A few weekends ago, while attending a friend’s label launch, I overheard her compliment one of her other guests about how good she looked and how much weight she had lost. My attention was piqued, especially as I am still in a perpetual struggle with my own weight. My interest was heightened further when another mutual friend told me the lady in question had also gone to Unilag, but I probably didn’t recognise her because she was now half her former size. At this point, I just had to chat with her. Before long, she was surrounded by a number of us, all interested in finding out how she had been able to lose the weight…and keep it off. And when I heard she focuses on a lot of the superfoods we know are great for fertility, I was completely sold! A few days later, Kemi met up with her, and we got to know even more about the lovely lady, Temi Awoyemi.
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Temitope Awoyemi, the founder of SDfinefoods now in Nigeria. I was previously living in the UK for a couple of years, before I decided to come back home to be closer to family and friends.
I studied Philosophy in the University of Lagos, and whilst in the UK, I did some project management courses in software testing, did a course on working with children with mental issues and learning disabilities. I was able to do all that within the time I was there.
I’m actually a lover of fine food. Having lived in the UK for some time, I have returned home to introduce healthy food to our people. I’m not a nutritionist or a weight loss coach, I’m just here to encourage and motivate people to eat healthier, by bringing in foods and snacks that they already know and others that they might not be aware of.
To also make people realise eating healthy is about incorporating everything into your diet and not shying away from some foods, because some people are like, “I don’t eat this, I don’t eat that,” as long as you are aware of what you are putting in your body, you should be fine
What started my brand was due to my inability to get most of the things I was eating and using back in the UK. So I thought it would be a good business opportunity to be able to introduce these things to the market in Nigeria, for them to become available to people who want to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
That was the main reason behind this brand, to be able to offer more variety, especially for snacks, because I was struggling with getting snacks that were healthy and low in calories. I struggled to get supplements that I liked, that I was used to, so I just felt there was a need in the Nigerian market and that was what motivated me to start SD’s Fine Foods in Nigeria.
What motivated you to start a healthy lifestyle journey?
I had always been overweight. Yes, I would say overweight. I have never been the slimmest person, from when I was a baby. Everyone around me, my sisters, everyone was slim, but I was never a size 8 or 10, I was always a size 16, 18. I would lose the weight, crash diet, lose the weight and then I would put it back on. I just realised it wasn’t working long term for me. It could happen for like three months and I would go back to old ways.
It got to a point I said, something had to give, that I had to find a plan that worked for me and stick with it. The turning point was when I realised I needed to learn how to eat well and not look for crash diets and short term weight loss goals, but long term weight loss goal and importantly, how I would maintain it. Losing the weight wasn’t the problem, I could crash diet, lose the weight and keep it off for like 3-4 months and then, I was back. It was like a vicious cycle.
Even health-wise, it wasn’t good. It was what you would call a yo-yo diet.
I think, the turning point came when I went to see the nurse at my GP’s office and she told I had put on too much weight within six months and I had to do something about it. That prompted me to read up more about nutrition and how to lose weight and how to keep it off.
I started to learn more about nutrition, followed people who were health conscious, looked at how they did things. I learnt about eating good food, cutting off sugar, and eating more salads
What motivated you to start your healthy food business?
What motivated me was the reactions of friends and family, who wondered and asked questions about what I had done to get to where I was. People wanted to know how to lose weight and keep it that way. I have maintained this weight loss for the past two years. They wanted to know how I had done it, and to me, that was a project, especially as I had done project management. I was very happy giving people tips and all. I saw a nutritionist when I started and the diet plan I got I shared with people. They got results, as they were still able to eat everything they wanted. I’m still able to indulge in little things like cakes and chocolate and not feel guilty. I was able to develop a healthy relationship with food, instead of the other way around, when I just saw food as the enemy, when I had to avoid this, or I had to avoid that. It was people not being aware of what to eat and how much to eat that motivated me to start the healthy food business.
It made me introduce supplements and things that were helping me and really working for me, and I believe worked for a couple of people I had recommended them to.
What kind of feedback have you gotten since you started your business?
It is mostly about how people are enjoying the products we have to offer. Like “I use this for my smoothies and I have more stamina”. Take Maca powder for instance, I used to take it for strength, energy and stamina. I would put it in my smoothie in the morning and trust me, I would have enough energy to complete my work-out for an hour, an hour and a half.
