On a recent trip to Switzerland, I was struck again by the wonderful health and optimism the Swiss people exude. Everyone seems to be slim, fit and generally happy with life. They spend much of their time in the outdoors (come rain, snow or sunshine), eat plenty of healthy foods throughout the year, have access to the freshest water straight from the Alps and enjoy lots of fresh, unpolluted air. What more could one wish for?
I realise that, as a snap-happy tourist, I probably looked at everything through rose-tinted glasses and a good number of miserable Swiss people were probably hiding just off the beaten track; but in general the nation was a picture of fitness and health.
It may seem unfair to compare South Africa to a first-world country with fantastic facilities, but I believe we could take a collective leaf out their book when it comes to healthy and active lifestyles.
Like the Swiss, we also live in a beautiful country – in fact, we live in a much bigger country with far more places to explore: we have mountains, oceans, beautiful grassy plains, forests and semi-deserts. We also have great weather – we are spoiled with sunshine throughout the year; and we can choose from a great crop of fresh fruit, vegetables and grains from our own soil.
Yet, the majority of South Africans seem to forget about this beauty. We forget to live in the moment and simply enjoy the fresh air. We spend most of our time in front of a multitude of screens: TVs, computers, cellphones and playstations; and the only exercise we get is our fingers pressing the buttons and our jaws chewing on greasy fast food. No wonder we are thethird fattest country in the world.
Let’s get back to the basics and start rediscovering our country. You don’t have to go far – start by scouting for the beautiful outdoor spaces near your home or workplace. Choose an activity you like and start incorporating it into your daily routine. You’ll soon rediscover the great feeling of your muscles working and strengthening, your blood pumping through your veins and your lungs expanding with extra oxygen. If safety is an issue, get some friends or colleagues to join in. Exercising in the outdoors will not only help you to shed the extra weight, it will also cut your stress levels dramatically and improve your mood.
Finally, forget about the kilojoule-laden junk foods and check out your local market for fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds in season. Seasonal fresh produce is cheaper, tastes much better and has more nutrients than foods that have been stored in a warehouse for months or have had to travel long distances to reach you.
Here's to the simple life.
- (Birgit Ottermann, Eat Well newsletter, May 2012)