Talk­ing Health In­side Lenora’s World

mailife - - Contents - By JOHN MITCHELL

Lenora is one of Fiji’s most recog­nised faces and voices. After win­ning the iconic Miss Hi­bis­cus crown in 1988 she went on to be­come a house­hold name with stints on pop­u­lar ra­dio shows and on tele­vi­sion. She is widely recog­nised around the Pa­cific re­gion as the host of the long­est run­ning re­gional tele­vi­sion show The Pa­cific Way which first went on air in 1995 and is still pro­duced in Fiji and shown in over 20 na­tions and ter­ri­to­ries. Ed­u­cated in Fiji and Aus­tralia, she has a warm per­son­al­ity and is able to min­gle with peo­ple from all walks of life, a trait she says is due to her “hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try up-bring­ing”. With ex­pe­ri­ence in ra­dio and tele­vi­sion, ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing, pub­lic and me­dia re­la­tions, as well as with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional char­i­ties and aid or­gan­i­sa­tions, Lenora brings with her a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. In this is­sue, maLIFE talks to Lenora about health is­sues, a topic she is pas­sion­ate about and holds close to heart. Much of her up­bring­ing at home has in­flu­enced her take on health, diet and well­ness, adding that her mum made sure meals were sim­ple and whole­some. “Grow­ing up in Nadi we al­ways had fam­ily mem­bers liv­ing with us - grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles, cousins, so our diet was sim­ple but healthy.“She says she lived largely on a nu­tri­ent-rich diet in­clud­ing rourou and baigani, among oth­ers. When she started liv­ing by her­self these were two foods she would avoid but now she’s come full cir­cle as those are the very two foods her hus­band, Poasa Qiri, en­joys, along with moca. “Mum be­ing a nurse has had a big in­flu­ence on us all and our health. Even now at 76, mum is still the go-to per­son in our fam­ily for any­thing re­lat­ing to health. “She is from Naitasiri and in her child­hood she ate much like other chil­dren her age all over Fiji, from the gar­den, the creeks, rivers or the ocean. “When Lenora takes the stage dur­ing pub­lic events such as dur­ing Hi­bis­cus Fes­ti­val or other cel­e­bra­tions, peo­ple of­ten won­der how she con­tin­ues to look ra­di­ant and seem to defy age­ing. What is Lenora’s se­cret? None! “Ha­haha! oso,” she says with laugh­ter, “I know many women who don’t look like they have aged ei­ther! I have no se­crets, I just smile a lot.” “I had a hys­terec­tomy in 2014 and just this year have be­gun to see the ev­i­dence of the hor­monal

