Nnwa, as I write this, only my mouth and my fingers are able to move. No, nothing is wrong – nothing at all. In fact, I am happier and more relaxed than I have been in a while. I went to my first Taebo class the other day, and if I had thought your aunt mad for insisting on taking the stairs every day while living on the sixth floor, it is because I had not known madness. Everything ached but the fun we had! You would have loved the bear crawls. I could almost see you scurrying away as your mama pants, laughs and sweats along trying to keep up. We should go someday, and you can be my partner. I had my second spin class today, and I must admit, I was a little low on energy, but I kept at it. I did serve massive amounts of side eye to the guy in the corner because who pedals that fast with maximum resistance? Who? Ah ah! I did not know I could hold a jealous thought for that long. So now I am all over the net searching out ways to keep my energy up, how to beat the resistance and what not because I want some side eye too. See? Appeals to human vanity almost always win.
I hope to keep this up, I really do want to repair my never existing relationship with health and fitness. Yes, non-existent Nnwa because the more I think about it, the more I see that I actually have given very little thought at best to the entire business.
I was born and raised in the ‘Home of Champions’ Nnwa. Everyone and their mother was a runner. Literally. Eldoret back then had its healthy dose of rains but then the second term at school would come, and you could feel the air light up because, at the end of it, we would have our annual sports event. The only reason we came to believe some children had people was that on this one day the track field was green, and everyone’s everyone showed up because athletics was the main sport. The students prepped all term, but the main event was the parents run. Yes, Nnwa, there was a mother’s and a separate father’s race, and I will never forget the sight of these ladies and gentlemen volunteering to go for 100m sprints or full relays because that was when the party started. You did not have to call for volunteers twice. Brown leather jackets were put down, shoes cast away, skirts gathered – this was serious business. The starter would go off, and the running began. See, everyone and their mother was a runner.
I was not particularly good at it, but I made the 100m sprints for a while (until I realised it needed a bra I did not have to keep up with) but even then, only because I had to. Sports and I never had a comfortable relationship. Physical education classes were a bore because you can only run around the field unsupervised, in uncomfortable, mandatory bloomers so many times. No one really told me why – not the ‘exercise is good for you, and that’s that’ version but, really why I needed it even when I did not want it. There was no Google access back then Nnwa (not for me anyway) and the only people that told you things that you needed to learn were your teachers. But they were book teachers. I don’t even think it ever crossed their minds to actually sell the idea behind the PE classes to us or for us to ask and when it did, it was probably a rant on how that time wasted could have been channelled into an extra math class. I can’t help but wonder if it could have been different perhaps if we had discussions on what our bodies are made of and how it all comes together. Talks about different exercise routines and sporting activities – something other than running – and how they build our bodies to function better so our minds would be at their best too. At the end of it all, maybe they would have dangled a carrot – images of what fitness would look on a body ten, even fifteen years from then. And what it would not because if all else fails, appeals to human vanity may just have tilted the scales for a better-adjusted lifestyle. I don’t know if it would have helped Nnwa, but it would have started a conversation that would have been interesting to have at the back of one’s mind every time one hid in the sick bay to evade another games period. One that would have probably gotten us into a habit that would save us from a lot of catch up later.
I think it’s the same with food as a concept. Of course, I knew what food was and what was not Nnwa, but that was basically the end of it. I had a weakly emphasised understanding which went mostly along the lines of ‘don’t eat so many fries and that much of carbohydrates’ but with the offerings always leaning towards different versions of both. I really didn’t think much of it. In retrospect, I don’t think I knew I needed to. It did not help to already have a bigger frame than others Nnwa and a sweet tooth to boot. Having fast foods, snacking on sweet treats and the escape from exercise were just fun things to do. I did not think about this stuff much as I did them because I was a child. I was a kid that ate because I liked to, skipped exercise because I could and didn’t have any concepts to challenge my little self’s understanding of either.
Years later, I am working on rewiring my brain on these matters. You will be here soon, and it would not do to pass on habits that you will later need to unlearn. Not if I can do something about it. I hope we will have a better approach. I don’t think the rising numbers of children affected by childhood obesity are really mostly as a result of suburbia living, fast food culture and the fact that ‘couching’ is now a thing – a major thing. Parents could cut off as much of this and that as they want but without actually teaching the little humans the reasons behind the choices, the effect will only be felt for as long as they were small enough to only eat what you plate. We need to have it go further in the future. Apart from exercise, it is said that diet plays a significant role in the management of health issues, body weight included and I believe the fact that not many children are made to understand what food really is, what our bodies need, what portions are and so forth is really the puppet master behind what we see. What they know first creates a buffer that feeds later, feeds into the habits they form. We can do more than up the vegetables in our menu’s, we can change this story. Nnwa, I am changing mine, so I can change yours and you can change that which will follow.
It is also said that children learn best from what they see. I want us to curl up for a movie marathon and stay at home all day Saturday and I also want you to see me get up for a morning workout, go for walks, maybe even a run. I want you to come with me for some bear crawls some day. I want you to ask why I do these things and I want to know enough to tell you and show you what your body is made of, how your muscles work and what each needs to keep active and healthy. I want you to eat pizza and fried chicken and chips and know that there is so much more. I also want you to try out oats, eat vegetables, salads, lots of fruits and water because you will know what each food gives. You will know it is all about the balance. I don’t want you always reaching out for processed snacks because there is no better option in the fridge or the pantry. I want to know enough to make sure you always have the options you need to make the healthier choice. It has taken a while but when you realise you will literally shape another person’s foundation in life, you really want to be able to give them the best head start you can. That is why I am relearning this now.