enough energy to jack off,” said jogger Vitaly Sushchnost, who was training for a marathon. “Now I’m lifting weights, exercising and eating great. I’m free from crap food and its instant gratification.”
Meanwhile, Moscow’s notoriously gridlocked roads have seen a drop in traffic as newly active, healthy residents have taken to walking and bicycling instead.
The Russian health ministry reports a massive drop in national rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and strokes. At current trends, Russians’ average life expectancy will exceed the United States and other European countries within 5 years.
In response, American junk food companies including General Mills, Hostess, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kellogg’s are pressuring the U.S. government to demand Russia end the ban.
“Vladimir Putin must be stopped,” food industry lobbyist Nick Naylor said. “He has surpassed Michelle Obama as the greatest threat to freedom and American values worldwide.”