It’s possible to maintain a healthy weight

  • PublishedAugust 5, 2013

I  often watch Citizen TV’s Slimpossible auditions and feel very, very sad. You mean Kenyan men and women have grown this big? The saddest part was that most of those at the auditions are really young! I used to think it’s only in the US where you find really overweight people, but now I know they are right here in my country. You can literally find yourself sandwiched between families of giants in a public place in the US – from parents and their children to grandparents. Or take a local flight and are unfortunate to be seated next to a severely overweight American and he or she literally squeezes you out of your seat.

But you don’t have to suffer this any more because today, beyond a certain weight with most flights in the US, you are required to buy two tickets to reserve the next seat for yourself. And why not? The message needs to be sent out that being overweight has consequences. Many countries in the world, including the US, now consider obesity a major health issue and have come up with programmes that encourage populations to eat healthy. I feel its time our ministry  of health puts in place similar programmes. We need to protect Kenyans, especially children, from this scourge which leads to many health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and certain cancers. Unless you have an underlying health issue, you should be able to maintain a healthy weight. The problem is that many people don’t want to take responsibility for their bodies and would rather give excuses:

“It’s because of giving birth” – come on, I have three children.

“I don’t eat yet I still gain weight!” – seriously?

“I don’t have time to exercise” – but you have time to spend hours gossiping with your friends. The hundreds who turned up for the Slimpossible auditions represent a small fraction of Kenyans battling with weight issues. The lucky few will have the opportunity to experience a lifestyle change with the beautiful and inspiring Lillian Muli-Kanene, while the rest will go back home to accumulate more weight. I feel a responsibility to share a few personal weight loss tips with Kenyans because it is possible to maintain a healthy weight.

The fundamental weight loss concept is that weight loss happens when you eat fewer calories than you burn. Calories come from the food we eat and they are the body’s fuel. Each one of us has a different metabolic rate, which we can boost through exercise to burn more calories. Weight loss is not about calorie counting or eating smaller portions of your favorite fattening foods. It is about eating low calorie dense foods and exercising regularly.

The most effective strategy for reining body weight is a combination of regular exercise and an eating plan that provides more satiety per calorie. Satiety is the opposite of hunger. An ideal weight-loss plan is one rich in fibre-filled, naturally low-fat foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, and limited amounts of lean animal protein such as low fat dairy products, chicken and fish. You want to make sure that the combination of foods you consume for each meal averages out to be low in calorie density, so that by the time your stomach is full, you haven’t eaten an excessive number of


Let’s take a closer look at the calorie density per pound of some common foods:

Vegetables – 65 to 195
Fresh fruits – 135 to 420
Potatoes, pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes, cooked cereals such as oats – 450 to 650
Legumes (peas, beans, lentils) – 400 to 750
Low fat dairy products – 180 to 450
Dry cereals, biscuits, cookies, cakes – 1800 to 2000
Dried fruits, jams, bread – 1200 to 1400
Chocolate, croissants, mandazi – 2200 to 2500
 Nuts, potato chips– 2500 to 3000
Butter, margarine – 3200
Cooking fat, olive oil, corn oil – 4080


What do these figures tell you? You can eat a pound of vegetables and consume a maximum of 420 calories or a pound of bread and consume 1400 calories. However, you can limit the calories from bread by taking only one slice – but does that leave you satiated? Traditional weight-loss strategies have focused on reducing calorie intake by restricting portion sizes. But these limited portion sizes leave most people hungry. If you try to lose weight by restricting calories and depriving yourself of stomach-filling foods, you are headed for trouble. Hunger kicks in undermining your best intentions and you end up eating more of the wrong things.

Here is some useful advice:

Do not eat when you are not hungry and also don’t wait until you are starving. It is important to listen to your body. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry. You should also not wait to be too hungry before you eat. Eat when your body tells you it needs food. Never fight hunger. Starving yourself can all too easily lead to binges.
 Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Drop the bread, mandazi and dry cereals at breakfast and instead eat fruits, sweet potatoes and oats porridge.
Steam, grill and bake your foods. Avoid frying with cooking oils and also remember boiling destroys nutrients.
A word on olive oil – yes, it’s a heart-healthy oil without cholesterol, but look at its calorie density. Consuming olive oil and all other fats and cooking oils will make you fat – it’s a fact.
 Avoid liquid calories found in sugary drinks, wines and beers. Increase your intake of foods rich in water like fruits and vegetables. Rather than drinking fruit juice, eat your fruit whole.
Snack on carrots, apples, and bananas. These wholefoods are not only low in calorie density; they also tend to make you feel satisfied longer than liquid calories or foods that have little water.
Avoid foods high in fat, sugar or refined grains. Foods with more protein, starch and fibre provide more satiety per calorie than foods high in sugar, fat and refined grains.
And now to the other weight loss tool – exercise. When you exercise, you burn several of the calories you eat. Your exercise programme should consist of some form of aerobics such as walking, dancing, cycling or swimming; toning with weights and stretching; and, very important, strengthening your core muscles.

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