Two decades ago, a potbelly was a status symbol that communicated affluence and class.
Economic empowerment was characterised by the ability to afford whatever gustatory delights one relished without worrying about breaking the bank.
Mothers prided themselves in having chubby babies who topped the scales at well-baby clinics and grew up into fat toddlers. Husbands proudly showed off their well-taken-care-of wives to their in-laws at family functions, while the women smiled demurely with the satisfaction of having attained the acceptable wife-material weight.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and flat tummies are the in-thing. Women struggle to lose the post-pregnancy weight and fit into the little black dress they wore during their college years. Men have shifted from beers to whiskeys in an effort to cut calories and maintain a semblance of a surf-board flat abdomen.
Men and women jogging in relatively affluent neighbourhoods early in the morning or late in the evenings is the norm rather than the exception and this is even used as a yardstick for the level of security in the neighbourhood.
It is said that for you to be considered rich, you must be able to afford to eat and grow fat, but true wealth is when you can afford a personal trainer to help you shed off the unnecessary calories!
A trim and fit body is no longer the preserve of fitness instructors. It is the hallmark of success in most middle-aged men. It is a sign of economic empowerment for women in their thirties and forties along with the Gucci handbag and six-inch Manolo Blahnik heels.
Over and above the superficial intentions of weight management, a new wave of health consciousness has swept the country. Every chronic and debilitating lifestyle disease risk profile reads from the same page, be it diabetes, hypertension, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, or stroke. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, refined foods, alcohol and smoking appear high on the list of each of these diseases.
Many people are taking notice of doctors’ warnings and taking matters into their own hands. Gyms and health clubs are sprouting in every neighbourhood, as men and women flock in to get healthy. Thousands of online food fads, diets, slimming teas and self-proclaimed health gurus have sprouted all over, taking advantage of the emerging market.
It is great that people now understand what familial predisposition means, how important quality of life is and just how what goes into our mouths determines our well-being. More indigenous food options are being sought out in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants are no longer an option for date night.
Health and fitness clubs and support groups have come in to fill the gap for those in need of a little push, such as one run by one Dr Esther Dindi (Doctor Fitness) on social media. As a specialist physician and accredited fitness expert, she has managed to combine her knowledge and experience to give a wholesome and fact-based support base for thousands of women and men.
But, as men and women, fathers and mothers, take the right steps in avoiding lifestyle diseases, it begs to question, where have they left their children? Why do their pre-teen daughters look like their siblings? Why are their 12-year-old sons shopping in the adult section for clothes? Why are paediatricians at a loss when prescribing medication because the children’s’ weights are adult-sized?
A mother will sit at a fast-food restaurant nibbling on a salad while her nine-year old ploughs through a whole chicken and fries designed to feed a family of four, and she smiles at his healthy appetite.
TEACH THEM YOUNG
Domestic managers now cook two meals each night, one for the parents and one for the children who don’t eat murenda and beans. The breakfast table is laid out buffet style to accommodate the parents’ healthy choices and their children’s not-so-healthy palates.
We must stop this downward spiral. It is unethical to continue shoveling death down our children’s throats. It is not right for us to assume obese, diabetic children in early teenage are normal. It is not right that 19-year-olds are nursing hypertension and osteoarthritis on the couch, PlayStation in hand, instead of being out there on basketball courts.
If you are affluent enough to afford a swimming pool in your home, build it to secure your child’s future health, not as a show of your worth in the bank. Mums need to stop being carried away by fads and teach healthy eating to their children from infancy at the critical stage of weaning. Babies know nothing about taste until you teach them. Teach them to eat managu and arrow roots and they will not despise them in their teens.
And always remember, children are most impressionable when they are below age six. They will eat what you eat. So, watch your diet and make it the family norm and you will not fight with them in teenage.
As for teenagers and young adults, the time to start living healthy is yesterday. Do not be fooled by a slight frame. It is not equal to a healthy body. Get off the laptop and go work up a real sweat. At 70 you will be grateful that you do not need someone to help you with your ablutions in the toilet!