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Why Norwegians are remarkably small and healthy

Norwegians keep meals light

Norwegians keep meals light

I recently attended WAN-IFRA’s Newsroom Summit in Oslo, Norway, and realized why these Scandinavians have such good health and happiness indicators (check Google), compared to us in Africa, where food is organic, the weather beautiful and family networks still hold strong.

THEY WALK EVERYWHERE

Unless they are going long distance – and I mean really long distance – Scandinavians in general love to walk. Distances you would normally jump onto a boda boda for, a Norwegian will tell you: “Oh, this will be such a beautiful walk. Let’s do it together!”

And off we would go, brisk-walking in two degrees Celcius weather, up this hill, round that bend, up a set of stairs, across a park, to your venue about 15 minutes later. To put it in context, I have ever taken a leisurely walk from Constitution Square in the city centre to Makerere – 2km away – and it took me 15 minutes.

Now try doing 15 minutes at a brisk walk, because the chilly weather in Norway does not allow you to want to linger too much outdoors; everyone seems to be in a rush. When I remarked about how cold it was (my lips and nose were cracking), they quickly assured me it was still autumn; in winter, temperatures fall to minus-30 degrees Celsius! So, I shut up and walked.

Years ago in Denmark, my African genes were again shocked when the daily itinerary started with walking to all our appointments, often in pouring rain. In Norway, luckily, it did not rain while we were there, but never had I ever seen an official program that read, “8:30am: Meet in the hotel lobby. Walk to venue.”

I have never walked so much in my life like I did those five days in Oslo; my smart watch must have wondered what was going on! I have never closed my activity rings that fast, and then some. I must admit, I miss it.

Kampala is not a walk-friendly place; what with no proper walkways in most places, and competing for space (and life) with boda bodas, cattle, vendors, cars, VVIP convoys, other pedestrians...

Of course, in Oslo, you can always call a cab, Uber, hop onto a bus, tram, or grab a public bicycle or scooter, but even the motorists, bikers and scooter users treat pedestrians with utmost respect on the road.

NO STRESS

Used to the cutthroat competitive media landscape in Uganda that lately borders on the toxic? You would be blown away by the laidback way Norwegians practice journalism. No stress. No teargas. No kibooko. Perfect newsrooms. And suffice it to mention at this point that Norway has the best media indicators in the world, for several years running now.

Norwegians are also some of the happiest people in the world, due to their work-life balance, return on tax payments and great employment/labour laws. But what amazed us all was that Norwegian journalists and media managers have no qualms sharing content, media platforms, etcetera.

During our engagements, Norwegian journalists made it clear how important it was for them to get a good story out to as many people as possible for maximum impact; so, they freely share tips and scoops (if they can still be called that) with the competition, so the same story reaches different target audiences.

Taking a break from the walk, in front of the Parliamentary buildings

The media houses only have to write or produce the story according to their audiences’ needs, and it is quality and style of journalism that sets the stories apart. This business of jealously guarding a scoop or hunting for that ‘exclusive’ is a thing of the past for Norwegian journalists. They even call one another to discuss newspaper content.

The 98-year-old newspaper Hamar Arbeiderblad, which on September 25, 2023 transitioned into a 100 percent e-paper, also carries 105 other e-papers on its digital platform, to “enlarge our offer to our customers both technically and content- wise. We argue that they get more and keep price the same”, according to the paper’s editor-in-chief Katrine Strøm.

Take a moment and imagine that happening in Uganda... No wonder our stress levels are through the roof. With a population of five million people, Norway has 300 newspapers. Yes. You read that right. Now, let me tell you about the hotel we stayed at – Comfort Hotel Xpress Youngstorget, a nine-storey hotel with super-clean, basic, affordable rooms, but no housekeeping services.

Well, hardly. They tell you in advance that your room shall be cleaned every four days if you are staying that long, and that is also when you get a towel/linen change. If you want fresh towels and bed linens before that, you pick them at the reception. I had no problem with that arrangement – I do not speak for the others, though – because naturally I do not like strangers in my personal spaces.

I liked this hotel’s stress-free business model of micromanaging everything at the reception – no bellboys, no valets, no room service, no bedside telephone or mineral water bottles (tap water is safe for drinking)... just a receptionist-cum-barista- cum-bartender, etc.

If you want more luxury, you could always check into the Thon hotel, a 20-minute walk from the main train station, where we had an amazingly rich breakfast one morning after days of croissants and sandwiches, then promptly walked it all off within minutes as we navigated traffic to get to our next meeting on the other side of the city.