im­bal­ance that af­fects mil­lions of women around the world who have had the surgery,” she says. “For ex­am­ple just this year I have put on some weight around my mid­dle and I also have more fa­cial hair. “Con­trary to what many peo­ple may think, Lenora’s healthy and vi­brant looks are not the re­sult of gym rou­tines or zumba dance ses­sions. “Like many peo­ple I don’t jump out of bed in the morn­ing just pin­ing to go out and ex­er­cise.” “I am not nat­u­rally ath­letic. But one day in 2011 I saw a photo of my­self and I went “wow, my face is like a full moon!” I had put on a lot of weight just from eat­ing more en­ergy than I was ac­tu­ally us­ing up. That is how I got started.” She de­cided to go for nat­u­ral body cleans­ing by fol­low­ing a detox regime, which in­clud­ing tak­ing healthy fruit and veg­etable juices. She ended los­ing ex­tra weight in just three weeks. “Well, right up front I must say I am not al­ways healthy. How­ever, that detox programme in 2011 both chal­lenged my willpower and taught me a lot about the links be­tween what we put in our mouths and our over­all health.” To detox is to ba­si­cally ab­stain from or rid the body of toxic or un­healthy sub­stances. There are tox­ins all around us, in the air we breath from pol­lu­tion, the chem­i­cals used in agri­cul­ture, in the plas­tics that are such a huge part of our lives and in what we put into our bod­ies to name just a few. The detox programme Lenora fol­lowed re­duced dras­ti­cally the amount of in­flam­ma­tory foods and drinks she was in­gest­ing and gave her liver an op­por­tu­nity to work through any built-up tox­ins. The “fast” was meant to give her sys­tem a chance to rest and ex­pel waste that may have lin­gered in her body, whilst only in­gest­ing healthy liq­uid in amounts that would be suf­fi­cient to keep her go­ing each day. There are heaps of detox pro­grammes out there, but a 21day one with Taina Co­lawai and her group was the only one Lenora has ex­pe­ri­enced. In 2010, a cou­ple of friends told Lenora about a group led by Co­lawai who was hold­ing detox pro­grammes that in­volved a three-week fast. All she was al­lowed to in­gest each day was one litre of fresh veg­etable juice, water and bu (green co­conut) water - no solid food and noth­ing else. Un­der­go­ing that programme in 2011 made her ap­pre­ci­ate how what was put in our mouths can ei­ther make us well or kill. “While the weight loss was wel­come, and I lost 7kg in 21 days, it was what was hap­pen­ing in­side my body and the knowl­edge I was gain­ing that was per­haps more im­por­tant.” Now, Lenora con­tin­ues the health knowl­edge she learned from Co­lawai. One of the things she con­tin­ues to do from that detox ses­sion many years ago is to drink warm lemon water first thing in the morn­ing. “We try to al­ways have mo­likula (the le­mons with the or­ange flesh) in stock and first thing in the morn­ing we’d each squeeze the juice of half of one into a litre of warm water and drink it all up.” “Ap­par­ently, the warm water wakes up the liver which reg­u­lates the body’s me­tab­o­lism while the lemon is your vi­ta­min C. To­gether the drink helps your body ex­pel waste and you start your day fresh and clean on the in­side.” Some peo­ple get to relook at their life­style, es­pe­cially in re­gard to eat­ing and drink­ing, after they suf­fer from a health prob­lem such as stroke, heart at­tack or di­a­betes. This was not the case with Lenora. “For­tu­nately for me no. I was al­ready a few years into eat­ing healthy when I de­cided to have a hys­terec­tomy, an event I talked about pub­licly in my ef­fort to de­mys­tify this area of women’s re­pro­duc­tive health.” “You can find the video of my talk if you go to YouTube and type in Lenora Genda Talks.” In the video, to pre­pare her body for the surgery, she got as fit as she could in the gym and strength­ened her im­mu­nity by drink­ing loads of green juices which her mum made from ed­i­ble leaves in their com­pound. “It is un­for­tu­nate that many peo­ple have to get sick be­fore be­ing forced to change habits formed over decades just in or­der to not die.” “I try and en­cour­age peo­ple to cut out pro­cessed foods as much as pos­si­ble from their diet. This is what is caus­ing the epi­demic of NCDs in Fiji. We eat so much food that is pro­cessed, man­u­fac­tured, pack­aged and canned that it is killing us.” Lenora says one harsh re­al­ity for many fam­i­lies in Fiji is healthy al­ter­na­tives can be more ex­pen­sive than un­healthy food, es­pe­cially when there are sev­eral mouths to feed. For ex­am­ple, a pile of the su­per­food nama or a bun­dle of the su­per­food ota costs more to pre­pare (if you throw in all the accompaniments) and would fill fewer bel­lies than would a $3.60 can of fish cooked with some pota­toes and a packet of noo­dles. She says money must not be the only de­ter­mi­nant when choos­ing food op­tions for the fam­ily. “We must go back to eat­ing our tra­di­tional foods, but for that to hap­pen the food must be made more af­ford­able and/ or peo­ple must have land on which to grow it.” “Most fam­i­lies liv­ing in in­for­mal set­tle­ments are hit by the dou­ble whammy of low wages and no land on which to plant. This for me is so wrong and must be fixed.” She says a per­son must also eat when there is a hunger pang and not when the time dic­tates. She said many Fi­jian tum­mies have watches. “At 10am our tummy says, “it’s time for morn­ing tea”, and off we trot to find some oily, salt-laden food to sat­isfy the stom­ach. Then be­fore 1pm, our tummy is re­mind­ing us that lunchtime is near and then off we go to get take­away. At 3pm, our tum­mies say, “hey, isn’t it tea-time?” and we give in.““This is the story for thou­sands of us in Fiji in par­tic­u­lar of­fice work­ers. We are the boss of our tum­mies, not the other way around and we only need to eat as much en­ergy as we will use dur­ing that day, no more.” “I have a very small fam­ily and out of all of us, my hus­band is the most ac­tive. My par­ents who are 76 and 80 years old try to keep ac­tive by walk­ing and us­ing ex­er­cise ma­chines. “I ad­mit I am the slack one. I don’t have a good ex­cuse ei­ther. Eat­ing-wise we all tend to eat a lot of ve­g­ies. My hus­band and I eat very lit­tle meat, in fact I don’t re­mem­ber the last time I cooked meat. “Poasa loves his fish, miti and moca and many times we will just do miti and moca with some kakana dina and he will add a can of tuna, some­thing I am not a big fan of. “We try to get our first class pro­teins from fish from the vil­lage in­stead of meat. Poasa and I tend to be un­wor­ried

