When people ask about my origins, I get a bit confused. I was born and raised in the city of Montreal, Canada. My parents however are from Egypt, while my grand- and great grand-parents came from Syria, Lebanon, and the island of Malta. I guess another approach is to say that I come from a Christian catholic Middle Eastern family. French was always our mother tongue. Growing up in Montreal, I eventually learned English and Spanish through my studies, and now I am getting into Portuguese.
I always had a deep passion about learning and discovering the beauties of the natural and cultural world shaped by humanity. After an international bachelor’s in natural sciences in college, I entered graduate studies in anthropology, where I was initiated into the amazing disciplines of archaeology, medical anthropology, linguistics and ethnology. I was very interested learning about the various medical and health systems and culinary traditions of world cultures, both in the past and in the present.
I entered a PhD program in public health in 2005. There I learned a great deal about the health promotion, human behavior and nutrition, and global health. I specialised in the studies of sweet food and drinks consumption, and read with passion the work of both mainstream and unorthodox research about sugar and its effect on health. I was curious about the impact of food processing on the quality of the diet, and very interested to learn about traditional food systems and their impact on health.
Then I became especially interested in the field of nutrition, and how I could apply a socio-anthropological perspective to study food behavior. My mentors were a precious help, and taught me the discipline and rigour of exploring both qualitative and quantitative data. I also work during these years, both in the field of gambling studies and mental health research where I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge about human behaviour.
Just as I was about the finish my dissertation in 2010, I came across Carlos Monteiro’s work on ultra-processed food. I was instantly enthusiastic about his ideas and research, and I contact him to seek a post-doctoral position with his research team. Nine months later I arrived with my wife in São Paulo, Brazil, with a project to study the consumption patterns of ultra-processed foods in Canada, and elsewhere in the world.
Today I appreciate the use of a transdisciplinary approach and combine knowledge in anthropology, public health and nutrition, to understand the individual, contextual and global determinants of food behaviour and food systems. I hope I can contribute to address the global pandemic of obesity and chronic diseases. My background in anthropology has taught me a way to appreciate the differences and see human affairs in a relative way. I believe we can learn a great deal working beyond the frontiers of our disciplines and appreciating the diversity of traditional food systems of the human species, both in the past, present times.