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‘A fool again’



“I should have seen it coming, I should have read the signs. Anyway, I guess it’s over now,” a group of all-boy-band famously put it so well in their song, “Fool again”. Looking at our metabolic diseases climbing the charts, you would swear that someone is making a fool of us and we are swallowing the buffoonery “ka pelo e tšoeu” (with great appetite). There was a time not so long ago in history that people would pay a fee to see a man who was said to be the largest in the world. He was so popular that he joined the circus as part of the amusement show and the people would pay to see him. “Big Joe” Grimes, as he was popularly known, weighed around 300 kilograms then and died at the tender age of 34 according to an obituary section in a Los Angels Herald newspaper. Being obese back in the 1900’s was a marvel, a spectacular and eye-catching thing. Obesity was very rare, and that being said, even metabolic diseases that are now a norm in our time were hardly encountered. Something might have happened that has catapulted our weight problem through the roof. These days, being fat, obese or over-weight does not seem to attract any kind of attention or trigger a sense of awe. What makes it even scarier is the positive publicity that obesity now gets. Overweight people are now splashed on magazine covers and purported to be healthy. It is wrong to discriminate people by their body weight and it is also not right to make people suffering from obesity feel like it is their fault. Some are going through hard times already, battling with obesity. Body shaming does not help the situation at all. However, sugar-coating obesity with romantic phrases like “ke shilikane, ha ke motenya” (I’m not fat, I’m thick), will not get us anywhere in our quest to eradicate obesity. First of all, we know that people suffering from obesity are at a higher risk of being diabetic. This is not something to joke about, or romanticise as being sexy. Metabolic diseases (obesity being one) need us to be brave, and most of all to challenge the old dogmas surrounding our nutrition. The last 50 years have seen a surge in these diseases and their increase coincided surprisingly with the rise in popularity of processed foods. Was this a coincidence? “Ae hle banna, ha re bana!” (we are not kids). When the big food industry realised profits were not lucrative enough in the traditional breakfast – your butter on bread, eggs and bacon fried in lard or tallow – a move to processed foods became the saviour of the food industry. Processed foods were cheap to make and had some good profit margins. Butter was replaced by margarine, lard and tallow by toxic seed oils, eggs and bacon’s place was taken by the highly processed cardboard-like foods called cereals. To make these tasteless foods palatable, sugar was used to flavour them to the detriment of our health. It was shortly after the introduction of these “Franken-foods” that our health took a nose-dive. Many diseases that were rare or never heard of in the past mushroomed, took over our health and sadly became our daily bread; cancers of all types and forms, dementia, obesity, blurred visions, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and others were now part of our modern times, regrettably. Driving through the rocky mountains of Lesotho is not just splendid and refreshing. It is also an opener for some of the hidden lessons this country has to offer in terms of nutritional health. Local tourists could be seen posing for a picture or two with the herd-boys they meet as they pass near “Metobo” (herding-posts), scattered all over prairies and grasslands. These passers-by have missed on the fact that many, if not all, of the herd-boys they took pictures with are barely fat. They are mostly lean and muscular with no traces of extra fat around their waists. This trend remains true to many of the African tribes that still adhere to their eating patterns and those whose diet is still comprised mainly of their traditional dishes. Take the Massai tribe of Kenya for an example; they still enjoy mainly their traditional meals of raw cow milk, fatty meats and a beverage of milk mixed with blood occasionally. They are tall and lean, metabolic diseases of the modern times are hardly heard of among the tribe. Basotho herdsmen and boys eat two square meals a day. A meal in the morning before heading to the grazing posts and the last meal will be taken later in the evening when they get back. The secret to their healthy physique, without the help of press benches and skipping ropes, could be attributed to their eating patterns, adherence to their traditional foods –which are mostly without added sugar. They are subjected to a prolonged period of fasting, giving their bodies enough time to burn their stored fat as energy in the absence of food. Their obstinacy and stubbornness in refusing to give up their old ways for the so-called modern diets have greatly saved them the pains of medical check-ups and incessant visitations to the nearest health centres. Maybe we, the so-called sophisticated and modern men, are not so smart after all. We have been fooled with the superficial promises of good health by the food industry profit-making zealots. We have been led astray with the promise of getting the best health ever, by the pharmaceutical monolith. What happened to a two meal a day mantra? It was vilified and labelled unhealthy while the real agenda was to push for more profits and instead, a three meal a day, with some snacking in between was advertised as healthy and sustainable in the long run. Following this advice, what happened to the obesity graph? It took an up-hill steep. Today, the foods that have kept humankind alive for millennia are now secretly pushed out of the health syllabus; real meat, real fats, unprocessed foods are demonised and their importance swept below the carpet. Why is this? There is no real money to be made out of healthy foods and sadly there is no money to be made if you are healthy. Yes, oh dear reader! You have been fooled. You have been taken advantage of by the money-hungry industries while your health takes a back-seat in the list of their agenda. As long as you remain an ignoramus to your health, metabolic diseases ravaging our society will remain a golden goose to these industries. By the time you realised that you have been fooled, your health would be so worn out that a life-time of medication will only be your option. You were first fooled by the food industry convincing you that eating crappy food was okay, and again by the pharmaceutical industry promising you to heal you of the maladies caused by eating crappy food. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Tšepang Ledia

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