In 2012 a five-year-old girl was taken into care because she weighed 65 kilos, as much as an adult man, it was not in Africa. That year 4000 children were taken into hospital for obesity treatment, four times as many as a decades earlier.
Two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and so are a quarter of our kids. The strangulating mass of fat around our body organs is damaging our health and shortening our lives. Obesity in Africa is not as prevalent as it is in Northern America, but it’s bad. A 2017 report on South Africa showed that over 50% of their women were overweight by 20 years, and 82% of those above 45 are overweight!
Society is often hesitant to discuss it openly because of the blame and shame around the F-word and the O-word. It is increasing our susceptibility to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and stroke rates are increasing.
Your lifestyle can kick your weight out of control
This is the product of a modern lifestyle that is almost out of control.
We’re on the run, snacking on sweet treats, crisps, burgers and chips. We have our lunch while staring at computers and have gotten into the habit of eating (often unhealthy foods) all the time while working.
Its tea with lots of sugar in the morning, ya kukuamsha, and some of you go the whole day without a meal, just snacking, and end up eating one huge meal at night before you sleep. If you do not feed it, where is your body getting the energy to be active during the day, energy to think, strategize, write and walk? What you might not know is that eating a good breakfast is associated with low risk of obesity and overweight.
The main excuse used for not eating breakfast is TIME. You wake up between 4-5am to be at the office by 8am. There are very many quick and good options for making a quick breakfast. You can have sweet potatoes, githeri or nyoyo (all pre-made and warmed in the morning, or eaten cold). Wholemeal cereals, bananas and uji are good options too, these will fill you with energy. If you really feel pressed on time, have a full spoon of peanut butter with a banana or sweet potato.
You have an option of preparing your breakfast the night before you sleep.
Do make time to sit and have breakfast well? Giving yourself time to chew and enjoy the food. Chewing is a very important process for digestion, savour the meal. Having a good breakfast, and planning your meal will reduce your craving for snacking within the day. You can always carry fruit of nuts to have in between meals.
Most people, especially men, forget to have lunch. They end up not carrying lunch boxes and opt for quick fixes like Chips, Soda, Sausages, or whatever they find within reach.
If you’re not the kind to carry lunch from home, you have the option of buying healthy food. You can’t have fast food every day for lunch and expect to be healthy. You’re slowly clogging your arteries with saturated fat, and withholding vital nutrients from your body. If you’re Kenyan, you’re better off at the Kibanda where they’ll serve you chapo, madondo na cabbage.
Mashakura joints in Kenya should pay attention to nutrition
We visit and order foods from Nairobi restaurants, and there are very few options for healthy meals. Most take out restaurants assume that people want obesity, and yet they are extremely expensive.
The Food and drink industry (restaurants included) aggressively market their meals and persuades us to believe that we deserve sugary saturated fatty foods as a reward or a treat. Restaurants need to make an effort to make delicious-tasting healthy foods. How can we make a delicious burger that’s healthy? Or should we, who buy these foods, limit the amount of take-out we have in the month?
We can’t tell you to absolutely stop ordering unhealthy take-out, because it will only make you want more of it. However, we can appeal to you to reduce your order by half. If you’ve been ordering (Mashakura) 10 times in a month, limit it to 5 times, it’s a good step to a healthy lifestyle.
The treat for your body and brain is a good healthy meal. You can have some fast-food, but not every day.
In this regards, we also need to be careful because our children will learn their eating habits from us.
On the other hand, we have people who deliver lunches for Ksh. 180 – 200. Most of them need some training on how to cook food to retain its nutrients, apportion food, put healthy options on our plates. So do we, most of us serve foods in our homes that are perfect for obesity and other lifestyle diseases. Improving our diets can heal us or help us better manage our health.
The goal is to balance the energy consumed and energy spent
The energy fuel we use for our living needs comes from what we eat. Being overweight simple means that you’re retaining more energy than what you spend.
Our brain through specific nerve cells decides whether to use the energy or keep it for future needs. It’s through combined processes called energy balance: energy intake and energy expenditure being opposite factors. Imagine a See-Saw, one side has Energy Balance, and on the other Energy Expenditure. A disruption in this equation leads to overweight/obesity.
When the lever is heavy on the energy expenditure, you will be underweight, which is unhealthy.
When the lever is heavy on the energy intake you will be overweight or obese.
We have an inbuilt resistance to starvation and our bodies store fat when they go hungry. So be very careful of starving yourself in the thought of losing weight. Consult a doctor or nutritionist. Nobody can fight this alone. If you need assistance in managing weight, send us an email.