Over the last few months, I have received lots of messages from my friends and family all asking the same question - how I achieved my weight loss. For those of you who do not know me, or have not known me long enough, in the last 2 years, I lost 35 pounds and have kept it off. I also successfully reversed Type II diabetes. I went from being insulin-dependent, having to inject 5 - 6 times a day, to being completely insulin independent.
I was never classed as overweight, let alone obese At my heaviest, I weighed a "mere" 75kg or 165 pounds and I wore a US dress size 10 or UK dress size 12/14. I considered myself healthy, and my friends and family also saw me that way. I was the “right size” for my height – people around me would say.
My heritage is African, and I consider myself lucky that I come from a cultural background that celebrates a voluptuous female body. “You’ve got to have some meat on your bones” my grandmother would say when I was in my teens. Back then, I was as thin as a rake. As I got older and got more caught up in a busy life made even busier with family, kids, and work responsibilities, the weight gain began to take hold. At first, it was a slow gain – 1 kg this week, 2kgs, the next month. My curves were filling out – my friends would say. During a trip home to Nigeria in 2005, my relatives remarked in my local Ibibio dialect “idem usong oh” which literally translates in English into “You look healthy”.
At the time, I had a Body Mass Index of 27, which is firmly rooted in the overweight department – yet long-time friends and family saw me as healthy. In retrospect, this is hardly surprising. Culture is known to shape health behaviour and serves as a mirror for perceiving and interpreting experiences. And in several parts of Africa, from a cultural perspective people generally associate being voluptuous with beauty and evidence of good living and health. As a case in point, in my hometown of Calabar, not so long ago, would-be brides were routinely being sent to a “fattening room” prior to the wedding day as this signified beauty and fertility.
I never really felt the urge to do anything about my weight - after all, I was only slightly chubby - note to self! - and then the diagnosis I feared came. My takeaway from the genetic lottery was a flaw in a gene that could activate insulin resistance and subsequently diabetes. Getting pregnant aggravated the flaw and I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, a fom of Type II diabetes. This was the turning point. I had ignored the science-based BMI calculation (which admittedly has its flaws but is in most parts accurate) which told me I was overweight, becauase I felt that my body image fitted in with the standard definition of what is beautiful based on my cultural iaffinity. But when my health was threatened, I knew I had to act.
I only had 35 pounds to lose, which did not seem like a lot, and so after reading a lot of free information on the internet (thank you Google!) my first attempt to lose weight was with diet meals and meal-replacement drinks while attempting to keep my calorie count under 1500 per day. I was constantly hungry, and irritable - I didn't like me very much. The worst part was that any weight I lost, if at all, I gained back in no time at all. It was depressing.
And then, I had a eureka moment! I decided to take control of my nutrition. I read hundreds of journals and research on the African Traditional Diet, and I drew up a list of African heritage foods, eaten by my forefathers on the plains of Africa, who were fit, athletic and healthy. I replaced processed foods for whole foods, and the rest, as they say is history.
Consuming whole foods required cooking, and to ensure I always had a healthy meal option available, I started planning my meals ahead of time. I adapted recipes from my motherland Africa to make them healthier and more convenient to prepare, overlaying traditional African recipes with overtones of global influences. I call this blend of African and global food influences The Afro-Fusion Cuisine. This meal plan consisting of Afro-fusion recipes effectively gave me more control over what I ate, and allowed me to stick to making healthier choices. I swapped juice for water and the weight just began to fall off. The best part was I was eating real, and delicious afro-fusion food daily and lost weight which has stayed off since. Today I weigh 58Kgs or 127 pounds and a US dress size 2/4, and a UK dress size 6/8. Best of all, the weight loss forced my body to reset and today I am no longer insulin dependent.
Maintaining my weight at the current level has not been difficult - but i think this is more to do with the fact that I am very mindful of what I consume - for fear of re-triggering Diabetes. This doesn't mean I don't treat myself every now and then. What it means is that eating is more of a conscious decision for me, to ensure I make good choices, and when I do enjoy a treat, I do so in moderation. I have also adapted recipes into healthier versions of some of the foods I enjoy...like ice-creams (which is a real weakness), and I continue to update this site with those recipes.
After years of procrastinating, I decided to start this blog in November 2015 as a way to give back to the global community – to someone on similar quest to lose some weight or who just wants to learn to make healthier and better choices when it comes to food - by sharing what has worked for me. I hope you find this useful.
Feel free to have a look around the website. You will find lots of recipes for healthier alternatives to the foods you love, blog posts, health and weight loss tips, exercises you can do at home, general news, products I love. I will also be introducing a 12-week Structured Afro-Fusion Meal Plan for Weight Loss based on the principles of the African Traditional Diet and Afro-fusion cuisine, which I used for my weight loss and continue to use to keep my weight on track. This should take the hassle out of planning and help give you more control over your food choices. If you would like to be kept informed of the 12-week Structured Afro-Fusion Meal Plan for Weight Loss launch, please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Instagram or Facebook.
I was lucky to have access to the superb healthcare system in Switzerland which is probably one of the best in the world to promptly diagnose my diabetes. I also feel lucky to have had a health-related problem like diabetes which is a lifestyle disease meaning I had the opportunity to make changes and live life to the fullest. Other obesity-related health problems like cancer, stroke and heart disease, may not be so forgiving. You are what you eat and so this is not just about weight loss. This is about your health, and it involves making lifestyle changes, and a lifelong commitment from you to love yourself and be good to yourself. That includes healthy eating and incorporating some exercise. This blog and my social media pages on Facebook and Instagram keep me accountable and allows me to have an outreach to interact with you.
If you are ready to make a commitment to live a healthier lifestyle, and lose some weight in the process while eating tasty, nutritious Afro-fusion meals, then sign up to my newsletter. If you want to reach out to me, leave me a comment on my FaceBook page.