To now discover Maca is also good for fertility was really good to know. I knew it was good for every other thing, an aphrodisiac, enhanced sexual performance and such, but not fertility. So, it’s a good thing to know.
And then the green teas, which I drink a lot of daily, and it’s a good one that’s get reaction from people. One other feedback I get is about my skin. “Your skin is glowing”, “You don’t look your age”, are some of the compliments that I get. And that really helps a lot, when I introduce these products to people. They in turn ask me if they could use certain supplements and such. It made me realise it was a business I should tap in to, since people now felt I had some expertise in this area.
How easy is it to source for healthy foods and snacks locally?
This is a very tricky one. For Nigeria, it is very expensive…and this is my own personal opinion, I don’t get it easily, except in big stores and when you get there, often times they have frozen options and I don’t do frozen, definitely not frozen asparagus or frozen broccoli, except maybe frozen berries, which I can put in my smoothies.
The affordability and availability is a real issue and can be a hindrance in embracing the healthy lifestyle. And when you do get it, you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. For instance, in the UK, there are more organic healthy foods, with less chemicals. I embraced the organic options, even though they are more expensive. I think it helped with my skin and maybe, it was just for me, but I liked the fact that I wasn’t just putting all these chemicals in me.
Sourcing for these products in Nigeria is a tough task, even down to popcorn. The popcorn I could find was always high in calories, with lots of butter, sugar and such. I knew there were better options that had been produced with lower calories, free from chemicals and pesticides, and when you eat them, you don’t feel guilty.
I know we are meant to build the Naira and such, but it doesn’t help the healthy lifestyle. We have limited options in vegetables, even broccoli which we get, even when you get it fresh, is very expensive.
From your experience, when is that point when you know you just have to lose the weight?
When it is a risk to your health, when people are telling you that you need to do something about your weight, when you take a few steps and you are out of breath. To me, when your weight starts to put your health at risk, then you have to do something about it.
What was your weight before the journey?
I was a size 16 but would fit into a size 18 easily, when the alarm went off. For my height, it wasn’t good at all; because I was always out of breath. Running for buses in the mornings was hectic. I would literally have to catch my breath for minutes after I got on the bus.
I knew it was affecting my lifestyle and health, because I was having constant headaches, which I chose to overlook.
How has losing as much weight as you have affected your self-image?
It has helped a lot. Now, I’m a more confident person and I did it all by myself. I also know what it entails to lose the weight and keep it off. It feels good to be able to put on my clothes, my jeans and they fit me properly. The thing it does to your self-image is unbelievable. You can walk into a room and feel like, “Ya, I own this room.” I know I look good and I know I did it the right way. I did not crash diet. You know when you crash diet and your skin just looks gaunt, but I embraced eating healthy and exercising. It actually made me feel good about myself and what I could do on my own regarding weight loss. The fact that I could maintain the weight loss till now has really helped my self-confidence and self-image. And now that I’m able to talk to people about it has also helped. I’m no nutritionist but I can give you tips because I practice, what I preach. The products I sell are all what I use. That is one of the cardinal mottos of my brand, I would never sell what I don’t use to other people.
For me, the healthy lifestyle is about having a bit of everything but knowing when to stop.
What are your thoughts on diets?
I think diets are just fads. I know everyone is on a diet and it’s like it changes every day, today, “I’m on paleo diet, the next day, it’s the cabbage soup diet.” and that just shows how confused they are about what diet they are on.
Diets have been overused and abused. For me, in the long run, diets don’t work. I used to diet, I mean crash diet, and it did not work for me. It just made things worse.
I think diets should be turned into a healthy lifestyle.
What should be the ideal relationship with food?
The ideal relationship with food is you should enjoy food. See food as your medicine, something to be enjoyed and not as a tool for when you are anxious or frustrated. It is ideal to see food as fuel for the body, as something to enjoy and not beat yourself up over, even if in a day. If you did not do as well as you would like, don’t beat yourself up over it, just ensure you try to undo the mistake of the past day.
Once, you have that relationship with food, it’s easier, and it was what worked for me. I learnt to eat in small portions, and to eat sensibly. It pays to be aware of the amount of calories you are putting in your body. If you go to the supermarket, try to read labels. Don’t be scared of fats, just know the bad and the good fats. Try to eat foods that are organic; like coconut oil, avocado oil. Try to eat more vegetables. It is the bane of everyone’s diets. We all need to eat more vegetables in different colours. Fruits are fine, but vegetables are a must.
