In this century, we find ourselves to be morbidly obsessed with vanity. From perfecting our faces to honing our bodies, our lifestyles revolve around how we look physically.
It is no wonder that diets are part of our routines.
Whether done unconsciously or subconsciously, diets have inadvertently found a way to stay put in the millennial’s life.
Turns out that a majority of people in Tanzania have the right idea of what dieting is! Some people defined it as a way of consuming less amount of food in order to lose weight or more food in order to gain weight.
However, one thing we can all agree on is that this is an epic part of our various lifestyles and tends to define our many choices.
A few people defined diet from a general nutritious term balance diet; which means to eat a proper balanced meal that contains different types of foods in different type of proportion that holds the adequate amount of alternative nutrients, calories, proteins, minerals and vitamins.
A balanced diet should offer around 60-70 percent of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-12 percent from proteins and 20-25 percent of total calories from fat.
When, why and how can one diet?
Dieting can be done any time of the year, although some people recommend starting a diet plan at a new beginning, meaning on the first day of the first month or on the first day of a week.
We diet for many reasons but four reasons stand out; health, weight loss, weight gain and culture or religion.
Take the Hindu and a majority of the Seventh Day Adventist; they follow a vegan or vegetarian diet due to their beliefs and culture.
Athletes on the other hand follow a type of diet that helps them to fuel more energy during their games while models, socialites and celebrities are inclined to follow more restrictive diets for image and perception.
There are different types of diets out there so there isn’t a specific blue print on how one should diet.
Some people for instance brides, attempt yoyo diet that involves somewhat a bit of extreme steps like starvation and this is a short-term diet with hope for quick results. It is not recommended and it is harmful.
Since dieting is such a diverse and individual-based journey, Laurine Kashasha and Patroba Michieka share their different diets of choice and why this is a lifestyle they picked
Laurine Kashasha – diet for weight gain
Laurine has been slim throughout her life, she recalls being in and out of the pediatricians’ clinics often at her young age due to lack of appetite. “As a young girl Ribena used to be my drink and my parents thought it would increase my appetite and help me gain some weight,” she narrates.
There is a belief that a healthy baby has to be fat. Her doctor recommended that she take Ribena seriously and she tried to supplement with traditional herbs as well but her body just would not gain.
Laurine grew up with body issues and she faced a lot of bullying at school and was nicknamed kimbaombao.
When she moved from a government school to an international school, she thought things would be different because of the diversity but unfortunately when the teen dating scene started, she was left behind.
There were skinny girls in her school but they were taller and more curvy. She often looked like the youngest amongst her classmates and would often be mistaken for a junior student.
High school wasn’t any better. The girls were all fully developed and she still was skinny and small.
Instead of sharing the same dormitories with her peers, she bunked with the middle school students.
Laurine then grew up with body issues and this made her university journey even more challenging.
In university she made a group of friends and eventually they all started dating, for the fear of being left out and under peer pressure she dated the remaining guy in their group.
“This was the worst decision of my life, this guy always talked about my body and how skinny I was. When I’d had enough and decided to break up with him, he went onto Facebook and made fun of me being flat without a bigger behind, called me a skeleton and many other painful things,” Laurine says.
This affected her and she did not return to school the next trimester.
As she took a trimester break, she decided to go see a dietician. For the three months she stayed home, Laurine saw the dietician twice a week and together they came up with a weight gain plan.
Laurine says, “I managed to gain 10kgs and moved up from the 45kgs I had been at in 3 months. I maintained this weight throughout until I had my two children and now, I fluctuate between 55kgs and 58kgs which works well with my height.”
Laurine points out that most people often accused her of not putting in effort to gain weight and although weight gain has been perceived to be easier than weight loss, for her it was a challenge.
She turned to crash diets of fast foods and chocolates which never helped.
Her dietician warned her that crash diet could lead to health complications like diabetes.
Patroba Michieka – diet for weight loss
In January this year, Patroba Michieka started his diet at 103kgs with the goal to shed some weight.
He now weighs 85kgs and says that diet is very important to him because it seems to be the easiest route to lose weight.
“I had been trying to exercise but it wasn’t enough. The drastic measures I had to take to lose weight were to lean on a plant-based diet and protein that was much healthier and avoiding processed meats and foods high in sodium. On top of all this I worked out four times a week,” he says.
However, he has now chosen a diet that has less carbs more veggies, especially traditional veggies and kuku wa kienyeji (locally bred chicken).
He avoids red meat because it is high in cholesterol.
It has been over a year since he ate rice, bread and chapati. He avoids wheat as much as possible and in the morning, he prefers sugarless porridge and sweet potatoes or pumpkin.
Patroba says that self-discipline is not usually easy. There are days where one cheats and they are forced to do a double workout just to compensate but he encourages that with time one becomes disciplined, reminding us that to form a habit takes just 21 days.
Amongst his peers Patroba has observed that some take dieting as an extreme measure.
It’s unfortunate that with the changing and merging of cultures, most of them prefer junk food because it is always readily available.
In fact, some of them have not cooked in their houses for a very long time.
An expert’s opinion
Dr. Ozz Razak holds over 25 years of experience in training and coaching people in health and lifestyle related matters. In doing so, he has made huge differences in people’s lives from diabetic, cardiovascular patients, obese people, athletes and many more.
Razak defines dieting as a scheme set up to attain a healthy weight or better fitness levels.
He points out that a majority of diets that exist today are fads that exist momentarily then disappear. “Realistically I prefer to use the word food management rather than diet to prescribe favorable food plans,” he says.
Dr Ozz also adds that in Tanzania, a majority of the people get information about dieting from social media outlets.
Thus overall, the prescribed methods don’t meet the set rightful standards of food management.
He emphasizes that the best food management plan stems from an individual perspective. “We all consume different foods thus when a good nutritionist prescribes a plan, they should do so by first looking at what the cultural norms are when it comes to food and then within that same deduction, prescribe suitable methods of food management,” he explains.
“The best diets really are based on moderation and long-term sustainable plans. Diets that are drastic are the ones that are harmful to your overall system.”