An over proportionate number of our overfed elite leadership is obese. Except during glimpses or them at sports stadia during important public occasions, you are unlikely to see this exclusive club of men and women with your naked eyes in public. They usually sit lavishly in the back of expensive limousines or 4X4s with tinted glass windows. The trick is to watch when their vehicles pull up. They slowly pull out their legs, and gingerly drag their belly from the back seat onto their legs.
The aim of this tongue-in-cheek article is to share with you the need for Ghana's over-fifties leaders (public and private sector) to watch their diet and exercise regimes, to save our nation expensive medical tourism bills. I recently posted on wigs, so I wish to focus on our fat male leaders today!
To illustrate and bolster my point I share with you these true anecdotes. My father worked hard as an entrepreneur to own a range of businesses including a printing press, a farm and ice cream plant. Having lived with his middleclass, Anglicised Methodist Church priest uncle, he acquired middle class European tastes. He could not drink local soup without lacing it with Worcester source imported from the English 'Motherland'! His fridge was always full of the choicest Edam Chess from Holland, and a huge shank of fried pork (the Ga call this, 'domedo').
Most weekends he invited my Cape Coast 'obronye' (brown skinned) Uncle Kuntu-Blankson over for a celebratory session of noisy drinking and dining. With other friends they drank White Horse whiskey. They eat Edam Cheese and 'domedo' washed down with Guinness, Star and Club beer. Eventually he was afflicted with a terminal disease - owing to overwork and overindulgence. He died at the relatively young age of sixty. Not a day older!
Five years later Uncle Kuntu-Blankson also met his nemeses. He was struck down by the most unrelenting, debilitating stroke you can ever imagine. I had to wear a brave face the first time I visited him in his house in prosperous McCarthy Hill. His face had dropped to his knees; his mouth had joined his left ear. This once most educated, articulate, argumentative and animated of all Cape Coast uncles, who glob-trotted as part of his job as an air travel agency, was now a 'mumu'. He could only communicate with his favourite nephew (me) by remote variations in the brightness of his eyes(Forgive my momentary emotional lapse)
I know I have come across as very funny and relaxed in this article, from my usual more intensely critical posts on these pages. You are right to think so. But you will be wiser to also note the serious message imbedded in this post. Do not laugh too hard and ignore this inherent message - you may laugh at the wrong end of your mouth like Uncle Kuntu Blankson.
On a serious note, I note an overall national ignorance (and even stupidity) in the attitude of Ghanaian to issues of public health. For example, a recent well-research feature article I posted in Ghanaweb on the dangers of Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) attracted less than four comments. Yet post on controversial political issues clock forty on the average.
The enclosed exchanges illustrate the frustrations I point out here, over the struggle to assert what type of eating habits are desirable for Ghanaians. I once sent this letter on Facebook to a friend complaining about being banned from the site of, Ghana Tourist Coach (GTC), because I had criticized the group's unsolicited welcome and publicity of the presence of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to Ghana. The exchanges are self-explanatory:
'Sedem Avotri This banning gnaws violently at the heel of GTC's purported ['democratic' practice enshrined in its mission statement]. They disliked my bold criticism for their shameless support of the entry of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) into Ghana. Consequently GTC deleted a range of anti-Genetically Modified Food (GMF) articles I had posted. ..I had argued that KFC - linked to Du Pont/Pioneer Hi-Seeds Co. (who are now promoting GMFs in Ghana) are linked to the global, profit-based marketing of unhealthy GMFs that increases obesity - among other health ills. Conclusively, the critical interrogation of the lack of consciousness, and the need for a critical, self-interested evaluation of our actions as Ghanaians/Africans, is the main challenge that faces today's African societies. '
Even as I was struggling to register into the consciousness of GTC that Kentucky Fried Chicken is bad for the long-term health of Ghanaians, some naïve and uncritical members in it supported KFC:
'Onya Angelsofmelody: NOW WE NEED THIS KFC HERE IN THE STATES. WOW! I HAVE TO GO THERE!!!LOL I LOVE IT! (KFC In Ghana, www.youtube.com, The local food industry in Ghana receives a major boost with the entrance of world renowned quick service restaurant, KFC'. 'Like: Sherryl Wilson, Toziah Kbd and Debra Lynn Osei like this', etc.
WHAT MUST BE DONE?
I suggest Ghana's obese elite leaders invest in exercise, dieting and hygiene instead of money, properties and materialist greed. I make these suggestions not because I prefer their longevity over the poor majority of Ghanaians. No, I would love if the ordinary Ghanaian folk also have excellent quality of life. I bluntly make these suggestions to save the tax payer millions of $s and £s of taxpayers' money in medical tourism abroad and unnecessary funeral expenses. There could not be national development in these!
There are many gyms and social clubs with sporting facilities all over Ghana/Africa. They can join them. They must join sustained programmes of exercise. It is unwise for them to wait till they are about to die before embarking on expensive health trips abroad at the taxpayer's expense.
