Cake Can Be Healthy, Too
It is hard to live a healthy lifestyle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is especially difficult to be healthy when living in Palestine due to the limited resources and health education. However, it is important to have a clear understanding of how to stop health problems before they start. For the past 6 weeks, as a part of the Women’s Empowerment Programs at TYO, the women of Nablus have been learning about fitness and nutrition. One major preventable health risk is Type 2 diabetes. Prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in Palestinian in 2000 was estimated at 9.7% for those ages 25 and up. This increased to 15.3% by 2010. At this rate of increase by 2020 the rate of Palestinians with Type 2 diabetes will be at 20.8%. With these numbers, health initiatives focusing on healthy eating and exercise need to be taken to help the people of the West Bank. There is no culture without food. Food functions as a way to give structure to daily life and is a medium that creates bonds between people. It is customary to offer soda, cake, and juice to guests when they are invited to a home. It is also considered rude to not try all these foods when the host offers them. Therefore, these types of high calorie, low nutrient foods are always available in the home. The food that is bought and stored in the home also shows children at a young age that these foods are acceptable to eat. This results in a cycle of consuming unhealthy, sugary foods.
At the beginning of the session, each woman’s weight and waist circumference were calculated to gauge their baseline measurements. Over the past 6 weeks, the women have learned how their bodies store and metabolize food and have started to understand the science of nutrition. They have learned exercise routines that they can continue in their homes and have been encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle. The women have started offering more fruits, nuts, and fresh squeezed juice in their homes. After learning that eating healthy food can be good for you and taste great, the women have been looking up recipes for healthy cake options. As a result of these small changes, 40-50% of the women have successfully achieved a healthy goal of 2 cm smaller waistlines and on average a 2-3 kilo decrease in weight.
The exercises and diet changes that the women have been involved in during this session have created a positive track towards a healthier lifestyle. We hope this positive growth is the first step toward preventative health care within the community.
Dana, Zahi Khouri Fellow, Spring 2016