Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular weight loss strategy in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
“I started intermittent fasting to lose the weight I gained after the birth of my second child, and I’ve been doing it for three months now,” says Doreen Uwase, communications officer in Kigali.
“I went with the 16/8 routine that I came across in an Instagram post. I’ve been fasting for 16 hours, which has kept my snacking in check. Unlike diets that ban certain foods, Uwase says she was drawn to intermittent fasting because it does not limit the foods she can eat.
It’s easy to get confused by the seemingly endless approaches to weight loss being promoted. Take Alice Muhoza, for example: the Kigali resident says she didn’t know much about diets and was unhappy with her weight and the many suggestions people around her gave her to lose weight .
“I ended up signing up for a keto diet and trying to stick with it for three months, but sometimes I fail and it hasn’t really made a difference yet,” she laments.
Detoxifies and cleanses
Detox diets with special cleansing drinks are also gaining popularity as a weight loss trend in Kigali.
“I start my day with water to hydrate, but at some point I add lemon, apple cider vinegar and a little cayenne pepper,” says Lucy Uwimbabazi, 32, who been drinking the detox drink religiously for two years. years now. “I also take late night walks at least three times a week, so imagine my frustration when I weigh myself every month or so and nothing has really changed,” she complains.
Edgar Karuhanga works as a copywriter for an advertising agency in Kigali and told OZY that he started drinking detox drinks to fight stubborn belly fat. “I’m not usually a big person, but I’m fat around my stomach and waist, which makes me feel so uncomfortable. I tried the gym for a while, but ended up losing weight in the wrong places,” he says, irritated.
Frustrated and desperate, Karuhanga turned to Google to find other ways to lose belly fat, including teas and other detox drinks. Green tea, lemon, ginger, cucumber and mint are some of the drinks he takes at least four times a week, taking turns. “I hope that by the end of the year I will see positive results,” he says. The doubt in his voice was noticeable.
Many restriction flavors
In Kigali, some of the most disturbing new fad diets include the “five bites” diet, which involves skipping breakfast and then eating only five bites for lunch – no matter if it’s a salad or a pizza – and five more bites for dinner. There is also the “werewolf diet”, which restricts the follower to a juice diet timed to the phases of the moon. That this diet was meant to be approved by American celebrities Demi Moore and Madonna points out that dietetic culture has become homogenized, from Kigali to California. Dieters around the world grapple with the same grim dietary restrictions, but often feel alone and ashamed in the struggle.
David Rukerabigwi, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Kigali, says fad diets often involve severe calorie restriction, which is not sustainable in the long term. He recommends challenging the information promoted in new diets by asking questions and seeking alternative perspectives.
According to Emma Laing, dietitian and spokesperson for the American nonprofit Nutrition and Dietetics Academy, “Detox diets and other fads are rapidly gaining popularity despite the lack of scientific evidence.” This made us wonder: what does science really say?
The science might surprise you
Harvard Health: Popular diets ‘don’t work’
According to a study published by a team of international researchers and quoted in Harvard Healthpopular diets just don’t work for most people. The study recruited nearly 22,000 people considered “overweight” or “obese” who followed one of 14 popular diets – including the Atkins, DASH and Mediterranean diets – for an average of six months. While weight, blood pressure and cholesterol measurements generally improved after six months, they had largely disappeared after 12 months.
If popular diets rarely work – and often cause misery, followed by further weight gain – why do we keep trying them?
“When people struggle with body dissatisfaction, their self-esteem also suffers, so they’re more likely to be swayed by the unfounded promises of fad diets,” dietician Laing said. She also noted that many products on the market, such as teas and slimming pills, contain herbal supplements, diuretics or laxatives that are actually harmful — and expensive.
There is no single diet
Private Kamanzi, a dietitian at the firm Amazon Nutrition in Kigali, pointed out that fad diets can be misleading simply because they are not tailored to the particular needs of an individual body.
“Each person’s dietary needs are different,” Kamanzi told OZY. In other words, from our biology and genetics to the often stressful daily circumstances that shape our lives, every solitary body on earth is unique. This point is made by physiologist and bestselling author Lindo Bacon. Social factors such as discrimination and deprivation are important drivers of health, explains Bacon in the book “Body Respect”. This means that some dieters may restrict their food intake to deal with their weight or other issues — like self-esteem — that have nothing to do with diet.
Feared and misunderstood: carbohydrates
In an effort to lose weight, people around the world regularly set a goal to avoid carbohydrates. But Kamanzi notes that carbs are essential for the body, and skipping them altogether will cause cravings, likely resulting in a carb binge. That’s why he recommends moderate consumption of healthy carbs as a promising path to long-term health.
“Dietitians can guide you on healthy carbs,” Kamanzi told OZY, citing examples that include whole grains, chickpeas, kidney beans, and fruits like apples, berries, and melons.
This was in line with Laing’s advice. “When meals are enjoyable and balanced with nutritious foods like protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, you’re more likely to feel full for hours on end,” she said.
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The healthiest diet, no “diet”?
In the best-selling “Health at Every Size,” Lindo Bacon pointed to research indicating that the most promising path to health may be to avoid crash diets, even referring to such diets as “those highs -rocky bottoms against which so many good health intentions have been wrecked.” Emphasizing this point, Laing said, “Intentional dieting in an effort to lose weight or burn fat can actually lead to overeating.”
Instead, Laing suggested finding a nutritionist through the nonprofit tool EatRight.orgthen approach food from a place of positivity or even cultural celebration.
“Appreciating that food has powerful meaning rooted in one’s culture and traditions can have a positive impact on health,” she said. “Focusing on what you can add to your plate to add flavor and nourishment is a more positive way to approach eating than focusing on what you should be limiting.”
This advice is consistent with a new book called “The Body Positive Journal”, recently published by “You Have the Right to Remain Fat” author, Virgie Tovar. Tovar uses uplifting essays, journaling prompts, and even whimsical stickers in his new book, to shift readers’ attention from food fads and feelings of shame to self-esteem and even—imagine—pleasure. Tovar’s work is in a way an invitation to adopt a lighter, even childish approach to food and physical movement.
It’s not just what you eat. This is the company you keep.
In Kigali, nutritionist Rukerabigwi says finding a healthy path requires surrounding yourself with the right people. Some peers ad family members tend to be judgmental or give unsolicited advice, while others tend to take a more “love you as you are” approach. We often know who belongs to which category.
“It can be helpful to build a support network of people who share your values around food and body image,” Rukerabigwi told OZY.
What examples of toxic food culture do you face in your everyday life?
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