You can save your life by changing your lifestyle
National Nutrition and Obesity Week is celebrated from the 9th to the 19th October. Adequate nutrition has a major impact on your health. Unfortunately, within many communities in the Western Cape health challenges are exacerbated by malnutrition and obesity.
A malnutrition pattern is predominantly characterised by undernutrition in children, whereas in adults, ever‐increasing obesity is found. The World Health Organization emphasises that obesity is becoming a major health problem in many developing countries, particularly in adult women. Obesity is associated with increasing risk of developing hypertension, coronary heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, and some forms of cancer.
Grassy Park resident, Martin Van Gee, has been living with Diabetes Mellitus for 36 years and experienced first-hand the impact nutritional changes can make to better ones health. “To be honest, my diagnosis did not come as a shock, I used to consume six to seven 500 ml bottles of coke a day. I was always trying to quench my excessive thirst.” After receiving his diagnoses, Martin had to adjust his diet and firmly believes that as a patient, you are able to control and manage your condition or health.
The impact of poor nutrition can often adversely affect one’s health. At the time of his diagnosis, Martin was told by the doctors that he was very sick. He was given a letter for admission to hospital, and swiftly ended up in a ward with multiple drips. He was told by the doctor he had diabetes and there was no cure. “I had to change many things and firmly believe that it is an illness that you as a patient can control. This includes cutting out smoking and drinking. I was very positive about changing my lifestyle to improve my health.”
Martin says the process of trying to stop drinking was difficult, but he knew that his health and general wellbeing was more important. As a young man, Martin was addicted to drugs for fifteen years and had managed to overcome that hurdle through his faith in God and the prayers of his mother. “I knew if I could overcome my drug addiction, I can give up drinking.”
Martin loves to motivate others, especially fellow chronic patients he comes into contact with. “An additional habit to instil is changing your diet. I used to love meat. Upon consulting the doctor he advised that I see a dietician and in doing so, I was advised how to cut down on the consumption of meat that I would usually eat.” Martin believes that small changes can have a positive impact and that it is important to think through what adjustments are achievable. “For example, if I attend parties, I will still spoil myself with a treat, but in moderation, as I have learnt that balance is key. Morning breakfast is very important followed by a healthy snack, usually at 10:00. Lunch time it is important to have a well-balanced healthy meal,” he explains his healthier choices.
“When you drink alcohol and smoke, it makes your chronic condition worse, and therefore becomes more challenging to control conditions such as mine, which is diabetes. I used to smoke fifty cigarettes a day but cut it out. I can’t tell any person what to do, but I speak from my heart – I would love to meet any patient and share my experiences with them. Changing my lifestyle saved my life.”
Martin shares that although he may be diabetic, he is still a happy person, living a normal life. “Live life to the fullest. Make the changes needed. Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for someone else. Sometimes we have problems in our lives, we feel that our problems can get the better of us, but it is still important to NOT miss medication and not skip your meals.”
Jeannine Subramoney a dietician working at Wesfleur Hospital in Atlantis for the past eight years, is passionate about educating the community as to how they can save their lives by changing their lifestyle. Together with her team, patients like Martin are helped to make lifestyle changes that will work for them. “It is important to make realistic lifestyle changes so that you can stick to it in order to make a lasting impact on your health.”
As part of Jeannine’s work, she consults with newly diagnosed diabetic patients and obese patients. Together with her team they build a relationship with their patients so that they can support them in their holistic health journey. “We teach our patients to be in tune with their feelings and emotions and how to implement coping mechanisms to have a handle on their emotional state.”
“The meal plans are made alongside the patient and they are responsible for input. Plans are made according to finances, accessibility and the availability of food items within the community setting. Patients indicate what they are able to do and what is not achievable,” explains Jeannine. “All nutritional guidelines are tailor-made and specific to the patient’s needs and requirements.”
Jeannine gives the follow tips to improve your health through healthy nutrition:
- Start with a glass of water when waking up (before coffee) and a glass of water with supper. Often when your body is dehydrated, you will get headaches and feel hungry. If you feel like snacking, drink a glass of water – often we feel like eating when we are actually thirsty.
- Replace white bread with brown or wholegrain bread, as it keeps you fuller for longer. Add a protein, such as peanut butter (no jam), boiled egg, or tuna instead of meat spreads or sandwich spread, which are high in preservatives and salt, which can increase your blood pressure.
- Replace half of the rice on your plate with lentils or beans.
- Instead of having two starches at a time, such as rice and potatoes, try to eat only one.
- Make raw vegetables part of your plate, such as raw carrots. If you can fill half your plate with carrots (raw) and steam other vegetables, it will help significantly to keep you fuller for longer.
- Children do what the parents/caregivers do. Break the vicious cycles of obesity and lifestyle disease by eating healthier as a family.
- Reduce your sugar intake by only drinking one teaspoon of sugar in your tea of coffee.
- You can still have a treat. Have a set day in the week on which you will eat a luxury food item, such as a pie, sweets, chips, or have a cold drink. A good idea is to choose a weekend and enjoy your treat after a meal when you are not hungry.
Don’t reward your children with a food item. Rather read them a story or let them choose a family activity.
Principal Communications Officer: Southern Western Sub-structures
Western Cape Government Health
Tel: 021 202 0947
Mobile: 081 277 0516