The Facts About Nutrition? You are What You Eat

Part 9 of the 10 things I wish I knew before I left Africa (By now I hope you have abandoned all hope that I will do this series in order; I certainly have)

Hello hello!

First of all, to all my new readers welcome. Over the past three days my traffic has shot up, probably by about 1000% :D To all who helped make that happen, thanks. To all the new readers, I hope this blog is of service to you and I invite you to contact me or leave comments below and let me know what’s on your mind as you read this blog.

Brocoli wins first prize

You are What You Eat

A while back I did a post on the negative effects of gangsta hip hop which is completely dominating the radio right now. Below is one of the songs that pretty much put to rest the idea that I could respect most of what is played on the radio today. And after knowing that music such as the track below exist, can you really go back home, switch on your radio and call most of that stuff art?

Dead Prez- Be Healthy (NB: The song and the lyrics have profanity)

 
icon for podpress  Dead Prez - Be Healthy [2:34m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Lyrics

It’s all love . . .

I don’t eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets
only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat
I’m from the old school, my household smell like soul food, bro
curried falafel, barbecued tofu
no fish though, no candy bars, no cigarettes
only ganja and fresh-squeezed juice from oranges
exercising daily to stay healthy
and I rarely drink water out the tap, cause it’s filthy

Dead Prez - YEAH!!

Lentil soup is mental fruit
and ginger root is good for the yout’
Fresh veg-e-table with the mayatl stew
sweet yam fries with the green calalloo
careful how you season and prepare your foods
cause you don’t wanna lose vitamins and miner-ules
and that’s the jewel
life brings life, it’s valuable, so I eat what comes
from the ground, it’s natural
let your food be your medicine (uh huh)
no Excederin (uh uh)
strictly herb, generate in the sun, cause I got melanin
and drink water, eight glasses a day
cause that’s what they say

They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy
my goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy
cause true wealth comes from good health, and wise ways
we got to start taking better care of ourselves

They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy
my goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy
cause true wealth comes from good health, and wise ways
we got to start taking better care of ourselves, be
healthy y’all . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah, hold the fuck up, yo
we’ll take this little intermission, listen what the
fuck we gotta say, y’know?
Word is bond son, niggaz been livin fat for too long, knowamsayin?
Smokin bogeys, fuckin drinkin all types of shit
wailin out, not givin a fuck what they puttin in they
bodies, son, knowamsayin?
‘Bout time niggaz start thinkin about that shit, son, knowamsayin?
That shit is fuckin, makin us deteriorate, son
word up, we gotta care bout our little babies an shit, son
niggaz got kids to raise, straight up
ya gotta start learnin yo self, learning bout ya health, son
learnin this world we live in, kid, knowamsayin?
It’s time to start changin all that shit god, word up
so I’m gonna leave y’all niggaz on some shit like that, ya knowamean?
Word up, y’all niggaz better start usin y’all minds an
shit, kid
Peace

Delicious fruit

My Journey through Health and Nutrition

I am still very much a work in progress in this area. I am sure to polarize a few people and I gladly welcome anyone who doesn’t agree with me to do so.

So What Did I Eat When I was In Africa?

To say that I ate food in Africa would be an overstatement. My routine when I was about fifteen years old was a little something like this:

Morning: Tea with all milk and two spoons of sugar. Six slices of white bread with butter.

Morning break: Mandazi (the closest equivalent would be a doughnut for those who don’t know) and sausage; what we would do was wrap the sausage with the Mandazi.

Lunch: Chips with tomato sauce

After school nibble (yeah right) : Half a loaf of bread. Not with butter or with jam, no! My arteries need something that can really clog them up. Instead I would take white sugar and completely cover one slice of bread with it. Then I would cover this with another slice and have myself a:

sweet-sugar-filled-artery-clogging-how-i-didn’t-get-diabetes-in-my-

youth-i’ll-never-know-sandwich.

White Sugar- The sweet poision

 

Now add to that that I was probably the only high school boy in human history who was given the sports captain/vice captain position thrice in my high school career without having any love for or skills in sports. What that means is that my way of sweating off all those calories I gained from my suicidal diet was sitting on the sidelines during sports games making fun of people.

I Was A Fat Unhealthy Slob

And so I landed in Australia with my body getting closer and closer to all sorts of diseases. The saddest bit was I didn’t even know it at the time. Other than the quick lessons about the food pyramid in Home Science, in Kenya we don’t really earn how to eat for nutrition. We learn how to cook cakes and all sorts of poisons that taste good but I never learned how to eat for optimal health.

