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Spotlight on Uduak Oduok

Uduak Oduok, Editor-in-Chief of LadyBrille magazine, is recognized as a brilliant visionary, especially on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, Uduak Oduok’s experience (over 17years) runs deep and diverse encompassing the disciplines of law, media, publishing, fashion, modeling, music, branding and public relations.

The founder of Ladybrille Media Group, Inc. whose insight and analysis is regularly sought, Uduak is also an attorney, fashion model and journalist. She is often quoted and has authored numerous published articles in national and international magazines and newspapers.

Uduak also has a passion for entrepreneurship and has consulted and conducted seminars on entrepreneur topics with many small and medium size businesses. She is also often invited to speak to numerous organizations and has spoken at many including SXSW, Jack & Jill of America, Inc., Nollywood Foundation Inc., San Joaquin County Honor Farm Jail Program, San Francisco Fashion Week, and Delta College. Uduak has also been a radio legal commentator on New York’s 99.5FM WBAI and 107.5FM WBLS.

Ewellafrica: What is your wellness philosophy?
Uduak: Live life simply. Live well, love much, laugh often.

Ewellafrica: Can you describe your daily fitness routine, if any?
Uduak: I try to exercise at a minimum, three times a week. In the past, it was 5-6times a week. My main routine involves stretches, dance, at least three times a week and weight lifting; working on my lower and/or upper body covering a range of muscles to maintain optimal health. I take yoga classes, shoot hoops (basket-ball) and play basket-ball games periodically as I am slowly making my way to the fitness level I use to have.

Ewellafrica: Do you follow any particular diet or are there general rules you live by?
Uduak: Yes I do have a diet. I now eat mainly alkaline and/fiber rich foods because that is what makes my body VERY happy and well behaved. This means 95% of my meals are mostly vegetarian. I eat lots of vegetables, fruits, brown rice, lentil beans, sweet potatoes etc. and I drink lots of water. When I am out and about i.e. meeting friends for lunch, dinner, at a conference or meeting, I will eat meat.

Ewellafrica: Do you believe in the body-mind-soul connection? Do you have any examples of a time when someone’s emotional or spiritual state appeared to affect their physical health?
Uduak: Absolutely, I do believe in the mind-body-soul connection based on research and personal experience. For me personally, being in a state of mind where I was always “on” i.e. always on the go and busy I believe affected both my physical and spiritual well being which was a contributing factor to me falling quite ill in mid-2007. I was definitely not as tuned in to living life simply, even though I understood the principles. My body rewarded me with poor health forcing me to return to the basics i.e. the NEW START principle, N=Nutrition E=Exercise W=Water S= Sunlight T=Temperance A= Air R= Rest T= Trust in Divine Power.

Ewellafrica: Do you use any professional consultants? i.e trainers, nutrionists, therapists?
Uduak: No I don’t. My family background, the many nutrition courses I have taken and my experience as an ex-certified personal trainer, for five years, is all I need and apply in my life right now.

My mom studied nutrition in the USA back in the 70s and when she had me and my siblings, she really integrated a lot of the health principles in our lives. In Nigeria, we had a garden that my mom had us involved in planting tomatoes and corn, among other vegetables. We were able to eat directly from our garden. When my siblings and I accompanied my mom to the markets in Lagos, she always returned with loads of green vegetables used to make healthy soups from the state my family hails from in Nigeria called Akwa-Ibom. She made soups such as Edikaikong, Atama, Afang all of which were highly nutritious meals packed with essential vitamins and minerals. A favorite meal she made of mine was Ekpan Kukwo which also included a lot of green vegetables (minerals and vitamins) smoked fish (protein) and yam/coco-yam(complex carbohydrates). I miss that dish. It has been almost two decades since I last ate it!

For the most part, even if my mom didn’t have money for school fees or rent, there was almost always an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables in our home: oranges, mangos, carrots, corn, agbalumo (my favorite fruit in Nigeria), bananas, pineapples, among many fruits. When we ate these foods, my mom would actually tell us the nutrients in the food, especially where we didn’t finish our meals and she was trying to get us to. “Eat. It’s good for you. It has vitamin C and will help make your body strong,” was an example of what my mom would say with oranges, for example. Or with plantains, which I LOVE by the way, it was, “Eat. It has a lot of potassium and is good for you.” (Laughs) It’s funny now that I think about it that she did that.

