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Eat Better South Africa and The Noakes Foundation Celebrate 13th successful LCHF programme: assessed by UCT research team

On the 5th of October we celebrated the end of one of our six-week programmes in Ocean View, Cape Town. Over the past four years, we have had the honour and privilege to work with inspiring communities across SA who are not only changing their lives, but who are passionate about changing their families lives and their communities. Our work in serving these communities is focused on changing and bettering lifestyles through nutritional education and generating an understanding about how eating habits, and the consumption of certain products, play a role in our quality of life and health.

Over the past six weeks, a group of 32 women from Ocean View took part in our 13th educational programme, with the aim to educate and empower themselves to make healthier food and lifestyle choices through dietary education, meal and budget planning, and general nutritional awareness. During this programme, many of the women experienced positive changes in their health. The closing event this weekend was to celebrate and acknowledge their inspiring progress! Euodia Samson, one of the original facilitators of the first programme in Ocean View in 2015 was MC of the event. This programme was different in that it was our first ethics approved, independently assessed programme, via our research team at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“This mixed-method pilot study will evaluate the Eat Better SA programme quantitatively, by measuring participants’ diet and health, and qualitatively by interviewing them about their lived experiences with taking part,” says Dr James Smith, a researcher at UCT.

Even though our programme is aimed at improving health, the ripple effect of real, long-lasting change is far-reaching. In the words of Professor Tim Noakes who attended our closing ceremony, “when people become healthier, their lives improve: crime goes down and people’s lives change”. We should all be getting behind an initiative that sets out to achieve results on a such a scale.

“We teach people how to eat according to a budget of R30-R40 a day. Our communities are telling us that this is achievable because some have stayed low carb for over 4 years since our very first group,” says Dr Hassina Kajee, specialist physician overseeing the medical teamand patients on this programme.

Some of the women who took part in the programme shared the results and impact they have experienced so far. The most important part about this initiative is seeing how the participants take complete ownership of what they are taught and truly make it a lifestyle change. The success of this programme is based on how the participants can implement what they have learnt into their daily lives and this group has achieved this far beyond what we could have imagined.

Hearing stories of people who have put in the work and have taken our teachings and health facilitators to the next level is a true indicator of change. Diabetes expert and MD, Dr Neville Wellington, shared a heartfelt statement when he said “hearing [the women’s stories] will change government policy”. This is a marker of change in the community and South Africa as a nation.

Closing the event, foundation COO Jayne Bullen, left us with encouragement when she urged the participants to find a way to honour the road they have just walked, this left us thinking about what we can do in our everyday life to make sure we can commit to this change that has us feeling empowered, stronger and healthier in just six weeks. Lastly, we should all be owners of what is available for us to eat and work at improving this – we need to question the options we have available to us and we should be questioning why there are so few healthy alternatives. ‘We have to be courageous in our questions to all levels of society that are telling us that if we are from a previously under-served community, we do not deserve quality foods for ourselves and our children, which in reality means a better future for our country and communities. Good quality food should not be a luxury of the wealthy in our country!’

Some context in our current medical system as noted by Dr Hassina Kajee 

In our current medical system and training of medical students, the first step in managing a patient with borderline hypertension or prediabetes is ‘lifestyle modification’. Here the doctor will tell the patient two things: 1) lose weight 2) exercise.

Never before in all my training or experience have I had a patient come back and NOT need pills because they have somehow managed to lose weight by changing their lifestyle. There is no ‘lifestyle modification team’ that we can refer our patients to in our government hospitals.

This is why we founded Eat Better South Africa. Under the umbrella of The Noakes Foundation and supported by Professor Tim Noakes’ dedication towards improving health in our communities, we are committed to partnering with communities and creating Lifestyle Modification Teams tailor-made for different communities.

As a physician, I was trained for years on HOW to prescribe medication. Now, I never get tired of DE-prescribing medication. I never tire of meeting people elated to be relieved from arthritis for the first time in decades. I never tire of seeing hypertensive patients reduce and remove medication, of diabetics managing their disease with diet without needing a pill, of HBA1C’s UNDER 5 without pills or insulin – just a strict low carbohydrate diet. Our communities are telling us that this is achievable because some have stayed low carb for over 4 years since our very first intervention.

This is growth. This to me is the oath I took to ‘first do no harm’.

A big thank you to our affiliates, Gracious BakersBanting Blvd.Keto NutritionNutriseed and LowCarb4Life for generously donating towards this event. If you would like to learn more about our affiliate programme, contact us at jana@thenoakesfoundation.org

By Jana Retief