It All Started Because I Wanted to Look Good…..For the Ladies

You know the way in movies, there is this profound, moving, life changing trigger that moves our protagonist from a place of ignorance and apathy towards a path of true enlightenment. My trigger was far from deep. I was a young adolescent male with raging hormones and an overactive sex drive and I wanted to use my body as a tool to satisfy my carnal desires.

Now, I am many things, but a moderate person is not one of them. I was determined to become the next Shemar Moore and so I began to exercise twice, thrice, up to even five times a day. I pushed weights as I watched television, I pushed weights before I slept, I biked for hours everyday. When I wasn’t busy pushing my body I was online on websites such as www.howstuffworks.com and www.bodybuilding.com trying to understand how the human body works and how I can sculpt it into the human equivalent of an open mating call.

A 'mating call' type physique

But I Began to Learn….Really Learn about Nutrition and Health

That was 5+ years ago and I must admit that a lot of the stuff I learned is still beneficial to me now. I learned about the importance of minerals, what fat is, the different types of sugars, how muscles expand from resistance training and all sorts of great human anatomy stuff.

But in terms of results, I was a failure! To this day I still have stretch marks on both of my still-scrawny biceps from pushing myself too hard. My weight and fat levels have been yo-yo, though always leaning on the chunky side, for the last 5+ years. And until about June of last year, I was drinking like a sailor the day before alcohol is banned, lived on a daily diet of milk and $2 cookies and created such an aversion to resistance training that I exercised occasionally at best.

And Then I Met Anthony Robbins

I had always been a fan of Anthony Robbins since my days of shame and confusion. Around mid-2007, fueled by a general feeling of discontent with how slowly I was moving towards my goals in life, I became a voracious student of his work again. That’s when I discovered that the man actually had ideas on health and nutrition. My logic went a little something like this:

Tony Robbins is successful; I want to be successful; So I’ll do what Tony does.

I decided that at the very least I would try out his ideas to see if they worked for me.

And So I Began Eating a Vegan Diet

What???

Here I have lost like 99.999999999% of Africans.

“What? No meat? But without meat you are not eating food?”

Yeah, I decided that I would go without meat and the usual animal products -milk, eggs, fish etc- and see what effects that would have on my body. I didn’t decide to do so because of concern about animal rights to be honest; after all I grew up in Kenya where as a kid me and my cousins used to chase and slaughter the chickens that we ate. After researching Tony’s work and work of other great thinkers like John Robbins and the writer of the China Study, I came to one very simple conclusion; animal products-especially the hormone injected ones of today- do way more harm to the body than good. And so I became the first native African I know who tried to do it vegan.

The Effects

You know that feeling you get when you wake up like you’re still full. You feel sluuugggiiissshhh…You feel as though your stomach is still jammed up with food that’s yet to be digested. I haven’t felt that feeling at all since I quit animal products.

As I cut out meat I began to eat more fruits and vegetables. In fact there was a time a couple of months ago that my diet was 99% fruits and vegetables. This caused a slight increase in my energy levels. After experiencing that I knew I was on the right path.

Tony Robbins

In about a month’s time (no guarantees though) I will begin a 30 day experiment where I eat and live entirely by the health principles recommended by Tony Robbins. The promise from Mr. Robbins is that my energy levels will go through the roof, and after reading and hearing various people’s experiences I am inclined to believe this. Anyway I will blog about my experiment and the lessons learned so look out for that.

A Brief Digression for Nutrition Philosophy from Priestess G

This has absolutely no logical connection to what comes before or after it but I had to include it in here because it just fascinated the heck out of me. I remember once an acquaintance of mine who happens to be a pastor, let’s call her priestess G, stopped by the house. She dropped by with this pearl of wisdom which was had been her nutritional philosophy for a long time. Follow it, at your own peril:

God made me, right? And God made everything, right? Therefore, that means that I can eat anything that God made.

Gotta love it! End of digression.

So Where Am I Headed Now?

My lifetime goals in this area is pretty simple:

1) To experiment until I have found the most nutritious diet for me; pretty much a life-long pursuit.

2) To look good (You may leave adolescence but the superficiality of adolescence never truly leaves you does it?); This is definitely going to become one of the main focuses of my life from the middle part of this year. I pretty much want to sculpt my vessel through the year of 2008 and then pretty much be on maintenance for the rest of my life.

3) The third one is so major I think it warrants a little more discussion:

To Change My Beliefs and Habits Such That I Eat for Nutrition AND NOT For Entertainment

KFC advertisement

If there is one place that I think we as humanity have really messed up is in creating cultures and supporting belief systems and practices where people put the taste of the food above its nutritional content. Instead of eating so we can have a piece of life in our body nourishing us and helping us heal and dispose of waste, we eat to fill emotional holes and change mental states.

