We live in a sick nation. There is no doubt about that.
All you have to do is check out our non-communicable diseases statistics and you will see just how bad it is.
In fact, take a trip to the bus terminal, sit down and observe our people. You will be very sad to see that far too many of them are obese. Many of them are young people too.
Now some people say Samoans are naturally big boned. They’ve got a point. But being big-boned is different from being obese. We’re talking about obesity here.
We cannot deny that we have far too many fat people in this country today.
There are reasons for this. Firstly our dietary habits are bad and some of us eat far more than we should. Then there is the case of people who love eating the wrong food so that all they can do is watch themselves grow sideward. It’s a pity.
Which brings us to a point we’ve raised before. Is healthy eating expensive in Samoa? If it’s not expensive, then why are our people so fat?
Sometime ago, we asked the question in a Street Talk we published on this newspaper. Of six people asked, five all agreed that healthy eating is relatively inexpensive in Samoa.
“It’s easier and cheaper to eat healthy in Samoa because you can find food anywhere, taro, coconuts, I mean everywhere. You don’t need to buy it from the shop. It’s available in abundance everywhere around us,” said one Eliki Ioane.
“Eating healthy in Samoa is cheap. We can plant our food and a lot of our fruits grow wildly which means we don’t do anything to it. God gave us plenty of land to work so we don’t have to buy anything,” said Heperona Leleimalefaga.
Fuga Manuele agrees.
“It’s cheap to live a healthy life in Samoa because healthy food is from the work of our hands. There’s no need to find money to buy it. If we all work the land and not become lazy, everything will be at our fingertips. So I believe it’s cheaper to eat healthy in Samoa than anywhere else.”
It that is the case, why then, do we have so many health problems that are linked to poor diets in Samoa?
If healthy eating is inexpensive, why are our people eating themselves into a life of struggling with non-communicable diseases, especially the ones linked to food?
I came to the conclusion that this issue sounds simple, but it’s not that easy.
And that’s because our mentality and mindsets about food need to change.
We’ve said this before and we will say it again, in Samoa, people sell fresh fish so that they can buy a can of mackerel from Thailand or goodness knows where it comes from.
We let the bananas, breadfruits and ta’amu rot outside while we slave away to buy a sack of rice. Our esi are being eaten by the birds while we snack on hard biscuits and lollies that wreak havoc on our teeth.
We look down at the humble laumoli and moegalo while we scab overseas-made teabags and cheap, instant coffee from the nextdoor neighbour for morning and evening teas.
We cram our children’s lunchboxes with imported apples and oranges while our more nutritious ripe bananas, vi and mangoes go to waste on the trees.
They are choices being driven by a mentality ingrained in us from a young age, that unless you drink the palagi-made coffee; you haven’t made it in life.
But look where that has landed us? Look at our N.C.D statistics?
Look at the rate at which our young people are dying from heart diseases, diabetes and other health issues?
Is it wrong to enjoy some of life’s more modern pleasures in terms of food and drinks?
Absolutely not. But in moderation. The problem with some of us is that we cannot spell the word. We cannot deny ourselves.
The sad part is that we are ignoring what God has freely given to us as gifts in the pursuit of what seems to be the ‘in thing.’ It’s all about image, a fake one at that, too. Indeed, it’s a mindset, an attitude.
It’s about changing our perception of ourselves, learning to value ourselves by valuing the simple gifts we have.
In some cases, some of us have let ourselves go because maybe we don’t see too much value in ourselves; somewhere, somehow we’ve lost pride in our appearances and eventually our health.
The point is that if we want a healthier Samoa, the change has to come from within. It is about changing mindsets, reversing bad habits and telling ourselves that what we have here in Samoa is perfectly fine for us.
The irony is that most of us are aware of it. But now we need to walk the talk. We need to translate what we know into action.
At the end of the day, it’s about the joy of finding ourselves again, as a people, bringing that pride back in the way we look and the way we feel and the simple food that God blessed us with.
Lastly, many people make a big deal about going to the gym and taking up the latest fad in fitness training and so forth. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good to be active and train hard. But for some of us, a good start will be to conquer that fork and spoon first. Learn to say no to obesity and say yes to a healthy lifestyle that incorporates a good balance of healthy eating and daily exercises.
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!