Trimming the fat

2014-05-25 15:01

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Mduduzi Manana has a message for newly sworn-in members of Parliament: “Stay away from the unhealthy food served in Parliament. If you have to eat, eat small rations or you will balloon.”

Manana is talking from experience.

Mduduzi Manana on the red carpet outside Parliament in 2009, before parliamentary catering helped him pack on the kilos. Picture: Dudu Zitha/foto24

He gained 22kg during the five years that he spent as a parliamentarian and blames this mostly on the freely available fatty, salty and sweet delicacies found in every corner of Parliament.

He says he weighed 82kg and looked slimmer when he was elected in 2009, but by last July, he had ballooned to 104kg.

Manana says at first it seemed like a non-issue – until “I started buying new suits every two months because the ones that I had were getting smaller”.

In 2012 after five years in parliament, he put on 22kg.

“This made me realise that I had a problem and had to do something drastic to fix it.” Manana is one of many parliamentarians who has struggled with his weight.

During the swearing in this week, it was apparent that many of the men and women taking the oath as MPs could be medically classified as overweight or obese.

Others have visibly slimmed down: in the past few years, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi have become noticeably trimmer.

But Nkoana-Mashabane is not revealing her diet secrets.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane gained 22kg during her term. Picture: Cornel van Heerden

Her spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said: “The minister does not like talking about her personal life. She only talks about her portfolio.”

Motsoaledi decried the unhealthy food on Parliament’s menu in 2011.

He pointed out then that unhealthy eating and lack of exercise could lead to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension, and he urged members of Parliament to take the lead on this issue.

Manana is one of those who heeded the call, although it took him two years to start taking his weight and health seriously.

Last August, he joined the Slender Wonder weight-loss programme, which is run by Skin Renewal.

Since then, he has lost about 30kg and says that he is still counting.

Nkoana-Mashabane is one of a few parliamentarians who is noticeably trimmer these days after gaining rather a lot of weight during her time in Parliament.

While he praises the programme for bringing him back into shape and reducing his waistline, he says: “It’s the ­discipline of knowing that you don’t have to eat food just because it’s in front of your face and in abundance.

“Food in Parliament is always available, but it is up to you to discipline yourself. For instance when you come for the committee meeting in the morning there are cream and jam-laden scones, puff pastries and all sorts of sweet ­delicacies.

“For lunch we are served a three course meal which may include soup for starters; starch, various meat and fish for main course and cheesecake or malva pudding for dessert. For evening study groups, we also eat heavy meals.

“Due to pressures of the job we hardly have time to hit the gym, so you would understand why we easily pick up weight.”

Manana is not the only person who is not impressed with Parliament’s food.

Andile Mngxitama was sworn in as an Economic Freedom Fighters MP on Wednesday and said he was flabbergasted by the dishes prepared for parliamentarians.

He decried “the heaps of unhealthy food and the wastage of taxpayers’ money”.

“Why should MPs be provided with free food when they are paid hefty salaries? We all carry our lunch boxes to work or buy lunch if we want. This is pure wastage that represents a political system which takes care of the few,” he said

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