I pretty much am working on myself so that one day my belief systems, my brain, my spirit and my body are in line with the idea: I eat for nutrition and nourishment. Taste is only a secondary concern.

Take a moment and imagine what type of world this would be if we all ate for nourishment. How many diseases would we avoid? What would the cancer rate be? How many people would be saved from heart disease? Would diabetes exist?

My Health Is far From Ideal

As I said, I am still a work in progress in this area. I still have problems with huge sugar and starch cravings and my exercise regimen is far from firing on full cylinders.

The almighty alkalizing lemon

That having been said, this country has popped my eyes open to just how important nutrition is. It showed me just how interconnected our bodies, illness, happiness, energy levels and even the environment and ecology are ( If you don’t believe this, check out the documentary,Diet for a New America by John Robbins and tell me that doesn’t scare you). Soon I shall be directing huge portions of my focus to experimenting and learning in this area. Until then permit me to leave this post as incomplete as my health i……………………………..

……Even when a post is incomplete I can’t forget to ask that you please:

Be blessed and bless others,

Mwangi

 

19 Comments

  • By Kymani, February 6, 2008 @ 4:48 am

    go you! no more meat! I started a similar plan, now to cut out the occassional alcohol. BTW are you in Aussie or USA, a little confused here…

  • By Mwangi, February 6, 2008 @ 4:53 am

    Thanks Kymani. I am in in Melbourne, sometimes Sydney, Australia. Best of luck with your plan. For me, quitting alcohol was easier than I thought it would be: I thought of all the times I made a fool of myself and hurt people and I stopped partying as much and lucky for me I haven’t wanted a drink since.

  • By Alex Kay, February 7, 2008 @ 8:41 am

    Hey Tony!

    Great post, I really enjoyed reading about all the thought you have about nutrition.

    I can’t say I agree with everything you say, but I do respect you highly for “following your path”, and doing what you think is right for yourself.

    You rock buddy :)

    Alex

  • By Mwangi, February 7, 2008 @ 8:44 am

    Thank you very much for that. I am curious, what don’t you agree with?

  • By Pea, February 8, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    Lol, I actually believe that no meat = no food. Just wanted to say thanks for the Global Voices comment… your contact page isn’t working (neither are any of the links up there in the menu bar) so I figured I’d post a comment instead. Bless!

  • By Mwangi, February 8, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

    You are more than welcome for the comment. My contact page is currently on the side bar because the tech guy still hasn’t finished work on the menu bar. Thanks for visiting and hope to see you in future.

  • By seinlife, May 5, 2008 @ 11:25 pm

    Economies of scale have certainly diverted us all from good whole foods. Large corporations have perfected the art of delivering over processed, zero nutrition foods to us and because we live in a ‘i want now’ ‘i am in hurry’ world – we go along with it.
    @Mwangi – i think your diet as a teenager is/was probably the norm for many youngens in urban areas in kenya. Mostly because of western influence on what is ‘kewl’ to eat – based on what we saw on tv as well as what is convenient and available right then. I recently read ‘unbowed’ by wangari maathai and she talks about how colonialization changed our african diets too (give it a read if you haven’t – it’s an awesome read)
    Growing up on a farm as kid – everything that we ate was from the farm. Sugar needs were met by sugarcane, guavas + apples. We used millet in our porridge with homemade butter + fresh milk. It was just nutritious and i really commend you for seeking what is nutritional right for you.
    Let us know how veganism works out?

  • By Mwangi, May 5, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

    @seinlife: Oh, how I wish that I had spent more time on my grand parent’s farm just living off the land when I was younger. Next time I go home, I definitely intend on spending extended periods on my grandparent’s farm just seeing how my food is grown and eating nice, fresh, organic food.
    One of the things I want to do with this blog is to engage in diet and exercise experiments and then post up the results on the blog for anyone interested in eating healthier and/or looking better.
    Food and commerce should never have met me thinks. A lot of the world’s problems would not exist if this were the case.

  • By john black, January 15, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

  • By Mwangi, January 16, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

    @john black: Thanks very much for that. That domain of yours will probably collect quite a pretty penny; very prime domain real estate that it

  • By Germaine Imondi, April 28, 2009 @ 3:45 am

    Blogroll links aint that great :P but i am not the admin :P Just Telling :P :D

  • By Mwangi, April 30, 2009 @ 5:47 am

    @Germaine: Um….huh?! I really don’t understand your comment. Please clarify….

  • By Facts about Africa, December 30, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

    Was enjoying your article from start to end ( I eat no meat hahahaha)….. i m surely not going to listen to the radio ;)

    Very written article, really enjoyed it.

    Thanks for the wonderful reading time. :)

Other Links to this Post

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