Again salads are a nice inclusion in one’s diet and they shouldn’t be boring. I never used to like salads; I just didn’t want to know what was inside salads. But now I make it all nice and colourful and you enjoy every forkful you put in your mouth.
The best thing with me was my portion control. I used to want to eat a whole plate of food but now, I know that I could have a small portion and enjoy it. You don’t need a big bowl of food. And if you are going to have a big bowl of food, make sure it is filled with more salads and little carb. I can tell you that I’m happy with the way I eat my food now and enjoy it. It is part of me now. I would have oats, oily fish, like salmon or sardine, and eggs as well.
What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food?
The first thing is when you start starving yourself. When you think, “I need to lose this weight and the first thing to do is starve myself.” When you just become very anorexic or bulimic, because you feel you are not supposed to have it. It is an extremely unhealthy relationship with food.
The other is “I’m stressed and I’m just going to let food comfort me.” “I’m not feeling happy today and I will make myself happy with food.” “I will have this ice cream and biscuits.” “Someone makes me angry today, and I will just reach for the next bag of chips.”
These are all signs of a very unhealthy relationship with food. Food shouldn’t be used to make you feel good. It should be enjoyed and used for the right purpose; fuel for your body. If you are basing your food choices on how you are feeling, you are abusing food.
Are there any triggers for when someone is slipping into an unhealthy relationship with food?
That is hard to pinpoint. Sometimes, it might be a case of this person is overweight. Unexplained weight gain is one way you can determine there is something wrong with someone’s diet. From my experience, there was a time I would have lots of ice cream in my fridge, biscuits and sweet treats, in fact it was like a supermarket in my fridge then. When my brothers checked up on me and noted that I was gaining weight, I would just hide these things away from them. They didn’t know how bad it was. Again, I hid from people. The number of people who saw me when I was big were limited. If you invited me to your party, I would not show up, for fear of people saying, “You are so big. What are you eating? And you’re not even married o.”
I even used to wear clothes that were sizes smaller, just because I wanted to continue living in denial. I didn’t embrace my weight at all. I see big girls and they looked good but I never embraced by weight gain.
What changes do you think help to achieve a healthy food relationship?
The first thing for me was I changed the way I thought about food and what I was using food for, instead of what it was ideally meant for.
I also learnt how to make sensible choices. Even when I went to the supermarket, I knew the aisles I needed to avoid, because they were temptation for me and I did not want to slip back into my old ways. For me, biscuits were one of my weak points, so I avoided the aisle. I did that when I first started, and when I knew I was at a place where I had control over what I put in my body and had no regrets, I was able to pick and choose and plan my meals, which was a major one for me. I got to do a list of what I was going to have for that week, getting my Tupperware and shopped for what I needed, and prepared my meals for one week. I cut up my salads in bowls and when I come back from work, tired after that long train journey, starting to prepare food was just like a no-no. Having prepared ahead helped a lot, as I just picked it from the fridge, instead of slipping back into my old ways.
I also started reading the labels and became more conscious of what I was putting in my body.
“Be prepared” is one of my mottos. You can’t say ‘I’m having salads today’ and not be prepared. You have to have it handy. From what I will eat at lunch to healthy snacks in my desk, you just have to be always prepared, if you don’t want to fail.
I also learnt not to buy things that would tempt me at home. I could do cakes once in a while but it will not be a regular thing.
Prepare, shopping and if it is easier to shop online, to avoid the temptation of what you are going to see if you go to a regular store where you might buy things you don’t have the will power to stop yourself from eating, then do so. You need a lot of will power and lots of determination to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
As said earlier, prep ahead. Have lots of bowls. You can make your smoothies ahead. Always be prepared, ditch the diets, aim instead for long term goals. Aim for things that are sustainable, not fads. Aim for like 8 weeks, something you do for that long should become a part of you.
Why do most people find it easy to eat junk food?
Junk food is cheaper, it’s everywhere and it is more affordable. I think that’s why. It just you feel happy. Junk food is like drugs, it makes you feel high, it’s like an addiction. You have some and you go, “That makes me feel good.”
