The music is pumping, there’s panting and firm instructions rending the air. The mirrors are reflecting sincere efforts to delink from unnecessary body fat. Is it easy? Pretty much for the instructor – she has been at it for a decade now.
The other beauties are making the good effort to catch up…. More panting, sweating and a few intentions to take a break. But NO, indicates Chiki Onwukwe – the fun, easy going, Slim-Possible dance instructor. Good things are earned. So on goes the dance chisel – the call is to keep the rhythm and let dance moves chop off the not so healthy fat. Chiki is not about to stop until her trainees FEEL good in their own skin.
It’s the Chiki KuruKa dance chisel…
Before we lose the trail, the instructor begs to correct that ‘good’ in this case means fit/healthy – not slim. She reprimands a magazine title that went ‘The now slim and beautiful Kalekye’. She agrees with an incensed fan who said, ‘Kalekye Mumo (media personality) has ALWAYS been beautiful.’ “We need to stop seeing women’s fitness as directly related to beauty. The way people speak about women needs to change, to make women feel more secure, allowing them to see fitness as something that’s good in itself. Rather than something that should be done so that men find you more attractive,” avows the fitness instructor. “Kalekye was stunning before her weight loss and she remains stunning now. Her beauty was never a concern, to her own admittance her health was.
Supporting women’s fitness as fitness, is much more sustainable than weight loss goals that can be achieved – and then lost, and then achieved again, and can encourage decisions that aren’t always healthy,” Chiki tells.
Overweight and obesity
On to the health path, World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that a quarter (23 per cent) of Kenyan women aged 15 years and above are either overweight or obese. In contrast, only about seven per cent of men in the same age group are overweight or obese. WHO also points out that 44 per cent of diabetes, 23 per cent of heart disease, up to 41 per cent of cancers and a number of bone issues and psychological disorders have connections to overweight and obesity. Obesity and being overweight are the fifth leading risk of global deaths, it adds. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of these conditions. Diabetes itself affects 3.5 million Kenyans and the number is escalating, raking in younger people.
By January 2014, diabetes medication sold in Kenya was valued at Sh2.5 billion, Daily Nation reports. Those for hypertension cost Sh2 billion. Medicines for non-communicable diseases, which account for half of hospital admissions, were estimated at Sh47.4 billion in 2014. That’s a huge bill for the economy.
So when Chiki, Elizabeth, Zippy and Felister (and others be like) are dancing to break a sweat, and indulging in a healthy eating plan with less fats and sugars and rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, they are busy helping the nation to fight a scourge. And assisting it to redeem its status.
What inspired your move on women fitness? Did you see a gap? And why post-baby mums?
Women’s issue in general gives me inspiration, partly because I am a woman and partly because I feel that society is really tough on women. I am interested in creating something that makes women feel good and strong as a unit.
Any information you have come across on their emotional and physical well-being stemming from their fitness regimen or lack of it?
A lot of women lack the inspiration to work out because either they don’t enjoy it, or they are doing it for the wrong reasons, such as pressure from their spouse or society. I encourage women in my class to stop thinking about weight and instead to start thinking about health and fitness as something we should all strive for. Weight tends to be an aesthetic preference whereas fitness is something broader for us to all strive for.
How about pre-baby ladies? Is there any advantage of being fit before getting pregnant over starting on your fitness after the baby?
There is always an advantage to being fit and healthy at any point in your life. When preparing for pregnancy your chances of quickly bouncing back to your previous form are massively increased if your body is fit and healthy. Additionally when you are carrying another life, you want to create the best environment for that life.
Are there any habits/patterns you have noted in Kenya’s women fitness culture? What stands out?
This is not about women as such, but it saddens me that in Kenyan culture, people who walk are looked down upon as poor, whereas in Europe the middle class and wealthy enjoy walking as a form of exercise that easily fits into their life. I also find that the more money people make, the worse their diet becomes. Chips are the food of the middle class here, whereas in Europe chips tend to be predominantly for people who can’t afford anything else. This needs to change.
What challenges have you encountered in the fitness cause?
The biggest challenge has been motivation. Remaining fit and healthy only works if it’s a part of your overall life. Someone will come to a class, and not return for another month, and yet be surprised when they are not getting fitter.