Please tell us a bit about yourself.
name is Zita Bernice Tiena (most people call me Zee) currently living in
Germany with my husband and two young children. I studied health science at
both the bachelor and masters level at the University of Applied Science in
Hamburg. Currently, I work as a Public Health
Research Associate while working on a PhD in Public Health Nutrition which with
a focus on the determinants of overweight and obesity in migrants especially of
African descent and how to reverse obesity with healthy nutrition and physical
activity in Bremen, Germany.
healthy lifestyles is the African’s guide to healthy African food and nutrition
promoting health from their own heritage. We focus on our own foods,
ingredients and our lifestyle to promote a health and healthy living.
When & Why did you start IHL?
gestational diabetes ( a condition that is common in overweight or obese
pregnant women) and was sent to be followed up by a dietitian. Unfortunately,
she could not help me because the diet she wanted me to follow was European
based diets, excluding all our African heritage foods since she confessed that
she knew nothing about our foods. The problem was, during that pregnancy, I
could eat nothing but cassava, Eru, Ndole etc. So gestational diabetes pushed
me to carry out research about the health benefits of our own food and how to
how (if it was possible) reverse not only gestational diabetes but also how to
lose weight while enjoying my favorite foods. I started documenting my findings
on the blog as I cooked and witnessed the changes in my body and the effects
most foods had on my insulin level (during pregnancy I took insult injections
everday). I realized that I could control my GI with our own foods, I realized
that our foods kept me fuller for longer as compared to processed or fast and
fatty food we bought.
from their heritage and beginning in the comfort of their own kitchen. I
believe that a healthy lifestyle begins with a simple home cooked meal. This
can be the source of greater happiness and community health.
we do it
Information and education is vital when it comes to living healthy. There is a
lot of information on healthy living, weight
loss or even disease prevention. A lot of this information is confusing,
highly contradictory, not quite understandable and not really adaptable to the
African context. Therefore, it is of great importance to that we educate our
people on our foods and how to nourish themselves, prevent and manage diseases
with our food.
nourishment of the body, prevention and management of disease or possible cure
of illness as well as promote physical activity.
a particular food, they receive posts on the health benefits of that food,
recipe ideas on how best to enjoy it and a meal plan to facilitate planning and
cooking for themselves and the entire family. Another interesting aspect is the
weekly tips and motivation we send out to inspire and motivation taking our
monthly healthy challenges. All our recipes are accompanied by a detailed
nutritive value of the foods we share so that people can chose what best suits
lifestyle tools and materials to empower readers to live healthy for example
using infographics, fun games and videos.
For those who want to lose or
manage their weight, simply learn how to shop, cook and eat healthier, we work
health researchers, health and coaches as well as certified nutritionists who
will work with clients to offer thorough nutritional
assessment, customized meal plans, healthy recipe adaptations, follow up visits
and much more to make sure they reach their goals. Our mission is to enable
clients to reach their optimum health and weight and add years and quality to
– We focus on helping clients choose a healthful
lifestyle for a lifetime, not on dieting.
– Our certified health coaches,
will help clients make long-term changes, not quick fixes, to eating habits and
nutritional intake. We will teach you lifetime lessons on how to eat well and
how to nourish your body with your own heritage foods.
Obesity: A rising public
health issue in Africa
proportions in Africa today. A landmark report
by the Overseas Development Institute earlier this year showed that more than one-third
of the world’s adults are overweight – and that almost two-thirds of the
world’s overweight people are found in low and middle-income nations. The
number of obese or overweight people in developing countries rose from 250 million to almost 1
billion in under three decades,
to urban living combined with increased consumption of western-style diets high
in calorie, high in sugar, fat and salt but poor in nutrients quality. This has resulted in the rapid rise of obesity and obesity-related
chronic diseases including cancer, stroke and hypertension as well as other
obesity-related diseases. Some causes of obesity:
want to survive with their families so they fill their bellies with cheap food
– and this often means salt-drenched starchy carbohydrates, highly processed
sweetened products and the fattiest cuts of meat.
was home-cooked afresh and usually from the farm to the pot. Special foods that
required lots of oil and meat were reserved for special occasions like
“cry-die, “born –house” or Christmas. People drank natural drinks like palm
wine or coconut water. Women and men were (unconsciously) intensely physically
active. They walked miles to farm, fetch water, and go to school or to hospital
and to visit in neighboring villages.
Today, dietary and lifestyle patterns have shifted from a “traditional”
to a more “modern” pattern whereby the consumption
of fresh foods, fruits and vegetables as well as tubers like yam, sweet
potatoes have been swapped for fast food, sugary drinks and sweets. Also,
traditional lifestyle habits like farming, grinding ingredients on stone
or pounding maize or tubers using mortar and pestle have been replaced with
more modern, less physically-demanding techniques such as blending and
cutting ingredients using electronic kitchen appliances. The introduction
of fast and easy technology is also determining factor causing obesity. People
take taxi and bus rides even to the nearest market or school, people sit in
front of TV screens, computers playing games or on social media for hours
without end eating chips and sweets.
out in the framework of my master thesis, I discovered that some aspects of our
culture fuel obesity in Africa, with big men seen as successful and big women
seen as beautiful. This theory has been backed by other scientific research carried
out in sub-Sahara Africa. Many believe
that If you are too thin it means your husband is not taking care of you or you
are unhappy. In Cameroon for example, men with “beer” bellies (big stomachs)
are regarded as rich and successful.
down on fast foods, meat and salt consumption.
whole unprocessed foods with additives or conserves (as much as possible).
food with fresh ingredients and from scratch at home.
special foods on special occasions.
more fruits and vegetables.
behavior i.e. spending too much time watching TV, being a couch potato.
physically active, move more.
What is your favorite recipe?
just love black-eyed peas cake also known as Koki in Cameroon and Moin-Moin in
Nigeria. I love the fact that it taste great and provides my body with lots of
vital nutrients and also the fact that when cooked right, it is perfect for
weight loss and diabetes management. Also, I have been able to experiment with
black-eyed peas and have created a variety of delicious and healthy recipes
which can be found by clicking the links below
toasties : http://www.inspiringhealthylifestyles.com/?p=1263
–The healthier version: http://www.inspiringhealthylifestyles.com/?p=1002
Wow Zita..Thanks a lot for the interview. Very insightful and informative. Please keep doing what you do ’cause you definitely inspire me and others to live a healthier lifestyle.