Monday, September 11, 2017

My Unintentional African Weight Loss Diet

Even though I consider myself healthy and in good shape, I am a good 20 pounds heavier than I was in high school 35 years ago. I could try and fool myself and say it is muscle gain but my waist measurements tell another story. I regularly monitor my weight and body fat percentage but have not had much success losing the extra fat until recently when I moved to Ghana with my family.

Over the last 30 days I have lost 12 pounds. When we moved to Africa I was sort of forced to change my eating habits. I have not been sick or ill either since I’ve been here. I attribute it to decreasing my caloric intake while increasing my activity level in a hot and humid environment. I have lost this extra weight as John Houseman would say, “The old- fashioned way.”

There are several reasons I have been eating less. One is because I’m not a fan of some of the local cuisine. I do my best to eat traditional foods and I don’t want to offend any of the locals, but I don’t like fish and many of the stews and dishes prepared have been served with fish heads or other mystery meat or organs in it. This has been a natural appetite suppressant for me and helps me eat smaller portions.

Another reason I eat less is because there is less junk food here. There are no Wendys, McDonalds, or Taco Bell type of establishments to swing by when you are hungry. I live on the outskirts of town and it is anything but convenient to go grab a snack for me here. There are some street vendors selling their version of fast food, but I have no idea how long it has been sitting out in their dirty glass display cases along the roadside so that also makes me want to eat less.

I’ve still eaten plenty of carbs since I now eat more bread and jam than I used to. I have also indulged in some not so healthy food like “fan ice” which is their version of ice cream that they serve in a small plastic bag. It reminds me of how astronauts would eat. You have to suck it out as it melts so it lasts longer than if I were to dish up a giant bowl of ice cream back home and consume it quickly.

Finally, one other factor is the fact that even though I have been eating less, I am eating healthier in general. I eat more whole foods than I used to. I’m pretty sure none of the produce here is genetically modified either. Most of the food is locally grown so there are not preservatives or many of the other unpronounceable ingredients we find in so many of our food labels. Some of the fruit doesn’t always look as appetizing as some of the perfect looking trophy fruit you see in supermarkets at home but it is still good. In this hot, humid environment, the bananas only last a day or two before they go bad and attract fruit flies.

I’m kind of grateful I have been able to drop those extra pounds so easily and I’m sure the weight loss will slow down as I get closer to my ideal weight and find more foods I like. My next challenge is to find more protein sources that don’t scare me. I just thought it was interesting to see positive changes happen so quickly when I stopped eating the traditional American diet.