I have a question you may be able to help with. I am the manager of a fitness centre in a deprived part of England where we are actively encouraging health from a holistic stand point with integration exercises and lifestyle advice. Many of our clients are Eastern Europeans, Asians or Pakistanis. There is so much of a cultural hot pot, and I was wondering if there might be any considerations to take into account with their training, particularly diet issues (essentially coming from a healthier culture to our Western world). If you could help me with this, I would be extremely grateful.
Residing in the most multi-cultural city in the world – Toronto – I have seen my fair share of clients who are struggling with the transition from their traditional diets to western style ones. The advice here is simple: encourage them as much as possible to focus on a diet that is heavily skewed toward what their culture back home would eat. There are a lot of studies that show when people from certain ethnic backgrounds make the transition to a westernized diet, their health suffers greatly. That’s because many cultures have a much more reasonable and healthy eating style. Beans and rice in Latin America might sound boring, but it’s sure a lot healthier than a Happy Meal. Japan is a great example of this food shift. Younger Japanese are with increasing frequency substituting their traditional diets for one that includes Pizza Hut and Colonel Sanders. It’s not surprising that obesity is on the rise in Japan.
You (or your nutritionist) should sit down with these individuals, determine what their cultural dietary preferences are and then devise a food plan that incorporates these foods as much as possible - that is, as long as those foods are what you would consider good choices based on your client’s fitness and health goals.
Remember that certain genetic make ups are meant to eat certain foods. So when some individuals re-locate and give up those foods in favour of the typical fare found where they now live, it can really be detrimental to their health and their waistlines. Hopefully, there are enough ethnic markets near your clients that will allow them to find the foods they need.