Half of Kenyan women are obese

Although today’s woman is better educated, exposed, articulate and empowered, her 1950’s counterpart was not only physically healthier, but also fit and looked better into her clothes. The 1950’s woman boasted a slimmer waistline and weighed six kilos lighter. Her bust, waist and hips measurement were 37-27-39, compared to today’s woman’s 40-34-40 inches.

This is a whole seven inches addition to her waistline, according to a study by The Vitality Show, a consumer watchdog for beauty and wellness products. Nairobi-based African Population and Health Research reveals that close to half of Kenyan women are obese. And going by the sedentary lifestyles, their waistlines are bound to expand further as fast food multinationals set up shop here. About 43.4 per cent of women and 17.3 per cent of men are overweight or obese, showed the study that polled 2,669 men and 2,265 women last year.

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Also, one in four women in the reproductive aged 15-49 are overweight or obese, which is an increase from one in five in 2003, data from National Nutrition Action Plan 2012/2017 indicates. Nairobi has the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity at 41 per cent among wome, especially those in the middle and upper class.

“This is proof that an increase in financial muscle correlates to an increase in abdominal fat. As we get richer, we are consuming more meat, dairy products, processed and fried foods and well as confectionaries, which are downed with carbonated drinks. These unhealthy foods end up around the waistlines because many are unable to convert the calories into energy through physical exercise,” says Grace Kamau a public health specialist.

Wealth and waistlines A study by Dr Regina Mbochi of Kenyatta University graphically described the contents of the kitchen of the well-to-do Nairobi woman as high in beef, chicken, processed meats, eggs and alcohol. A total of 365 Kenyan women aged 25 and 54 were sampled. These women enjoyed high incomes and were obese or overweight.

The study also showed the more rooms there are in their homes, the more likelihood that the older women have big waistlines, carry a lot of fat and are big domestic spenders. The increasing levels of body fat is linked to higher incidences of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

Sadly, this means that we are twice as likely to suffer and die from these non-communicable diseases, compared to our 1950s counterparts. Today, women are also postponing their child bearing age and using contraceptive options whose side effects include possible weight gain. “It is easier for a 23-year-old to regain her pre-pregnancy waistline, compared to a woman approaching her 40s,” says Kamau.

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