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Cuba in Transition

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June 2019

If Kameela Ramsubeik had a mantra for her clients, it would be, “Get off your butt.” The 35-year-old Kinesiologist and Nutritional Consultant is a walking billboard for her own services, as she barely looks 25. She’s trim and fit, and her skin and eyes have the kind of glow you can’t buy at the cosmetics counter. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science from University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and specialised in Kinesiology at York University. At her practice at the Long Circular Club, she attends to clients of all ages, fitness levels and lifestyles. Ramsubeik is motivated by a desire to help people who want to improve their health and fitness levels, but aren’t sure how.

She offers personalised exercise programmes and one-on-one fitness training sessions.“I see people wanting to get active, but trying all kinds of fads. They are not sure of the duration or intensity of the activity and, most importantly, unsure of the technique. Some who have been in the gym for many years are still uneducated on the benefits of stretching.”

She says women seem more likely than men to take the wrong approach to their fitness. While men are more clinical, reading up on different training programmes and techniques, women listen to their friends and share tips. They think if something works for their friend, it will work for them. “In essence,” Ramsubeik says, “they’re training for another woman’s body, and another woman’s lifestyle.”

Many women also neglect to get a proper fitness assessment before they start working out, and don’t always seek professional advice. “They just jump on a treadmill or into a group fitness class. Months later, they have aches and pains but aren’t sure what caused them. Then they may just stop exercising.”

Women also seem more motivated by image, rather than a drive for strength, stamina, endurance, and holistic health. We’re familiar with the “Carnival Body” syndrome, which sees droves of women pounding around the Savannah and hitting the gym as early as November, to look good in a costume that can fit in a shoebox.

The main messages she wants to drive home to active Trini women is that aerobic exercise and group fitness classes are not enough. Strength training or weight training is also vital, to preserve and build muscle, increase endurance and coordination, and slow down bone loss. And, of course, proper technique is paramount.

“That’s why we have mirrors all around the gym: to monitor your form…not to check yourself out!”It’s all about knowing your body, and listening to what it says. “Do the aerobics because it’s fun and yes, it helps burn fat…but know your body, and listen to it. If your body is going “ouch”, there’s a reason for that. You need to get the injury assessed, and have a programme designed to rehabilitate it.”

Ramsubeik’s field of study, kinesiology, incorporates functional screening and strength and conditioning using tools such as thera bands, resistance tubing and swiss balls to rehabilitate the injury. She also works very closely with physiotherapists.

When offering nutrition advice, her preliminary analysis consists of a probe into the minutiae of her clients’ lifestyle, including stresses, medical conditions, allergies and digestive concerns.
They’re also asked to walk with a food diary, in which they’re asked to keep a faithful and, hopefully, honest log of everything they’ve eaten or drunk over the course of the past week. She then comes up with a customised meal plan for the client.

Trinidad, she says, is a taste-driven society. “We love rich foods. We love our callaloo. When I try to get people to cook their callaloo without coconut milk….” She rolls her eyes, and leaves the rest unsaid. Sadly, we’re a society that finds it very difficult to change our lifestyle for the better.

“We know something’s too rich for us, but for that moment, it tastes good. Then you end up at the doctor and he gives you a prescription for high cholesterol. Taking pills is less work, but remember, prevention is cure!”

As for childhood obesity, Ramsubeik puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the parents. She believes that childhood malnutrition stems from a lack of education, and parents giving in to the whining for sugary foods and packaged snacks. “It’s sad when you see an obese child, because you know he or she isn’t buying the food.”

But what about the pressures of being a working mother, who has to prepare a quick meal for the family? Shouldn’t a mom be forgiven for reaching for the boxed juice and fries after a long day?
This is a cop-out, Ramsubeik says. “Grilling and baking takes very little time. Take a slice of fish, put fresh seasoning on it, wrap in foil, pop it in the oven, and sit back and enjoy.

Even if it’s pasta, choose a red tomato sauce over a white creamy sauce.” Parents can make healthier choices for their children and still make tasty food. Her greatest drive is to change the way people think about healthy living, while addressing the unique needs of each person. “I’m not here to make you become somebody you don’t want to be. I am here to show you how exercise can be fun, and incorporated into your personal lifestyle.”Contact Kameela:

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