IT’s A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE THING: MEET ZITA TIENA OF INSPIRING HEALTHY LIFESTYLES
Hello people…This week is dedicated to Health & Fitness. There is no better way to kick start the week than with a food & healthy lifestyle blogger. Meet Zita of Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Zita Bernice Tiena (most people call me Zee) currently living in Germany with my husband and two young children. I studied health science at both the bachelor and masters level at the University of Applied Science in Hamburg. Currently, I work as a Public Health Research Associate while working on a PhD in Public Health Nutrition which with a focus on the determinants of overweight and obesity in migrants especially of African descent and how to reverse obesity with healthy nutrition and physical activity in Bremen, Germany.
About Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles (IHL)
Inspiring healthy lifestyles is the African’s guide to healthy African food and nutrition promoting health from their own heritage. We focus on our own foods, ingredients and our lifestyle to promote a health and healthy living.
When & Why did you start IHL?
I started this blog in September 2010 after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes ( a condition that is common in overweight or obese pregnant women) and was sent to be followed up by a dietitian. Unfortunately, she could not help me because the diet she wanted me to follow was European based diets, excluding all our African heritage foods since she confessed that she knew nothing about our foods. The problem was, during that pregnancy, I could eat nothing but cassava, Eru, Ndole etc. So gestational diabetes pushed me to carry out research about the health benefits of our own food and how to how (if it was possible) reverse not only gestational diabetes but also how to lose weight while enjoying my favorite foods. I started documenting my findings on the blog as I cooked and witnessed the changes in my body and the effects most foods had on my insulin level (during pregnancy I took insult injections everday). I realized that I could control my GI with our own foods, I realized that our foods kept me fuller for longer as compared to processed or fast and fatty food we bought.
I am passionate about helping other people live healthier, longer lives from their heritage and beginning in the comfort of their own kitchen. I believe that a healthy lifestyle begins with a simple home cooked meal. This can be the source of greater happiness and community health.
Information and Education
I believe in teaching how to fish rather than fishing for people. Information and education is vital when it comes to living healthy. There is a lot of information on healthy living, weightloss or even disease prevention. A lot of this information is confusing, highly contradictory, not quite understandable and not really adaptable to the African context. Therefore, it is of great importance to that we educate our people on our foods and how to nourish themselves, prevent and manage diseases with our food.
At IHL, we educate our readers about the value of our food for nourishment of the body, prevention and management of disease or possible cure of illness as well as promote physical activity.
Healthy African Recipes, Meal plans, Tips, Motivation and Healthy Challenges
Our subscribed users benefit from weekly healthy recipes that highlight a particular food, they receive posts on the health benefits of that food, recipe ideas on how best to enjoy it and a meal plan to facilitate planning and cooking for themselves and the entire family. Another interesting aspect is the weekly tips and motivation we send out to inspire and motivation taking our monthly healthy challenges. All our recipes are accompanied by a detailed nutritive value of the foods we share so that people can chose what best suits their needs.
We are currently working on a range of educational, cooking and lifestyle tools and materials to empower readers to live healthy for example using infographics, fun games and videos.
For those who want to lose or manage their weight, simply learn how to shop, cook and eat healthier, we work with public health researchers, health and coaches as well as certified nutritionists who will work with clients to offer thorough nutritional assessment, customized meal plans, healthy recipe adaptations, follow up visits and much more to make sure they reach their goals. Our mission is to enable clients to reach their optimum health and weight and add years and quality to their lives.
– We focus on helping clients choose a healthful lifestyle for a lifetime, not on dieting.
– Our certified health coaches, will help clients make long-term changes, not quick fixes, to eating habits and nutritional intake. We will teach you lifetime lessons on how to eat well and how to nourish your body with your own heritage foods.
Please tell us about a health issue in Africa, why it exists and your recommendations on how to tackle it
Obesity: A rising public health issue in Africa
The problems fit a global pattern of obesity caused by the rapid shift to urban living combined with increased consumption of western-style diets high in calorie, high in sugar, fat and salt but poor in nutrients quality. This has resulted in the rapid rise of obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases including cancer, stroke and hypertension as well as other obesity-related diseases. Some causes of obesity:
Surveys show that unhealthy food is cheap. Unfortunately poor people want to survive with their families so they fill their bellies with cheap food – and this often means salt-drenched starchy carbohydrates, highly processed sweetened products and the fattiest cuts of meat.
In the days of our great-grand and grandparents, food was home-cooked afresh and usually from the farm to the pot. Special foods that required lots of oil and meat were reserved for special occasions like “cry-die, “born –house” or Christmas. People drank natural drinks like palm wine or coconut water. Women and men were (unconsciously) intensely physically active. They walked miles to farm, fetch water, and go to school or to hospital and to visit in neighboring villages. Today, dietary and lifestyle patterns have shifted from a “traditional” to a more “modern” pattern whereby the consumption of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables as well as tubers like yam, sweet potatoes have been swapped for fast food, sugary drinks and sweets. Also, traditional lifestyle habits like farming, grinding ingredients on stone or pounding maize or tubers using mortar and pestle have been replaced with more modern, less physically-demanding techniques such as blending and cutting ingredients using electronic kitchen appliances. The introduction of fast and easy technology is also determining factor causing obesity. People take taxi and bus rides even to the nearest market or school, people sit in front of TV screens, computers playing games or on social media for hours without end eating chips and sweets.
In the course of research I carried out in the framework of my master thesis, I discovered that some aspects of our culture fuel obesity in Africa, with big men seen as successful and big women seen as beautiful. This theory has been backed by other scientific research carried out in sub-Sahara Africa. Many believe that If you are too thin it means your husband is not taking care of you or you are unhappy. In Cameroon for example, men with “beer” bellies (big stomachs) are regarded as rich and successful.
Recommendations on how reverse this trend.
– Cutting down on fast foods, meat and salt consumption.
– Eating whole unprocessed foods with additives or conserves (as much as possible).
– Cooking food with fresh ingredients and from scratch at home.
– Eat special foods on special occasions.
– Consume more fruits and vegetables.
– Avoiding sedentary behavior i.e. spending too much time watching TV, being a couch potato.
– Be physically active, move more.
What is your favorite recipe?
Koki aka. Moin –Moin
I just love black-eyed peas cake also known as Koki in Cameroon and Moin-Moin in Nigeria. I love the fact that it taste great and provides my body with lots of vital nutrients and also the fact that when cooked right, it is perfect for weight loss and diabetes management. Also, I have been able to experiment with black-eyed peas and have created a variety of delicious and healthy recipes which can be found by clicking the links below
Wow Zita..Thanks a lot for the interview. Very insightful and informative. Please keep doing what you do ’cause you definitely inspire me and others to live a healthier lifestyle.
OK people be sure to check out the Inspiring Healthy Lifestyle blog. Follow IHL on Facebook especially for the mouth watering pictures and recipes and to participate in ongoing contests.