Sibongile Mafu

Being healthy is expensive

2013-07-11 11:46

Sibongile Mafu

Why is it so difficult to fund a healthy lifestyle in this country? Why is it that I'll most probably end up obese or diabetic?

I am not a health fanatic. I do enough to not tip the scale. I walk up a flight of stairs comfortably, anything more than that and I'm huffing and puffing harder than the Magic dragon. But I'm not doing nearly enough to "make better food choices" and "better lifestyle choices", because frankly, they're incredibly expensive.

I go through dips and peaks in my health and wellness journey. There are these freakish times when my motivation and energy could rival a toddler's and other, more frequent moments where I could not be bothered.

When I am motivated I find that the healthy lifestyle choice is an expensive one.

Every other day I hear horrific statistics about how South Africans are really obese. The last report said a third of black South African women are obese. Coloured, white, and Indian women follow closely, with around a quarter being obese, this according to the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).

These figures (I apologise for the choice of words) have been out for a while, but they've always bothered me. Reports like this are released every so often and I constantly find myself being shocked at how high they are, and then upon reflection I start to understand why.

Stuck in food choices

A few years ago I watched an American documentary called Food Inc which unpacks corporate farming in the US and examines what exactly we put in our bodies and where it all comes from. Many excited critics said it would "change the way we eat, or not eat, forever".

Some made grand statements, saying it was the beginning of a food revolution that would have people become more critical of what they consume and many just said it was a good documentary, but people were just too stuck in their food choices, too far gone, for it to make a huge difference.

I enjoyed the documentary and how thorough it was in explaining the process: the treatment of farmers and animals alike, and for a few weeks I was quite conscious of what I was eating. I didn’t necessarily change my diet; I was just a bit more informed.

I then started to wonder what choices I could make to ensure my fridge creaks just a little less with the weight of my poor choices. And boy, did my pocket suffer. Organic this, raw that, unprocessed this. This was beginning to stress me out more than any petrol price hike could. Good food shouldn’t make a pocket cower like this. But it does.

We are so quick to say to people, "change your diet, change your life", that we forget that the choices that are out there are limited.

The World Health Organisation estimates that globally approximately 2.8 million people die every year as a result of being overweight or obese. Let that sink in. People are dying from having access to food, just not the right food. People are dying from lack of information and choices.

Access to wrong foods

It's almost unbelievable that this is happening. On the opposite end of the scale, starvation is taking many lives, but what happens when we solve that particular problem? There's the small hurdle of having access to the wrong kinds of food.

Being empowered with the right information to change how and what you eat is important, but also being in a space that allows you to make those choices without going into debt is equally important.

It's great to eat well, but I don't want that life on credit.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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