If you plan to shed some weight, forget it – it is a crime to get thin in this town.
Sometime last year, someone I know took two months leave with one goal in mind – to shed a couple of unneeded kilos. She kicked off her quest by saying a painful goodbye to bread and Blue Band, stopped buying sugar, and when the forceful craving for fried chicken and chips threatened to knock her off her feet, she gritted her teeth until the wave mercifully wore off.
When the urge got too overwhelming to bear though, she nibbled on a tiny boiled, skinless drumstick, or ate the three pieces of meat a nutritionist had insisted was the recommended daily allowance. Ridiculous, I know, but she was determined to go back to work looking like her 18-year-old niece.
Besides the nightmare-inducing diet, she religiously huffed and puffed her mornings and evenings around her neighbourhood. It was torturous and gruelling, but it paid off. By the time she returned to work, she looked like the niece I mentioned earlier. Well, not quite, but you get the idea. As she got ready that morning, she could hardly wait to hear the oohs, and aahs, from her impressed colleagues.
I need not tell you that the positive reception she had envisioned did not happen. When she walked into, no, swayed, into the open plan office, the room went quiet, and about 10 alarmed faces stared at her, mouths slightly open. The colleague who recovered first blurted, “Are you okay?”
Another added, “Yaani you fell sick and didn’t tell us?” To cut a long story short, even after going into pains to explain that the weight loss was voluntary, and that she was pleased with the new her, the scepticism, clandestine whispers and suspicious looks followed her everywhere she went.
Her story reminds me of a certain former MP, who after being absent from the limelight for some time, reappeared looking much leaner. Oh, the conspiracy theories poured in bucketfuls, thanks to the know-it-alls on social media – the poor man was so overwhelmed by it all, he felt the need to explain the cause of his “thinness” on national TV, hoping to appease the rumour mongers.
Of course, they sneered with disbelief when he explained that his lean frame was due to exercising and eating healthy. Personally, I am not bothered when people around me either gain or lose weight, nor do I wonder why. It is their business. Period. But one thing is for sure, putting on weight seems to be more acceptable to us than shedding it off.
When someone puts on weight, we often laugh it off and say, “Amekula vitu zake”, (Vyake for those who took their Kiswahili teacher seriously.) The insinuation is that when people put on weight, they are simply enjoying the rewards of their hard work, and should not be crucified for it. If anything, some believe, plumpness is a sign of good health.
Dare you get thin though – the first conclusion is that you must be sick, and not just from any disease, but from that disease, which many of us still insist on whispering about, thanks to stereotypes that no amount of sensitisation seems to erase.
If you asked, me, I would be more concerned about the colleague, relative, or friend who puts on weight; because those who should know say that it is often the beginning of a multitude of health problems.
[email protected] Twitter: @cnjerius. The writer is the editor, MyNetwork, in the Daily Nation