We have a canteen at our office, its free, a way for big brother to keep us in shackles until we are free to go home at the end of our working day.
As its Ghana the choices we have are stodge, stodge, more stodge with a bit of oil on the side. For desert it’s pineapple, watermelon or orange (I hate having sticky orange peel all over the mouth and hands so never take the orange) once in a while we are given fan ice yogurt. For a company which prides itself on health and wellness sometimes I do wonder if it exempts employees but then again I don’t fault the company rather the people. Ghanaians like their banku and their kenkey and a big plate of rice so that’s what we get. I miss just having a sandwich with an apple or a peach or even a tangerine, but this is Ghana, unless I want to pay 22ghs for 5 kiwi’s I have to make do. I used to love pineapple’s when I was living in London, anytime someone was coming to Ghana all we requested were pineapple and avocado pear, now I’m so over pineapple although I haven’t managed to overdose on avocado yet so it’s still all good.
Yesterday I went to lunch with the crew, last few days bonding with the team before I move to my new premises. I wasn’t all that hungry so I took a few spoonfuls of rice and a bit of curry. As I walked to the table I could feel stares at my plate. Then someone spoke up “is that all your eating”. Then his lady friend says “ah so that’s why you’ve lost weight”. You see in the last few months I have gone from a size 10-12 to an 8-10 (my size 8 gap jeans are no longer pinching me at the sides). This was mainly due to running up and down a lot of stairs when I was on the relocation project, a little bit of malaria and a touch of food poisoning, I don’t recommend the latter but the exercise I got from simply taking the stairs has been good for me.
There are a lot of ladies in the office and beyond complaining about their weight. Not all of us are blessed to have slim bodies and not all of us are meant to be a size 2 but then we can look after the bodies we have by guess what, exercise and food control. I’m not advocating anything new I know, but it really is that simple.
By exercise it doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. The gyms here are too elitist thus overpriced, its a good way to get out of the house, meet people, but really I wouldn’t necessarily use it as a means of losing weight. I have an exercise video, an hour after a workout with Billy Blanks all my muscles ache, but in a good way like I’ve done something great. In my mind I do 10 minutes in the morning and an hour on weekends, I hope to get back on that horse soon (I like the feeling of my size 8 gap jeans fitting me so perfectly). The other means is cleaning. Simple things like mopping the floor and cleaning the windows uses more muscles than you might think. Due to my sinusitus and the dusty roads I can’t do the whole jogging thing, the roads are not so good unfortunately and I wouldn’t do it, but I do see people jogging, I do admire that, even a brisk walk around the block though does wonders.
Then there’s food portions. I think the biggest barrier is not just what we eat but how we deceive ourselves. In Africa and most probably in the Caribbean we use a lot of rice, yams, and other carbohydrates as well as having a big love for meat, chicken, beef, goat and some of us love our pork. It’s not a bad thing, I wouldn’t even say to cut it out. The reason I was able to lose a lot of weight after I broke up with my ex in 2007 was from eating a balanced diet. I went on that weight watchers programme (adapted for the Ghanaian)mixed with my exercise got down to a 12-14 to a size 8 (although that was probably for 2 days) and then a comfortable size 10. I’ve been hovering between a size 10-12 ever since until today I would say a comfortable size 10 again.
I see the plates of the ladies in the office, a big plate of rice, fried fish and a small portion of vegetables. There they say things like “I get home late and I don’t eat so I eat heavy now”, or “when I get home I will just have tea and bread/fruit” before I go to bed. Girl, you know you’re deceiving yourself and it is not hurting anyone except those expanding love handles. Then there is the banku/kenkey, sorry but eating one instead of two just tells me that you don’t eat like a man, not that you’re trying to lose weight. Half I would say is sufficient.
For fufu, the fufu should be the size of your fist and a couple of pieces of meat, chicken or one fish, the soup can be as much as you want as it is basically tomato, water and spices, there doesn’t have to be any oil in the soup rather the natural oil from the meat, but what remember that your bowl shouldn’t look like a scene from animal farm.
Fish: if your fish has gone from swimming in the sea to swimming in oil, it doesn’t make for a healthy meal. Fish should be pan fried or grilled anything other than that and you are deceiving yourself.
In the good old days, our parents and grandparents ate the same foods we eat today with limited health or obesity problems, but you’ve heard the stories how they walked for miles to fetch water, worked in the farm. You see they were getting plenty of exercise. Furthermore they were not going to the mall to eat ice cream outside Frankies or take a trip to the KFC for a mega meal. The junk food generation has reached Ghana and its hit big time. Now don’t get me wrong, tucking into a big juicy burger and a plate of chips is nice, very nice and makes a change from the same old rice, rice, rice. However, it should be a treat and not an everyday occurrence. I think I have already shed my view on this so will cut it now, you know what to do here. When you go out for a pizza, always order a healthy green salad, and you don’t need to eat the whole pizza, tomorrow is there, have a few slices and take the rest home.
Restaurants: it’s nice to dress up and go and eat out. It’s even nicer when you are taken out on a date, however the portion sizes are enormous. Just because mama always told you to eat what’s on your plate it doesn’t mean you have to eat until you’re fit to burst. Remember mama gave you enough for your belly, the restaurants give you their average portion. If you feel shy to take the rest home then leave it, however I would suggest when the meal comes you ask for a take away pack, and put half the portion in the pack so that you are not tempted to eat every single bite.
Always remember to have a generous portion of vegetables. Where possible, I would suggest you fill half your plate with vegetables first, that way you will not be tempted to over fill your plate with the carbs.
Beer: it doesn’t help, but neither does a bottle of coke. If you’re a minerals drinker limit to one coke, fresh juice is a lot better, a glass of wine or two shots of spirit with a mixer, I’m not condoning alcoholism but I will not tell you to not to. In moderation, its actually good for the soul. As a friend pointed out, there is alcohol in most medicines so why not go to the source.
I have to get going, gotta go work for my salary but in summary. First you need to stop deceiving yourself, that’s the only way you’re going to win on the way to losing weight. Secondly, its not about the food but the portions. Don’t cut out any food groups, many people cut out complete foods then are surprised when they complete the diet, go back to their old ways and the weight comes back. Reduce the carbs, increase the veg and one portion of protein should suffice, put it simply, you can have it all, moderation is the key. Lastly exercise, take the stairs instead of the lift, take a brisk walk after lunch, if you live in the tropics, by 2/3/4 the sun starts going down, and if you are like me, its the time when the eyes go droopy so you are killing two birds with one stone.
But once again and I reiterate, nothing can be done, its not worth it and you will not achieve your long term goal and sustain, until you stop deceiving yourself and keep it real.
Thanks for reading