This is Zambia: Diet and Weight Gain
March 4, 2013 § 8 Comments
“Laura, you should gain some weight.” – Pastor Z.
This is what my pastor once said to me at a dinner at his house. In Zambia, being fat does not necessarily have the same connotations that it does in America.
To an American, if you are overweight, it generally means that you eat too much and don’t exercise enough.
To a Zambian, if you are overweight, it generally means that you have more than enough to eat, don’t have HIV/AIDS, and are rich (or being well taken care of). Being “fat” can even be a compliment!
The common diet in Zambia consists mainly of nshima and ndiyo, or relishes . Nshima is the staple food, which is ground maize that is then cooked into a thickened porridge (sort of like mashed potato consistency). The relishes are cooked in vegetable oil with tomato and onion. They may include vegetable relish (pumpkin leaves, cabbage, broccoli rape, or other greens), and may also include a protein of kapenta (sardines), chicken, beef, game, eggs, or bream (tilapia). It is also common to eat rice, beans, and fried chicken and chips (my personal fave!).
The meal is always eaten with your right hand by taking a small amount of nshima, rolling it in your hand, and eating it together with a relish.
The diet is full of carbohydrates and fats. You are well off if you have enough protein in your diet. Many poor children are stunted and wasted simply because of the lack of protein and vitamins in their diets. However, the heartiness of the nshima still can provide that “full feeling” so that they are not hungry after eating.
On the other side, too much of this diet can cause the same obesity and health problems that we see in America. Although it is only relatively recently that these negative effects are starting to become evident in Zambia. As people live longer, they are being diagnosed with the illnesses of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiac disease. It is said locally that whole families are forced by their parents to go out jogging each morning because of too many chicken and chips!
Pastor Z. was trying to explain to me how I should eat more so that my parents know that Ben is taking good care of me. Somehow I think we can convince them of that without me gaining weight.