Even when you know it’s bad for you, you just don’t have the self-control to stop. In my bad days, I would go to McDonalds and there was me with my double mac burger and large milk shake. It was as though I was on a suicide mission. The things I was eating at that time were so detrimental to my health but I found it hard to stop. Honestly, when you walk into McDonalds, you see the biggest people in there and we were all stuffing our faces with food.
What does it take to transition from eating junk food to going the healthy lifestyle route?
It takes you deciding to stop and a lot of self will. It takes you recognising that where you are at is bad and you need to change. No one can do that for you. I can pep-talk you, I can give tips but if you are not willing, there is nothing to be done.
You just need to get to that point, where you need to decide which lifestyle works for you, which gives you more energy, which is better for your health. Most of the diseases we have now are as a result of the junk food we eat, from diabetes to high blood pressure.
When you weigh the pros and cons of eating healthy versus eating junk food, how healthy you become, how your skin glows, and the self confidence that comes with the weight loss and being able to fit into clothes you found difficult to wear previously, is enough encouragement for anyone try the healthy lifestyle.
I’m a strong advocate of a healthy lifestyle, I have done both and know which is better.
How do some of these healthy food alternatives affects one’s fertility?
Health is wealth and you are what you eat. For me, when it comes to fertility, it’s important to be getting all your vitamins. You need to have all your supplements in your system. Before you start trying, it is advised that you get enough of your folic acids.
You need to start looking for natural sources of folic acid and you get that from vegetables, fruits and the things you put into it. So, I think generally, we are what we eat. If you are trying for a baby and filling yourself up with junk food, I guess you are already shooting yourself in the foot. But if you know you are trying for a baby, then you know that spinach, which is high in folic acid, is good for you and eat more of vitamins and minerals. You know you are doing all you can on your part to ensure that the baby happens. Especially for a healthy baby, you need to eat right, as it is not all about you now.
For your partner a well, you need to get them to eat what you are eating; you need high quality sperm for conception purposes.
I like the fact that whenever Victoria Beckham is trying for a baby, she ups her vegetable intake. She eats more of broccoli, spinach and kale. Yes, kale is said to be very bitter, but the alternative is kale powder. Even I find it hard to take, unless I infuse it with honey and such. We have kale crisp, which you can use in your salads. It hides the taste of kale. Because of how good it is, I put it in my smoothies.
For women trying for babies, I think we need to take a look at our nutrition. Try to eat organic if you can, and I know that is hard in Nigeria. Even the beans we are eating here has been banned abroad because of the level of chemicals and pesticides they contain. Maybe it has now been revoked, but Nigerian beans had the highest level of chemicals and pesticides when tested.
Although there are few organic products available in Nigeria, they are worth it.
Could you give insights into how foods like Maca, Pomegranate, Cinnamon and others you may know boost conceptions chances?
I discovered that the people where maca originated from were using it mainly for fertility reasons. They call them the Andes tribe in South America. They were very fertile people. Researchers and scientists took interest and discovered they were very fertile people. So now, people know that if you want to get pregnant, then you need to up your intake of maca. The quality of the eggs is as important as the quality of the sperm. It takes two to tango.
You know for us women in Nigeria, we are often blamed for infertility but it is not always the case. There are some things that men need to do too.
Maca is a nutrient dense food, and enriches the sperm of the man. It’s so great that there is something that works for both male and female.
If he doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, you can sneak it into his food. He doesn’t need to know. LOL! This is a way of helping your purpose.
Pomegranate is something that I use in my smoothies. It’s one of the super foods. Generally, it is good to take nutrient-rich food when one is trying for a baby, and during pregnancy.
Cinnamon is something I have in my porridge every morning, because it stabilises the blood sugar for me. It suppresses MY appetite. It’s a spice that is good for everyday use.
Another super food is turmeric. This is one superfood everyone should use. Every day, they keep finding new uses, new benefits of turmeric. Others are wheatgrass, beetroot powder, all of which we stock. A spoonful of these in your smoothies every morning is like you safeguarding your body and health.
Some parting words of advice.
Embrace a healthy lifestyle. Say no to fads, say no to diets. Diets shouldn’t even exist in anyone’s dictionary. We need to start talking about a healthy lifestyle. And we need to get over our love for carbs in this society of ours and start embracing healthier options.
Embrace that which is good for you in the long run. Snack, eat right, just be sensible about it. Just do you, and as you go along, things will fall into place.
© The Fertile Chick