Growing up in Zimbabwe, my parents had a sizeable vegetable patch in the backyard. We had organic ‘makhaya’ chickens and a couple of rabbits at one point too, which my brother and I believed to be pets until one fateful day when Daddy served Jack and Jill for supper. We did eat a lot of food that was ‘self-produced’ as was the norm across many Zimbabwean homes at the time. We planted mealies every year and the dried leftovers from the harvest were ground to make our own mealie-powder.
That sounds so healthy and wholesome in today’s world, where a lot more people, especially in the first world are raving about growing their own food, and eating ‘organic’. It was just the standard and the lifestyle growing up, and probably still is for a lot of people. We all see the way people are committed to getting in shape than ever before. Our Instagram feeds are flooded with snatched waists and sexy influencers doing the most in the world of fitness. A lot of them from Africa too. I do however, want to explore this phenomenon in our part of the world. Africa. What does the Health and Fitness wave really look like here? What direction is it really taking?
Things are a little different to when I grew up, besides the fact that I don’t live at home anymore, I live in a big South African city now, and fast food is a norm. Between work and school, no-one really has the time to cook healthy food all the time. KFC and McDonald’s is just a lot more convenient. As a young professional this is just normal city life. Do I want to be healthier? Of course, but is it convenient? Not always. Healthier foods and meat are a lot more expensive than fast food it seems at times. Fast food is also more easily accessible. A healthy, more fit lifestyle is definitely desirable to most people though.
A couple of years ago I took to running. I got into the habit of waking up very early in the morning and taking a morning jog and doing a workout downloaded onto my laptop after. First advantage of this was that it was free. No expensive gym membership. So if you feel like you need an expensive personal trainer or fancy gym membership or equipment to get fit think again. There are plenty of videos and meal plans available for free on Youtube. This is how I started.
Believe me, the first few days and first couple of weeks of jogging were really difficult. The heavy, bloody breathing and painful chest are enough to make you want to quit. Thank God I did not. The thrill began when I realized I didn’t have to stop when I felt myself breathing better and clearer. I really started to enjoy it, almost addicted. The adrenaline rush, especially with the early morning air made my mind a lot clearer. I could plan my day much more efficiently. Achieving that run each morning gave me the feeling that I could achieve anything.
Naturally I became more conscious of my meals, the desire to eat better came to me almost instinctively. I started to feel the best I’d ever felt in my life. None of the changes I made broke the bank. I just added way more vegetables to my meals, drank loads of water and grilled my meats versus frying it. I snacked more on fruit and stopped buying fizzy drinks. All this made a huge difference. Too many people hold back from being healthier because they think it’s hard. It’s not. It’s all the little things that make a difference.
I don’t know if I can say African people have no interest in their health or fitness. From interactions with some friends and just plain observation, nobody loves feeling unhealthy and not doing anything about it. The Health and Fitness Industry is really growing in Africa. Awareness is growing amongst people about the importance of health consciousness. Noxolo (26) says, “I understand the implications of not taking care of yourself at an early age. Working out and taking care of my health helps me psychologically. My mind just works better.“
There’s a lot of business opportunities available in the Industry now with companies like Herbalife, Flat Stomach Tea, Forever Living, just to name a few. Plenty of young people have found a substantial source of income from staying fit and teaching others about fitness and healthy living. There is so much beauty and potential and gain from truly putting yourself first. Alot of people want the benefit of a snatched waist for only superficial reasons. If our intentions with our health grow beyond superficial vanities, we will begin to enjoy life in a way we haven’t before. So if you ask me if Health and Fitness is a Fad or Lifestyle on these African streets? Child, it’s all up to you. Bye.