They can play badminton, table tennis, lawn tennis, football, boxing - or better still forego over self-consciousness and join swimming clubs or simply walk briskly in their local parks or neighbourhoods. Sitting idly in their air-conditioned vehicles barking instructions to their minnows is a far cry from getting fit to sustain the responsibilities of political leadership!!
Second, all Ghanaians must habitually eat good food. Cut out salt, sugar and fatty foods. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Research proves it is best to drink water, fruit juice and eat fruits and salads before eating - not after. This method of eating is called Sequential Eating.
'Sequential eating is one of the basic tenets of Dr. Stanley Bass, who began his medical practice in the 1950's specializing in orthopathic and natural hygiene medicine, and physiology. He believed in treating illness and disease through the use of fasting and food, and was strongly against the use of drugs. Much of his life was spent researching his theories for preserving and restoring health using himself as a guinea pig. Dr. Bass is still going strong today, practising medicine, providing consultations, and writing'.
'A glass of vegetable juice or a piece of melon leaves the stomach within minutes if it is consumed first. It can then be followed by something that would normally be incompatible, such as avocado or nuts, and there will not be symptoms of indigestion. However, if the avocado or nuts were eaten first, fermentation of the juice or melon would be the result' (Improve Your Digestion without Spending a Cent, Monday, May 18, 2009 by: Barbara L. Minton).
SOME GOOD SEQUENCES
'1) Acid fruits before less acid fruits. 2) Vegetables before starch. 3) Fruit 15 minutes before vegetable soup or salad. 4) Melon before all other fruits including acid fruits".
Digestion times of various foods
'Dr. Bass assembled these digestion times which are the amount of time needed for a food to exit the stomach. These times represent the ideal situation under which only one food at a time is being considered; it is well chewed, and the person's digestive functioning is in top shape. On a conventional diet in which foods are combined haphazardly, or for persons whose systems are not optimal, digestion times are much longer'.
'The smaller the amount of a particular food eaten, the less time it will take for that food to be digested. The fewer the varieties eaten, the easier the digestion, and the less likely the person is to overeat'.
'Watermelon, fruit and vegetable juices: 15-20 minutes.
Semi-liquid blended salads: 20-30 minutes
Other melon, orange, grape: 30 minutes
Other fresh fruits: 40 minutes
Raw tossed salad: 30-40 minutes
Most steamed or cooked vegetable: 40-50-minutes
Starchy vegetables: 60 minutes
Grains, legumes and lentils: 90 minutes
Seeds: 2 hours
Nuts: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Skim milk or low fat cottage cheese or ricotta: 90 minutes
Whole milk cottage cheese: 120 minutes
Whole milk hard cheese: 4 to 5 hours
Egg yolk: 30 minutes
Whole egg: 45 minutes
Fish (cod, scrod, flounder, sole): 30 minutes
Fatty fish: 45 to 60 minutes
Chicken without skin: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Turkey without skin: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Beef or goat meat: 3 to 4 hours
Pork: 4 1/2 to 5 hours'.
(Improve Your Digestion without Spending a Cent, Monday, May 18, 2009 by: Barbara L. Minton).
Three, eat locally grow foods. Avoid fertiliser and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or foods (GMFs). 'Abunabunu nkwan' (green cocoyam leaves soup) with snail (escargot) and dried or fresh fish and shrimps, is my favourite soup. Keep away from starchy foods like white rice, cassava, etc. Only eat them occasionally. Instead, eat green plantain and boiled green banana. Dasheen, bush yam, cocoyam and mushrooms are excellent. Include garlic, ginger, cloves, bay leaves and other such curative herbs in your food. Eat 'aponkye' nkwan (goat soup), 'abe na nkatse nkwan' (groundnut and palmnut soup) sparsely.
Although it has a high starch content, the traditional fermentation process for the preparation of 'dokun' (kenkey) and 'etwew/banku', produces valuable vinegar that thins blood and cleanses the heart (this is perhaps why our elderly grand folk love the more caustic variety). Because of the sugar content of carbohydrates, it is wise to eat small portions at a time. A virtually oil-free vegetable source of eggplant, 'kontomire' (large, tender cocoyam leaves), okra or tomatoes is excellent with the above food.
There is no point showing off one's wealth and power by wrestling with ten balls of 'dokun' (kenkey) and 'etwew/banku,' with four large land crabs and two large slabs of 'odei (tuna) fish, with one's towel wrapped across one's naked neck and upper torso while an attendants stands at attention to one's wishes. Stop it! That is feudal bullying. Eating is no boxing!! Watch what the poor eat. Eat simply. We eat to survive, not to die!!
On subjective evidence over the years, it is my theory the rich middle and upper classes in Ghana and other African countries I have visited or lived in, die earlier than poorer, simpler folks. (Please don't quote me on this - it is only a theory). If this theory is accurate, then I can hypothesise (mind the big brofo) it will it is because of two factors: diet and work-related stress.
Look after yourself. Watch what you eat. Exercise regularly. Be content with the little you have - do not be greedy. Be kind-hearted. Help other people who are less fortunate than you. Kindness exudes internal emotional health. STAY AWAY FROM KFC OR EVEN PAPA YE. EAT LOCAL FREE-RANGE CHICKEN!