For a long time in many parts of Africa, a large stomach, fleshy thighs, and massive arms were a sign of prosperity and a picture of true health. A man with such a physique would be seen as being wealthy and a woman with a rounder body might even have been envied by other women for having a husband who took such good care of her.

As the years passed and scientific knowledge increased however, this perception has changed in Africa.

All over the world, and increasingly on our continent, more and more people are paying attention to their physical health and weight. It is no longer uncommon to find locals in Kenya running or jogging on the sidewalks, working hard to lose the fat and get firmer bodies. Although exercise is ideal for a healthy lifestyle, nutrition could be even more crucial.

Dr. Shchukina, a family physician has specialized in obesity treatment in Kenya for the last 20 years. She was featured on the K24 Alfajiri TV program, in a discussion about the importance of healthy eating for weight loss. She explained that, for one to achieve and maintain weight loss, he or she must first change their attitude towards food.

Contrary to common belief, obesity is no longer just a “Western” problem. Around 55% of Kenyans are either obese or overweight. Studies show that obesity is the number one cause of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In the years Dr. Shchukina has worked in the field of obesity, she has seen a rise in cases of diabetes in Kenya from 1% to 12%. Tackling the obesity problem would consequently reduce cases of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

So what is healthy eating anyway? According to Dr. Shchukina, healthy eating is a style of eating which satisfies the physical as well as psychological condition of a person. While a person’s body can survive on water, protein shakes and other supplements, this mode of nutrition is far from being able to provide psychological satisfaction. Simply put, this style of eating would not keep you happy.

You often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Whether this is true or not, a nutritious meal is essential for a healthy body weight. Dr. Shchukina highlighted some breakfast options that are rich in nutrients and help with weight loss.  Some of these foods are nuts, eggs, and even raw vegetables. Although many people reach for carbohydrates to satisfy hunger, the obesity specialist explained that proteins are more beneficial.

On the program, Dr. Shchukina, urged Kenyans to change their attitudes towards food and to understand which foods they should eat to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight.

At Holistic Living, we not only offer weight loss treatment using medical and surgical means, but we also focus on prevention of obesity. When we reduce obesity, we automatically reduce the occurrence of non-communicable diseases.

It’s hardly news that junk food and obesity are linked. However, we seldom think about the impact of the fast food chains and processed food companies mushrooming in our country. Kenyans will spend hours in queues just to get a taste (or take pics for the gram) of the newest American eateries or European snacks as soon as they become available locally, but do we really think about the long-term effects on our health and economy?

An article recently published on The New York Times website described in detail how the multinational Nestlé is making its mark on the Brazilian market. The article begins with the story of Celene da Silva, a 29-year-old woman who is one of thousands of door-to-door vendors for Nestlé. Through her work, she helps the world’s largest packed foods conglomerate expand its reach into 250,000 households in Brazil’s furthest-flung corners. Andrew Jacobs and Matt Richtel wrote:

“Nestlé’s direct-sales army in Brazil is part of a broader transformation of the food system that is delivering Western-style processed food and sugary drinks to the most isolated pockets of Latin America, Africa and Asia. As their growth slows in the wealthiest countries, multinational food companies like Nestlé, PepsiCo and General Mills have been aggressively expanding their presence in developing nations, unleashing a marketing juggernaut that is upending traditional diets from Brazil to Ghana to India.

A New York Times examination of corporate records, epidemiological studies and government reports — as well as interviews with scores of nutritionists and health experts around the world — reveals a sea change in the way food is produced, distributed and advertised across much of the globe. The shift, many public health experts say, is contributing to a new epidemic of diabetes and heart disease, chronic illnesses that are fed by soaring rates of obesity in places that struggled with hunger and malnutrition just a generation ago.

The new reality is captured by a single, stark fact: Across the world, more people are now obese than underweight. At the same time, scientists say, the growing availability of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods is generating a new type of malnutrition, one in which a growing number of people are both overweight and undernourished.

There are now more than 700 million obese people worldwide, 108 million of them children, according to research published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine. The prevalence of obesity has doubled in 73 countries since 1980, contributing to four million premature deaths, the study found.

For a growing number of nutritionists, the obesity epidemic is inextricably linked to the sales of packaged foods, which grew 25 percent worldwide from 2011 to 2016, compared with 10 percent in the United States

In many ways, Brazil is a microcosm of how growing incomes and government policies have led to longer, better lives and largely eradicated hunger. But now the country faces a stark new nutrition challenge: over the last decade, the country’s obesity rate has nearly doubled to 20 percent, and the portion of people who are overweight has nearly tripled to 58 percent. Each year, 300,000 people are diagnosed with Type II diabetes, a condition with strong links to obesity.”

Seeing as more and more processed foods are making their way into the Kenyan market, is it possible that we are headed in the same direction as Brazil?

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