Treat your body like a temple

The minute I walked into Virgin Active in Vodaworld, Midrand, and saw Mali Ramara's students painfully stretching their bodies under her watchful eye, I silently thanked the receptionist for saving me the pain.

I had agreed to join Ramara's class before we commenced with the interview but ended up spending 10 minutes at reception waiting to be ushered in.

When I was eventually directed to the stretching class and saw how demanding those work-outs could be to stiff muscles, I opted to admire Ramara during the remaining 15 minutes as she bent her slim body forward and backwards with ease.

Ramara, 37, is one of the few people in the fitness industry who specialise in personal training and sports nutrition.

She believes that all personal trainers should combine the two disciplines to help their students achieve their desired goals.

She started as a personal trainer but later did a nutrition course after realising that most people do not reach their goals, not only because of incorrect exercise programmes but mostly because of what they eat.

She explains that a good work-out programme and healthy eating is what everybody needs to be in good shape and to live a healthy lifestyle.

Q: Why this strong belief in "living a healthy lifestyle?"

A: Exercise is good for your body. Not only does it help to tone the muscles and burn the excess fat to keep the body in good shape, exercise also helps with adequate flow of oxygen in your body, and is good for your heart too.

Q: Do you always practise what you advice people to do (eating healthy and exercising)?

A: Yes. Ninety-eight percent of the time I practice what I preach. The remaining 2percent is for indulging in coffee, tea or fried chips once in a while.

Q: What don't you live without as a nutritionist?

A: I cannot live without eating my four to six healthy meals a day. If I miss the morning snack and lunch, I am likely to drink coffee or tea and become a hyperactive-zombie the whole day.

Q: What should be kept at home as good food that encourages a healthy lifestyle?

A: Carbohydrates: Mabele, jungle oats, all bran flakes, vegetables, fruits, brown rice, whole- wheat brown bread, rye bread, brown pasta. Proteins: chicken livers, tripe (mogodu with less fat), giblets, eggs, chicken (without skin), fish, including tinned fish, tuna, sardines, seafood, beans (red beans, peas, butter beans), nuts and less red meat. Oils: Olive oil, canola oil (not too much margarine).

Q: And what should not be brought home?

A: Processed food like white rice, pap, white bread, biscuits/cakes, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks, fat cakes, mayonnaise.

Q: What are the basic principles that need to be followed to live a healthy lifestyle?

A: Adopt a healthy eating and healthy living lifestyle everywhere you go, no matter where you are - do not compromise.

Q: How can one deal with the temptation of indulging in food that is not healthy?

A: If you eat healthy food 90percent of the time, indulging once in a while is okay.

Q: What leads people astray and how can that be overcome?

A: I think people still do not understand how precious their bodies and health are, until they lose them.

We always shortchange our bodies, especially when we think we are healthy, when we feel no pains. We firstly need to understand and engrave it in our hearts and minds that our bodies are an asset.

Q: Can a person who eats healthy but does not exercise or vice versa, be regarded as healthy?

A: Nutrition and exercise work together. The body is made to move and burn fat, what you don't use you lose.

If you do not exercise, the ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to pump blood, utilise oxygen and send nutrients all over the body efficiently, is compromised.

Other benefits of exercise are that it makes you look younger, give you energy, builds and tones your muscles.

Nutrition alone will not tone your muscles. Exercising and eating junk food will not tone your body. Nutrition and exercise combined are natural highs, stress busters and body shapers.

Q: Many people battle to get rid of stomach fats. What exercises help burn these excess fats?

A: Nutritional food combined with cardiovascular or aerobic exercises and stomach exercises like crunches, cycling, leg lifts, bridge and so on, do the trick. Walking, jogging, cycling, and running also helps.