BUILDING HEALTHY HABITS
My name is Sharon Ogugu, I am a health and nutrition coach and the founder and lead nutrition and health (basic health education) consultant at START. Our Tag line at START is using healthy habits.
When growing up, most of the families I visited would usually serve meat/ beef stew for visitors but our family would stick to chapati, matoke, ugali, managu, and stuff like that. I knew that we eat differently because we’re Adventist. We used to eat a lot of beans. My grandfather only ate traditional foods; I remember my grandmother making me soya and I learnt how to cook from her and my mother. I love cooking and I became very passionate about cooking and writing when I was about 14yrs old.
When I was 18, I was done with high school. I’d always wanted to do something with biology and English though I wasn’t sure what. I didn’t do really well in languages and biology, so I had to revise my choices as I wasn’t ready to go to medical school, because I didn’t make the grade for it. At that time, I thought I had failed and I decided to just read. MY mum and I, together with my late grandfather we are readers and we have a collection of books at our place. Inspired by the fact that my grandfather had always told me that I’d be a doctor, I started to read this book by Dr. Pamplona-Roger called ‘Food That Heals’. It was basically a book that talks about healing properties of food which I found very fascinating because I always thought of food as good and healthy.
There were a lot of whom influences around the choices I made towards what I was to study and I remember choosing nutrition when I revised my options. It was fantastic learning about nutrition; the nutrients in food and nutrient deficiency exedra. I got to learn in my third years that health policy had been in existence for thirty years but had not been implemented. It was shocking to me that the solution to food security had been in existence in my country for thirty years but we still had the same problems. I went to the library and studied more and I was wondering why the western countries were implementing the policies written by Kenyans but we Kenyans had never implemented them. I was very unhappy for a period of time; I didn’t attend my classes and I went into a micro depression. I felt like I had done a wrong course but I could not start over because I was in third year second semester. I got to fourth year and I decided to keep trying. The good thing is, because I did food nutrition and dietetics, I also got to do other courses like community development and public health as a unit. Those were eye openers. I remember the ones that I enjoyed had to do with community work.
I went for my first attachment at Kenyatta hospital and I hated it. I hated that we had to recommend things that were prescribed a certain way; this amount of feed for this period of time and I felt like it wasn’t a long-term solution. In 2008 I started volunteering in Kajiado Adventist Rescue and Rehabilitation center and I was teaching the girls English. I’m still a volunteer there up to date and the 15 girls that we first met there are now married with children, some are in the colleges and while others are running small businesses.
As it happens with many people who graduates, you have this big believe to change the world, and I remember when I did my final attachment, I refused to do it in Nairobi. I wanted to do it in a local community. Since I had volunteered in Kajiado, I decided to do it there. I went to Kajiado district hospital and I loved it; I loved that patients would talk to you about their food history. I t was more relaxed and not as structured. The solutions were more relatable and the food was nicely served; Life was just slower. I got to do some community work back in the villages and l went to places like 70km off the road. I got to meet these little children who needed to be dewormed and vaccinated, the little girls who gotten pregnant early and I realized that there was something that I was able to do differently regarding food and nutrition
One thing that changed the way I viewed nutrition was, I started getting people asking me questions about nutrition. My first job was a receptionist but I did more of marketing, client relation and I was dissatisfied. I stayed there for one year and got another job elsewhere where I was selling furnished items and doing marketing too. I kept hearing the same feedback from the people and people asking me why I didn’t do nutrition because I had all the answers regarding food health, nutrition and lifestyle diseases. I always had information to give and people thought I was smart and was underrating myself for not doing nutrition. I think this is a lesson for anyone who has done a degree and they think that I have failed just because I didn’t get my dream job right after graduation. I tell them that the world is not wish a granting factory’, a line from the book ‘the faults in our stars’ you have to make the most of these circumstances. The first job you get use it to step to the world and then go up the ladder.
I got my last job in 2016 and it was at Weslock company. I enjoyed working there though it was challenging at the beginning, but I still felt very dissatisfied. I had started doing my own research about health as I had struggled with my own health. When I was 18, I was fat, I got some comments about it and it crushed my self-esteem. I started eating less fries while eating more vegetables being inspired by the book ‘Food that Heals’. I lost 9kg in walking and eating right in three months and I have never regained it. I started feeling like I had more energy and also, I felt good about myself. The other comment I got from people was that I don’t seem to get old, I run into friends I hadn’t seen for 10 or five years and they wonder how I’m still looking the same.
In 2018 I finally decided that I will go after my dream and start my business in food health and nutrition. I decide not to register it at first but to try it for one year and if I failed I was to go back to employment. It’s been three years since I started my company. it was simple nutrition back then but now its START Building healthy habits. What it focuses on is food, how you eat, how much you eat, what kind of food you eat. Basically going back to the original African cuisines like Kunde, Managu, terere, mshisha, and the simpler life we had back then.
Today we find that so many things have changed. I have been at the hospital where I saw a child as young as four years old having diabetes, conditions that used to get people in their sixties. I have heard friends who have developed blood pressure in their twenties and people who have had high cholesterol in their twenties. Research shows that this is because of the western culture that we, Africans, have adopted. I learnt from this medical missionary from US called Dr. Jackson that genetics load the gun; lifestyle pull the trigger. I have very bad genes myself, people from my dad’s side have heart issues and from my mum’s side have high blood pressure, type II diabetes, my grandma had stroke at sixty and these are very close relations.
Through my research, I have found that eating right i.e. plant based foods, exercising daily, drinking 8glasse of water a day, getting enough sunlight, breathing fresh air, having 8-9hours of sleep are basically the ways to keeping healthy. These are the simple guidelines that we use at START.
START Healthy habits focuses on where you are right now and where you want to be, though it might take you a long way to be where you were before and you might never reverse your disease but you can try. We also have program for kids, engaging kids in cooking healthy food and letting the kids have a wonderfully time while cooking; making the food beautifully, tasty and fun.
I usually do one on one training with my clients and but due to covid 19 I’m unable to meet them physically so we do online coaching. We’ve recently added mental health and this is when I feel like your food issues goes deeper than what I can manage then I refer you to a specialist that I have worked with before.