Kgomotso Matsunyane

Body politics

2008-04-10 08:31

Kgomotso Matsunyane

I've been at war with my body most of my life. I've starved myself for seven days straight and was horrified to lose "only" 2kgs. I've quit many a diet a mere quarter of the way in because they were so unrealistic as to guarantee my failure.

It wasn't until about three years ago that I finally figured out there are no shortcuts to maintaining a healthy weight, and that if an offer to lose weight quickly and without consequence sounds good to be true, it probably is.

Ill-health aside, there is only one fact when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight - eat more of the raw, good stuff that comes from the earth and less refined carbohydrates, and exercise regularly.

The real kick in the pants that forced my change in attitude and lifestyle was a diagnosis of hypertension, a trait that runs in my mom's side of the family and affects many black people. The other kick of course was pure vanity - I knew I was overweight, but when I was told that I was clinically obese (the horror!), with a Body Mass Index of 31, something had to give.

We live such fast but sedentary lives, so much that we have to make a special time and find a special place to keep our bodies in motion and therefore, hopefully, healthy. Unless specifically working a physical job, so many of us have work that exercises our fingers and brains more than any other parts of our bodies.

We've never been fatter, and our children are fast becoming some of the most immobile and overweight kids in the world. Of course the biggest problem is that with all the excess fat and refined carbohydrates we consume, we're exponentially increasing our chances for early death.

Mixed messages

The irony of course is that our popular culture (largely fed by the West) is obsessed with and idolises images of pretty and rich but emaciated and underfed women, whose average thigh size is about the size of my upper arm.

How ridiculous is it that the richest women in Hollywood can't afford to eat! And those that dare eat are vilified equally both by the media and the public if they don't fit into the silly notion of size zero - an oxymoron if you ask me.

Mind you it's not just us women suffering from these confusing media messages about self-image. Modern man is also vulnerable, and I admit I'm somewhat relieved to report that it is now progressively considered just as unattractive for men to be on the chunky side of Inkomaas as for women. Not quite to the same extent, but it's there.

Eat lor Life

Here's where life is really unfair: why is it that a fresh, crunchy salad will never taste as good or satisfying as a Rounder? On any given day, I'd much rather eat a bar of chocolate than munch on an apple. But I know better, so I make healthier choices. Maybe I'm getting wiser as I get older, and the thing about my thirties is that I realise (to my chagrin), that my body is not as supple and co-operative as it was in my twenties.

I don't know if this is a cost issue or because of the ungodly hour, but when I hit the gym at 06:30 most of the people there are over 30. Maybe younger people prefer the afternoon sessions, I don't know. My favourites are the grandmas well over their 60s who come to walk or swim - their unselfconsciousness and no-prancing attitude is a real lesson in priorities.

Maybe it's the feeling of my accelerating advancement to middle age, or the fact that I'm more aware of the weaknesses in my DNA that the penny has finally dropped. There's never a day where I actually look forward to waking up to hit the pavement, but I do it anyway. The real reward is at the end, when my endorphins make me so high that I feel like I can conquer the world.

Or maybe I'm just vain but I can honestly, finally, say that the war is over.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is an avid jogger and a partner at TOM Pictures, an award winning TV & Film company in Jo'burg. She turns 36 years old tomorrow.

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