From a cheerful and beautiful persona, Accountant-turned Nutritionist, Edith Akwu-Ude, an alumnus of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria Pageant, fell into a traumatic spell of depression because her fiancé mocked her for gaining weight. Vanessa Obioha records how she fought back from the brink of emotional wreck; turning her once-upon-a-time pitiable dilemma to an instructive tale of triumph
If there was one thing Edith Akwu-Ude had in abundance, it was confidence. That was until an intimate friend punctured her poise. As a child, she was secure in her looks. She needed not be reminded every time by the paid compliments of family and friends that she was good-looking.
And she carried this splendour like a badge. She knew she was good-looking, even her mirror was very aware of it. She showed a keen interest in gorgeousness at a young age. Her mother would fondly tell her how she used to play dress-up with her aunt. It was only a matter of time before her creative skills began to manifest.
It was no surprise then when she decided to contest in the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria Beauty Pageant in 2009. It was a golden opportunity for her not only to showcase her attractiveness but also to impact lives. Edith knew right from childhood that she wanted to live a significant life. She was not going to be an ordinary woman who will be married off when she grew up. She made up her mind to touch lives and leave a lasting footprint in the sands of time.
Therefore, she entered the beauty contest with a noble and altruistic plan to clinch the coveted beauty crown and use the bounty to set up a charity that would raise funds for unemployed graduates. Her preparation was simple, or she thought. With the funds, these struggling graduates could set up their own small businesses. Unfortunately, she missed the crown. Nevertheless, she carried on with her plan.
Like a thief in the night, she amassed some pounds of flesh; a development that could be celebrated by some caused her some trauma. Considering her obsession with prettiness, gaining weight was not the way to go. At the time, she weighed 86.3 kilogrammes.
“My weight addition wasn’t intentional, it just happened. I loved the extra flesh in certain areas. A graceful woman is a graceful woman, her size notwithstanding. I carried myself well.”
She admitted that she was self-conscious particularly when she smiled. Her cheeks usually covered her eyes and it made her uncomfortable. Sickness and dizziness also contributed to the discomfort.
There was never a time she imagined that her self-confidence could be rocky. At least, not in the manner it happened.
Two years ago, she met a man who swore heaven and earth to her. She fell in love and agreed to marry him.
It came as a surprise to many who knew her well. Edith, it turned out, was very specific about her choice of husband to the letter T. “I’m very particular about the man I will marry. My dream man is a spiritually and emotionally mature man with a strong sense of responsibility,” she wrote in an email.
While her shining knight didn’t have his full armour, he was still able to sweep Edith off her feet. Everything was going on well until her weight interfered.
Her fiancé no longer found it funny. His new state of mind was triggered by his mother’s disgust for Edith’s corpulence. She found it very shocking that her partner would suddenly find her unattractive, and even took sides with his mother.
Albeit, she made an attempt to shed the extra flesh, but her effort was not appreciated. Instead of finding a supportive partner, he became abusive. He began to maltreat her emotionally. Slowly, her self-esteem was torn to shreds. That rock of confidence that had been solid all her life became shaky. She would stare at her mirror and wondered if it had been playing tricks on her all these while. Was it really true that her new weight made her unattractive?
The relationship that began on a promising note had become very uncomfortable. Edith had the option to stay or leave but she didn’t, at least for a while.
“I don’t believe in ending relationships over nothing. I think that’s the problem with our generation and the reason divorce rate is high. I thought it was something that could be resolved with communication and compromise.”
In the end, she had to walk away from the relationship when it became too insufferable. Moreover, she had just lost her dad to hypertension. The pain was very overwhelming. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that her weight could lead to the break-up of her relationship. She thought those types of things only happened in movies and fairytales. Slowly, she began to slip into depression.
However, a visit to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) led to a life-changing experience. “I went to LUTH to see my doctor, an elderly woman. One look at me and she knew I was not feeling well. I narrated my ordeal to her. She advised me to lose weight so I don’t trigger my family disease of hypertension. I knew the struggles my family faced with my late dad’s case. I definitely did not want to go down that route.”
For Edith, that little encounter kick-started a journey into the world of nutrition. First, she started to cut down on her calorie intake. Once the results were visible, she was encouraged to go the whole mile. Everything went on smoothly. She lost 20 kilogrammes in six months. She was happy. Her confidence was slowly bouncing back. But at a point, she realised that despite her miraculous weight loss, she had difficulty moving her bowels.
“I was finding it difficult to move my bowels and I bled each time I tried. It was a problem I had for years even before I put on weight. I was asked to take oranges. I did this but it was not helping. I was scared as the condition could lead to rectal prolapse or worse, colon cancer. One day, it occurred to me to calculate the quantity of fibre someone my age needs daily. I did. I also put together all the foods that would provide me with that amount of fibre in my daily meal. I did and it was nothing short of a miracle. The problem I had struggled with for many years disappeared in that instant.”
A very curious mind, Edith took her research further by finding out the necessary vitamins and minerals the human body needs to function optimally. “There are 91 essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to function optimally and there are certain amounts that must be present in the body and must not exceed the upper limit.
“It has been stipulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. It varies according to age, sex and medical condition of the individual. This discovery made me realise that many people are deficient in many micronutrients and this can present many symptoms. Some, in an attempt to fortify their foods have toxic levels of nutrients and this presents many symptoms as well.”
That discovery would lead her to the birth of her diet plan, known as ‘243’. “243 diet is a healthy eating plan. It does not offer quick fixes. The theory is based on pure science. It is an adequate diet. Most popular diets track major nutrients and calories but 243 diet tracks all nutrients – major and micro, one by one. It ensures there isn’t too much or too little of any nutrient.
“One can be eating a healthy variety and combination of foods yet be deficient in many vital nutrients and minerals because it all comes down to the quantity. All whole foods can be eaten based on our eating plan. We do not support an all vegetarian diet because some nutrients like vitamin B12 cannot be gotten from plant sources and yet they are needed by the body.”
The plan encourages all types of food but must be followed strictly to get the best results. An average of 600g of fat can be lost daily, and with a good exercise regimen, the results will be impressive.
She strongly advised against starvation while highlighting other benefits of the diet plan such as boosting the immune system of HIV and Sickle Cell patients; managing diabetes, hypertension; and that it is helpful to pregnant and breast-feeding women; and it also eliminates malnutrition.
According to her, the plan accomplishes more than a weight loss. It’s about healthy living, wellness, beauty and confidence. To her, a woman’s confidence “should spring from her understanding of who she is and why she is here on earth; what needs she can meet. Knowing she has something to offer is enough to make her walk with her shoulders high.”
Edith prides herself as the first Nigerian to develop a diet plan that is truly Nigerian. Using her accountancy skills with an additional training at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, she was able to come up with the diet plan that has been proven scientifically. She has concluded plans to kick-off a TV production for her diet plan. Also in the pipeline is her diet book which contains all the necessary fundamentals for users to understand their personality, style, patterns and value system.
More information about the diet can be found on her website www.243diet.com
Today, Edith feels very confident in her new look. It triggered various reactions from people who know her.
“Some think I look great. Others think I’m too slim. Some think I look a lot younger. Everyone has an opinion. Just do what you believe in your heart is the right thing and if you are comfortable with the way you look, you will carry yourself with all confidence,” she advised.