Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


THINGS THAT MATTER:   Fit for Cropover or Fit for Life?

Henry S. Fraser

With the carnivalisation of Barbados and the carnivalisation of Cropover, many people at this time engage in serious debate between their mind and their body, and between knowledge and action.

Every January new members flock into the gym to try to rid themselves of the fruits of Christmas bingeing, and every June / July brief efforts are made to lose pounds and get fit for Cropover. Both groups of short term fitness fans tend to burn out and give up in a few weeks, perhaps vowing to try again next year. Many are victims of the myth that you can transform your physique from couch potato to Venus or Adonis by going to the gym for a month or so. Many believe (or wish to believe) that half an hour on the treadmill gives license to continue eating as normal. Without appreciating that it takes an hour at a fast walking pace of four miles an hour to burn that slice of coconut bread or “undressed” hamburger, and without adjusting food and calorie intake downwards, the lack of results merely frustrates and that’s the end of the noble effort to remodel!

The simple fact is that most people underestimate their food and calorie intake, overestimate their needs. They find it easier to manage their bank balance than their calorie balance. Someone whose weight is steady with a food intake of 2000 calories and energy consumption of 2000 calories (quite active) will have to increase energy consumption by 20 % and decrease calorie consumption by 20% every day to make a difference. The problem is most people in a sedentary job, unless they walk, run or cycle to work, don’t burn 2,000 calories a day, but more like 1500, and are slowly but surely gaining weight as they get older.

In practice, it’s easier to achieve that 40 % shift in the intake / output equation by adjusting food intake and reducing calorie intake, than to walk or run for an hour a day. And so the real secret is healthy eating to dramatically reduce calories. And this is done with food of high nutritional value that’s filling. It means lots and lots of vegetables, as the bulk (provided by fibre and water) is filling and provides essential nutrients, along with a balanced intake of protein from fish, egg, dairy, peas, beans and lean meat and a little “good” fat (unsaturated). In practice it means a more vegetarian type diet, with as much variety as possible. And it means avoiding sweet drinks and choosing deserts such as low fat yoghurt instead of high fat, sugary deserts. Or “Less sugar, salt, fat and sickness, more fibre, fruit and physical fitness”.

Combined with regular exercise – meaning something vigorous four or five days a week - can produce noticeable results in a few months, but won’t usually produce the results the magazines promise, like “Rock-hard abs in 18 days”, “a beautiful beach body in six weeks” or “Lose that gut with ten minutes a day”!

This is where the truly determined will do best to join a gym and work with a trainer. The trainer will not only teach the right methods of using machines and weights to avoid injury, but will be a valuable role model and will “pace” you and motivate you ... perhaps push you harder than you would ever push yourself on your own. And the camaraderie in the gym can make a huge difference. The interaction between client and trainer, casual acquaintances, and “newly met” friends all contributes to the achievement of the goals everyone wants – looking good and feeling good. And a word of advice here – speak to your fellow gym members. There is solid evidence of the benefits of social interaction. A cheerful hello exchanged with someone in the dumps makes both people feel better, and that translates into a better exercise session and better results. Avoiding eye contact and verbal acknowledgement in the gym is as bad manners as leaving weights out of place and invading others’ space.

For those who can’t afford a gym, magazines like Men’s Health provide excellent programmes and sound advice. But why not simply go back to doing things you used to do? People get on to the “treadmill of work and chores” and claim that in a 24 hour day they can’t spare 10 minutes, far less an hour, to look after their health. Sports and past times are dropped, leading to a vicious cycle of bad habits and loss of fitness. Go back to some sport – or to swimming, walking, jogging or cycling, dancing or skipping. Live the old adage: “If you don’t use it you lose it”. That applies both to skills and to your body ... your muscles and your brain!

The benefits of exercise are legion: not just making you look better for Cropover but feeling better, improving every aspect of your health, prolonging your life, increasing your productivity, improving your social life and overcoming depression. So get moving, not losing ... get fit for life!

Professor Fraser is Past President of the Barbados National Trust, and past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI.

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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