In Summary

  • Millicent has also swallowed slimming pills but nothing has changed.
  • Funny enough, despite her Sh20,000 going down the drain, she says she can still pay anyone with any idea that would make her lose her weight.
  • “I want to look young. This body size is not mine. I want a quick fix because I do not have time to go to the gym,” says the 41-year-old.

Until you hear about the strange things Kenyans are doing to lose weight, you may not believe that there is a full-blown war going on out there. The struggle to shed body fat has placed many on a bumpy path where they have had to endure long walks, tiring jogs, consume medicines with extreme side effects, drastically change their diets, undergo surgery to modify their digestive systems among many other drastic interventions.

Lifestyle spoke with five women in different parts of the country who narrated how they had to cope with demanding requirements to regain their fit selves, even as fitness experts warn against some of the quick-fix methods gaining prominence in the country.

Ms Ruth Aloo, an economic adviser to Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti, has had weight issues since 2005 when she delivered her first child. Ms Aloo, 35, recalls that she weighed only 65 kilogrammes by the time of her first delivery, thanks to regular exercise.

After giving birth, her weight spiked to 78 kilogrammes. She resumed her exercise regime and was able to lose nine kilos that year. In 2010, however, she had her second baby and she ballooned to 90 Kgs. 

“Losing weight became very difficult and I gave it a break,” she says.

She adds: “In 2015, I gave birth to my third child and that was the genesis of all my problems. I weighed 100 kilos and with this I had to do anything possible to shed off the extra fat. I did not like how I looked and was embarrassed every time I was in my husband’s company.”

She tells Lifestyle that the interventions varied “from waist trainers to flat tummy tea, to drinking bitter concoctions in the name of cleansing my body, to dieting where I would take nothing all day except for black tea without sugar, fruits and peanuts without salt.”

There is little that Ms Aloo has not tried, from punishing pre-dawn runs to what she calls more “joyful movement” of Zumba classes.

Nowadays, she starts her days with an hour’s walk in the morning, putting on a workout suit made of polythene so she can sweat more. Then she gets to the gym, does a little of yoga class then sweats through a vigorous dance fitness class. Her life rotates around gym, workplace and home.

When she is not at the gym, she is in her office racking her brains on issues relating to the county budget and market trends. Every morning and evening, she drives all the way from Kisumu to Homa Bay and back. The two towns are 107 kilometres apart but she tries hard to join others in the gym in Kisumu as early as 4 pm.

Ms Aloo does not take carbohydrates past 3 pm and she takes a lot of water to keep her body hydrated because she sweats a lot.

She says her main goal is to burn more calories while eating less. And the result is showing. She now weights 70 kilos and has vowed not to look back.

Moreover, she has bought several books for dieting tips and weight loss moves. She has even paid Sh40,000 for dieting lessons.

“This is not a simple thing,” she says. Looking back, she says, she has battled serious food addiction.

“Any photo I took between 2005 and 2015, I can tell you exactly how much I weighed and the regimen I was on at the time to lose that weight,” she says.

The economist says one programme was so extreme that it lowered her immunity and she would get dizzy during workout and even faint. “It was crazy,” she says.

But Ms Aloo is not alone. In a competitive country where speed is everything, Ms Emily Ochieng’, a Nairobi resident, finds her self at a disadvantage as her weight weighs her down.

Ms Ochieng, 23, weighs 93 kilos and the thought that she cannot dress like her agemates gives her sleepless nights.

“I have tried everything possible to flatten my tummy but I find it increasing. I want a figure that will give me a decent look. When I’m with my agemates I feel embarrassed because all of them are skinny. I feel that one needs to be skinny to be pretty,” she says.

PRESSURE WORSENED

The pressure is made worse by the fact that people think she is older than her boyfriend.

“I cannot date a younger man. I am very young but because of my body size, they think I’m older than him,” says Ms Ochieng, who is yet to graduate after a course in procurement.

She started working out last year but gave up because there was no change. She instead decided to try a concoction that entailed mint leaves, cucumber and lemon to get a flat tummy but to her surprise, it grow bigger. She has detoxed for 12 days with little improvement.

“My weight makes me so insecure that I hate myself. When I am in the company of my elder sister, I look like I’m the eldest because she is very tiny. That’s the body I want,” she tells Lifestyle.

Ms Ochieng is now banking on the gym to lose the extra fats.

“I am trying gym as my last option. If it fails then I don’t know what I will do”.

The same agony faces Millicent (who requested that we withhold her surname) in Naivasha. Flabby hands and big tummy give her sleepless nights. She once paid Sh20,000 to someone who gave her concoctions and assured her that she would have lost 20 kilos by the time she was done with the dose. But the only change it brought was that she experienced a running stomach for a week.

Millicent has also swallowed slimming pills but nothing has changed.

Funny enough, despite her Sh20,000 going down the drain, she says she can still pay anyone with any idea that would make her lose her weight.

“I want to look young. This body size is not mine. I want a quick fix because I do not have time to go to the gym,” says the 41-year-old.

“I sell fish. I do not get the time to go to the gym during the day. The only time I can go is after 8 pm and my husband won’t allow me to go out at that time. If I can get herbs and pills that would work. I will pay anything,” she says.

Elsewhere, Dr Mycal Wagah is in a struggle of her own.

When she got a job as a lecturer, she was required to fill medical documents after check-ups.

When it came to comparing her weight against her height, her Body Mass Index (BMI) was 38 — which was on the higher side.

“Obesity starts when someone’s BMI clicks 30 and I was heading to the extreme end,” she told Lifestyle.

Her blood pressure was also high, moving to dangerous levels.

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