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‘Eat your fat fatty!’



’Mapuleng is slumped on the fast-food table in one of the popular franchises in Maseru. A large packet of fried chips with a similar size burger and some fried chicken stared back at her from a red tray the meal came with. Nestling comfortably next to this king-sized meal, is a two-litre bottle of soda drink waiting patiently to accompany the meal down to their last destination – the tummy. It is just past mid-day and this was her second meal since breakfast. She just does not seem to get full these days. Her stomach, once an envy of her peers, now spilled over her thighs when she sits. Wearing baggy clothes hide the ‘love-handles’ that now adorn her waist. She has consistently blamed her out-of-shape body to the latest birth of her youngest daughter. There was a time, not so long ago, that her friends used to call her ‘cylinder’. She could have easily graced the beauty pageants stage and probably won herself a ‘Miss Universe’ title had she chosen to contest. Her body was a temple of admiration. Things started falling apart, like Chinua Achebe would say, when she got married. She had slowly gained weight, especially after the birth of her first child. Things have taken a nose dive since. She was now ashamed to undress in the presence of her husband. Her waist has sagged so much that her underwear remains hidden beneath the rolls of her extra fat. “Na moratuoa ke se ke le motenya ha holo?” (am I that fat, Honey?) she would ask her husband if she was really that fat every time she takes her clothes off in his presence. Deep down she knew the answer, just that she hated to hear the truth from the only person whom she would seek appreciation and approval. She had, from time to time, tried several home work-outs. She had even tried popular meal-replacement shakes with some high price tags with a promise of reducing her forever-bulging size. It seems all have been a waste of time and money. After every jog and workout, she would be so ravenous that her mood swings would be out of control. She was ashamed of herself for being unable to control her appetite. She constantly hide some leftovers after dinner and would wait until everybody was in bed to feast upon them. Her constant guilt drove her into depression and conversely into eating more trying to console herself. It was a vicious cycle from which she could not escape. Like many other people suffering from the same fate, ‘Mapuleng did not realise the power of her own design. We have a well-developed system for accurately detecting when we have had exactly as much food as we need, but we have messed it up. It is a truly elegant design, but it is one that is wholly dependent on the assumption that the environment that ‘designed’ it is still the same as when it was put together. The body has been made to store fat during the time of plenty, and use it later when we are hit by famine, or the time of scarcity. But our environment has changed so much we are never or rarely in a state of famine. There is food everywhere, in fact so much that we over indulge in it for pleasure unaware of the repercussions that come with too much eating. The consumption of carbohydrates, in all its forms, push the body to use sugar as a form of energy. The body will turn the surplus sugar into fat and then store it nicely for later use. Now that we are constantly eating, we are always in constant surplus and the body just keeps on storing the excess. The hormone insulin is paramount to the storage of fat. Food containing carbohydrates will activate this fat-storing hormone in order to reduce the amount of sugar in our blood. Eating fats on the one hand does not seem to raise insulin levels in our blood as fats contain virtually no sugar. It is therefore obvious that the low-fat advice was not based on science but on some other hidden agenda. Jimmy Moore noted in his famous book “Cholesterol Clarity”, that “The pharmaceutical companies that fund research have a vested interest in certain results, so conclusions may be based on data that supports a preconceived hypothesis. And studies are often rushed, biased, or flawed…sometimes even the research your doctor is basing his treatment of health on.” If you cut back on fat, as many would suggest, it means you will be eating more carbohydrates such as grains, rice, fruit and pasta. A breakfast without bacon and eggs is usually of oatmeal, cereal or low-fat yoghurt which are higher in carbohydrates than the whole-fat version, “because removing fat from foods nearly always requires adding carbohydrate-based fat replacers to make up for lost texture” says Nina Teicholz in her famous book titled The Big Fat Surprise. The problem with our diet today is that it is nutrient deficient. We are never really satiated. This is because it is low on fats, but high on carbohydrates. Fat has been proved to keep us satiated for long, because of nutritional density. So, if ‘Mapuleng wants to lose weight, her best approach is to find food that will keep her filled up for a longer period of time without having to snack from time to time. Out of three macronutrients –fats, proteins and carbohydrates – fats and proteins are said to be essential because without them our body cannot function well. These two should be considered if optimal health is to be attained. It is not only a mistake to restrict fat but also our fear of the saturated fats in animal foods – butter, eggs, and meat – has really never been based in solid science. l Tšepang Ledia is a Public Relations Officer at Lesotho Electricity Company. He writes in his own capacity. For feedback, send to: Tšepang Ledia

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