WEATHER/METABOLISM

I have noticed that when I travel to colder climes, I do not need to do much, but within days my weight is falling off. I now believe that we are indeed victims of this warm climate that slows down our metabolism, unless we hit the gyms like maniacs.

For the Norwegians, I do not remember any day when I felt I was struggling with digestion, regardless whether I ate at the neighbourhood Burger King or at the Italian, fancy Olivia restaurant. Within minutes of eating, I would literally feel my system attack the food, in the body’s struggle to keep me warm and get me to my next appointment on foot!

I was very observant and honestly, the only plus-size people I encountered in Oslo were in my group as we waddled up yet another incline and huff-puffed our way across another public park trying to get back to the hotel. There is not much shopping to do at this time of year for an African in Oslo, because stores are stocked with winter apparel.

Plus, the city is super expensive. Now, because of the dry, cold weather, you will inevitably drink a lot of water, because you feel constantly dehydrated. It made sense why doctors from these Western countries advise us to drink at least two litres of water daily. Easy-peasy thing for them; I think I was drinking at least three litres a day. They should really put a disclaimer on these health tips of theirs, like: “depending on which part of the world you live in!”

Even when they say, let your last meal of the day be at 7pm, latest, they do not factor in the small detail that these Scandinavians will go out for a four-course dinner at 6pm, then walk home afterwards. Now, for you Nakirijja to proudly eat your dinner at 7pm then promptly jump into bed, I don’t think the health benefits will be the same.

AND THE FOOD...

Of course, the food. I have never eaten so much bread and pastries in a few days. By day two, my Tanzanian colleague was moaning, “So, this is breakfast?” when faced with yet another choice between a croissant and a sweet pastry, and a small cup of coffee.

At the Newsroom Summit held at Schibsted/VG, my Zambian colleague Mary Mbewe was overheard wondering, “Where is the meat? I need to eat some meat!” as we served from yet another buffet of pastries, sandwiches and salads, all in the smallest of portions – we had no choice, considering the small size of the plates.

But on the last day of the summit, the chef, as if responding to Mary Mbewe’s cravings, put out all tribes of meat for lunch. With bigger plates. We dug into the lamb, chicken, fish, cheese, our eyes sparkling with delight, never mind that more refined diners were choosing either/or of the dishes...

We would need more than the five days to get used to the Norwegian etiquette of eating tiny portions of bread, ‘grass’, and croissants.

And after the two-day sessions where journalists from 38 countries mostly discussed going digital and artificial intelligence (AI) in the newsroom, drinks and alcohol were served in a grand way.

On our final day in Oslo as we prepared for our flights home, we walked back to our self-service hotel with someone singing loudly P. Diddy and Skylar Grey’s: “I’m coming home/I’m coming home/Tell the world I’m coming home”, and me thinking out loud: “No wonder these people don’t struggle with their weight!”

caronakazibwe@gmail.com

Comments

+3 #1 Ebmok 2023-11-23 00:41
Norway’s substantial reduction in sugar consumption is a combination of more healthful consumers practices and policy measures.

The government implemented a generalized added sugar tax – introduced as a means of raising revenue for the state, rather than reducing the consumption – since 1922.

The government, however, intervened more aggressively recently, by creating separate taxes for confectionery and sugary drinks and hiking them at times dramatically.

The directorate’s annual report noted that the average annual consumption of sugar had plummeted from 43 kg to 24 kg per person between 2000 and 2018 – including a 27 percent reduction in the past decade – to a level lower than that recorded in 1975.

In January 2018, the levy on chocolate and confectionery went up by 83 percent to 36.92 Norwegian krone (US$4) per kilo and on sugary and artificially-sweetened drinks by 42 percent per 1 L.
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+2 #2 Lakwena 2023-11-24 07:48
Thanks Carolyne Nakazibwe.

But, we live in a country of the Dishonest, led by the Dishonest and for the Dishonest.

Why torture us with the honesty and sense of order of the Norwegians (country), when everyday, we are wallowing in our chaotic Smart City of Mud like pigs?

It hurts and bewilders, as to when the next generation of Ugandans will ever begin to see the light at the end of dark tunnel where we are now groping in.
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0 #3 Lysol 2023-11-24 21:17
The Scandinavians are modest consumers of everything. Everything in moderation, unlike some of their cousins in the United States, where I have just arrived, to feast on turkey meat for the Thanksgivings holiday, before Christmas and the New Year.

Poor countries like Uganda have smaller and thinner people except for the very rich.
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