Still my fondest childhood health memories are from those experiences with my mom, including exercising. In the evenings, my mom would often take my siblings and I walking. She would do some jumping jacks, stretches and of course we just watched and emulated her. (Laughs) As a child from that kind of lifestyle, it planted an interest in nutrition and fitness at an early age. My interest became further strengthened in my early teens with my lifestyle as a Seventh Day Adventist (Christian denomination distinct by its observance of Saturday as a day of worship and its health/nutrition message) and later my job as a certified personal trainer for five years at 24 Hour Fitness. From college into law school and later as a practicing attorney (which I began as a health law attorney), I maintained a job, just as a hobby, as a certified personal trainer with a large fitness gym helping athletes and non-athletes achieve optimum physical fitness. I continue to incorporate a lot of the health and wellness principles into my life.

Ewellafrica. What do you feel Nigeria’s biggest health concern is?
Uduak: I believe we are what we eat. So I’d have to say nutrition (both malnutrition and overnutrition). Our cure is in the foods we eat and we have to start there lest we become a society that throws drugs at our issues rather than address the underlying problems.

Both for Nigeria and the rest of Africa, nutrition hasn’t really received the kind of attention it deserves partly because the discourse and monies invested has been, overwhelmingly, on infectious diseases i.e. HIV etc. We should also, however, be concerned about non-infectious diseases. Indeed recent studies by The World Health Organization and similarly situated organizations reports an increase in “lifestyle” health issues like diabetes, stroke and hypertension in Africa. As we see certain nations including Nigeria become fully industrialized, expect to see even higher increases.

By the way, most are familiar with malnutrition prevalent among the poor in Africa but not overnutrition so let me underscore it. Overnutrition is having excess nutrients that are required for the body. The result can be obesity, diabetes and hypertension, among other health issues. In my personal observation both as a child, in hindsight, and currently as an adult, overnutrition seems prevalent among the wealthy.

For example, among the wealthy, there is a culture that encourages children to be quite inactive, from the time they wake up, eat breakfast and are chauffeured back and forth to school. Maids, not children, perform basic house chores that children of age should i.e. wash plates, sweep, make their beds, clean their rooms etc. Grade and high schools also do not seem to emphasize Physical education. So, children of the wealthy remain largely inactive whether in school or at home even though they consume very high caloric intake with diets that are high on fats, sugars (sodas have a become a substitute for water) and overall high cholesterol. The results, expectedly, is weight gain. Unfortunately, the mentality is, the “fatter” you and your children are, the higher the probability that you are very affluent. It is a harmful mentality to the health of our children born into affluent homes.

The inactivity extends to adults, in my personal observation. From an office desk 9-5 job with no physical activity, the adult transitions home and like the child consumes foods that are mostly high in fats (it is not unusual for a meal to have 6-7 pieces of large meats, especially for men) and sugars. Needless to say, this is unhealthy when coupled with inactivity and the inevitable stress.

EwellAfrica: What do you think each of us could do to be healthier?
Uduak: In my social studies class back in Nigeria, in grade school, I learned “culture is a learned way of doing things” in a society. Much the same way we have learnt and formed bad health habits, we can unlearn them. It takes educating ourselves and being committed to such change. It seems like a tall order in Nigeria but we can do it. It is possible to scale back on the ostentatious-ness and practice living life simply. (Laughs) It’s possible.

I remember when Nigerian guys and girls I know thought it was “ewwwwwww” for a Nigerian man or woman to have toned muscles. Now, many ladies can’t get enough of P-Square (Peter and Paul Okoye) whose fit abdomens (abs) are part of their personal music brands. Nollywood actors and actresses are also staying fit. Fashion and beauty is not excluded. Supermodel Oluchi and Ex-beauty queen Nike Oshinowo both recently, within the past year, released fitness videos in Nigeria’s market. This cultural shift and paradigm among our stars will inevitably translate to a shift in society at large. Many because of these stars will become eager to learn about nutrition and make healthier choices to keep the mind, body and soul in harmony.

EwellAfrica: Thanks.
Uduak: Thank you for the opportunity.

About Ekene Onu