Ready. Set. Eat Right!

Sat, 7 Jan 2012 Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba

I am always excited about a new year. I always get the impression that I have been given a “clean sheet” to start all over again. You may not feel exactly the same but I am certain there is always freshness about a new year to you, even when fuel prices leap through the roof.

I realize my eating habits are poor and I have pledged to do a total overhaul but certainly at a sensible pace. Poor nutrition appears to be a major limiting factor in our quest to improve our health. I believe it will be worth our while if we go on this journey together. Anthony Robbins, a motivational speaker always teaches that IF YOU THINK YOU CAN OR THINK YOU CAN’T, YOU ARE RIGHT. We definitely determine what we make out of life.

Over the course of the year, I will spend at least one weekend each month discussing healthy eating. We will start off with basic tips that affect what we eat, how much we eat and the timing of what we eat.

1. Drink plenty of water

a. About 2 litres a day is a fair approximation. Start gradually even if it means 5 glasses a day.

b. When we drink a significant amount of water, we get full after eating only a little food. Forget all the tales about not drinking water at meals. The enzymes that digest our food work best in water.

2. Eat several small meals

a. I know this may offer some challenges but we can work round it. We are all convinced about eating three main meals a day. Put two healthy snacks between every two meals and hey presto we have five SMALL meals. This is also very important in those of us who want to lose weight.

b. Add a protein to each meal, even the “snacks”. If you are on a restricted protein diet, this may not apply to you.

c. Spice your food up; it may make you feel full with less food. It appears some spices may also kick start our metabolism

3. Limit Alcohol

a. The drill is the same; if you do not drink alcohol already there is no need to start. If you do reduce it. My plan is to drink a glass of wine over the weekend. What is yours?

4. Get enough sleep

a. Every shift worker will tell you, inadequate sleep is a “disease” We all have experienced inadequate sleep for various reasons.

b. We tend to get restless, anxious, have low energy levels and a host of other negatives when we do not have enough sleep. We end up seeking solace in food.

5. Stock kitchen with healthy convenient foods

a. I can assure you that no matter how good your intentions of keeping “killer foods” in your kitchen may be, you will end up eating it yourself one day. No matter how many chocolate biscuits I have in my kitchen, I have “restless leg syndrome” until I dispatch them all into my belly.

6. Keep a food diary

a. Humans always have a difficulty “recollecting” the bad foods we eat. Spend the next week or two to write out everything that finds its way into your mouth and it will amaze you what you manage to gulp down and conveniently forget. I tried it and I was shocked to the bone.

7. Watch snacks eaten at night

a. I hate to go to bed hungry and many of you may feel the same. Hmmm that 2am abdominal pain that feels like you have a full blown ulcer? Cut up some vegetables and gulp them down; garden eggs, kontomire, cabbage, lettuce. Carrots are also great since they have very low sugar content.

8. Enjoy your favourite foods

a. DO NOT MISQUOTE me! We are only starting a “makeover” and stopping everything cold turkey may reduce the number of converts we have. If you love fufu beyond redemption that is no crime, but if you could eat enough to feed a small army, kindly reduce the amount and eat it at lunch not 8pm

b. If chocolate is the apple of your eye go ahead and grab an occasional CUBE. This will prevent huge cravings that will totally disrupt our battle.

9. Eat more fruits and vegetables

a. This point has been hammered home several times. The cost still frightens some of us and others are turned off by the large quantities we require each day.

b. Try it for a month and you will feel so energized you may not be willing to quit

c. Focus more on the vegetables since they contain fewer calories

10. Always eat breakfast

a. When people leave home as early as 4am so that they can make it to work, choosing an appropriate breakfast can be challenging. The downsides of not eating breakfast are many and include; poor weight management, fatigue and reduced performance in all areas. So with these at the back of your mind, it may be a great idea to prepare some food the night before so that you can eat in the morning if that is what it takes to break the fast.

11. Get help from family and friends

a. “Show me your friends and I will show you……..” I first heard this in primary school and it sure is true. New research is confirming the fact that our social support system is crucial when it comes to behaviour/habit change.

b. If all those close to you are still drinking 4 bottles of beer every night or sipping grease in the form of beef or kelewele then you certainly have an enormous task ahead. You are in the majority though. Get some of these people on your side or create another “social group” of people with similar goals.

12. Celebrate success but not with food

a. Success certainly is sweet but you need not celebrate with food.

b. If you meet your targets, watch a movie, buy a new dress or send me an email, I may give you a free wellness consult.

Today I will start “living” the steps above and I believe you will do the same. Next month we will look at practical steps to healthy eating.


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club



1. Nutrition: The Complete Guide - Ryan Berardi, PhD, Ryan Andrews, MS/MA, RD

2. www.webmd.com

Columnist: Essel, Kojo Cobba