SA’s obesity crisis: How do South Africans eat?

South Africa has been declared “the third-fattest nation in the world” with the highest overweight and obesity incidence in sub-Saharan Africa. As a developing country with a high levels of poverty, the obesity rates are baffling. A study in the Lancet medical journal shows that increased urbanisation has led to more fast food and a less active lifestyle. At the same time, being overweight is also associated with wealth and success, particularly among the country’s poor black population. RA’EESA PATHER asked Capetonians about their eating habits and lifestyle.

Anray AmansureAnray Amansure, 23, drama student, Mitchell’s Plain
I had a banana and yoghurt and a bran muffin for breakfast. I had a salad for lunch,  and then I had rice cakes and a guava. Oh, and water obviously. I do cardio and weights. For my career it’s important; to have a sustained career you need to look good and be healthy. I also don’t want to have heart problems and high blood. A lot of people think that eating healthy is expensive, but really, it’s not that expensive, it’s just cutting down on certain things. I know some people are overweight because they have health issues that stop them from losing, but sometimes I see overweight people at fast food places and I think, why are you doing this to yourself?

Achmat JordaanAchmat Jordaan, 31, parking guard, homeless
I’ve eaten nothing today. It’s all about money these days, If you have money you can buy stuff that you need. If you don’t have money, you can’t live on. That’s how it goes here in Cape Town. If I see someone overweight, I think they must actually take a sport to lose weight. The way you eat is possibly linked to how much money you have, like I said, if you have money you can buy anything you like. I would at least buy a milk and a dry bread to make me full.

Naz AltensteadeNaz Altensteade, 41, grant specialist, Woodstock
I’ve eaten veggies and some chicken strips. I haven’t had any health issues, I try to eat my veggies every day. I don’t exercise. It worries me a bit for my health, but I just don’t like exercise. The way we eat is connected to the way we live and our social backgrounds. The way we live nowadays, everything is a rush, so people go for takeaway. It’s the easy way out. They don’t prefer to cook anymore. We see it every day – when you go to the takeaway it’s full at lunch times. Less people bring their own lunch to work; that’s one of the biggest things.

Vusi MtshashaVusi Mtshasha, 30, security guard, Philippi
I ate bread and polony with Fanta today. I exercise, I do push-ups and stuff. I have my own equipment at home. I eat vegetables to stay healthy. When I see someone who’s overweight I start thinking about exercise. I think if you have a lot of money you can buy more food, but being big doesn’t make you rich.

Raine FirbainRaine Firbain, 28, administrator, Strand
Basically, I ate healthy today. I ate All Bran Flakes for breakfast, then I had fruit as snacks in between, and then for lunch I just had some rye crackers with cream cheese. I just had water and coffee to drink. I exercise, I just came back from the gym now. I do weight training and cardio. I don’t have health concerns because I stay quite healthy. I think food in South Africa is linked to social status, because that’s what we do for fun: eat out. Some people are overweight because of their health, maybe. It’s not always eating habits. It differs from person to person. I eat fast foods, I have it now and then, like weekends, but I won’t have it all the time.

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