about food. We eat only when we are hun­gry and not at tra­di­tional meal-times, so of­ten times we have only two meals a day, some­times one.” The cou­ple rarely eats jam, opt­ing in­stead for honey and try to avoid milk and other dairy prod­ucts. Baked goods like yummy pies and scrump­tious babakau, topoi and purini are a very rare treat for them. “So while I will look at women and men who are adept at whip­ping up these good­ies with some envy, I am also count­ing my bless­ings that my fam­ily is ‘safe’ from this as­sault on their sys­tems by pro­cessed food.” They also try to keep eat­ing flour prod­ucts to a min­i­mum, stop­ping at whole­meal bread or Lenora’s favourite - FMF break­fast crack­ers at break­fast. “The last time he (Poasa) bought a sweet roll from a bak­ery it went bad wait­ing for some­one to eat it. It all de­pends on what we al­low our taste buds to be­come ac­cus­tomed to.” “My daugh­ter had to learn pretty young to make her own food. I was a busy pro­fes­sional and would re­act in mock horror at home when asked what was for din­ner. I reckon this is part of the rea­son my daugh­ter is such a good chef and makes amaz­ing cakes and pas­tries. “


Apart from Lenora’s take on well­ness, one can­not dis­as­so­ci­ate the pub­lic fig­ure from her fa­mous hair­style – her ever so beau­ti­ful bui ni ga, some­thing that has won hearts the world over.


She gets it cut by Vika, the owner of the Inn Salon lo­cated op­po­site the Methodist Church Book Shop in Stewart Street, down­town Suva. “I have also been dye­ing my hair for 10 years now thanks to the greys – who am I kid­ding, the whites – that be­gan pop­ping up. I spritz my hair with noth­ing more fancy than that Shine hair­spray which is just glyc­er­ine and rose­wa­ter. “To be hon­est I find it be­mus­ing that my hair­style rates a men­tion in in­ter­views. It’s lovely that I get com­pli­mented for my hair but it’s just hair. Yes, I am proud to be a Fi­jian but in the greater scheme of things hair is not im­por­tant. I have a friend and a cousin who are los­ing their beau­ti­ful hair due to chemo­ther­apy so hav­ing no hair does not lessen who they are. “


She says it took a lot of pray­ing and ask­ing God if this was in­deed what He planned for her. “After years of turn­ing my nose up to sug­ges­tions that I join the fray and ven­ture into pol­i­tics, I last year de­cided that all my years of ex­pe­ri­ence, the gifts and tal­ents I have been blessed with should be used to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence na­tion­ally and if pos­si­ble, in­ter­na­tion­ally.” She says she has such a burn­ing de­sire to make Fiji the coun­try it should be. “It hurts me to see the great chasm that is open­ing up be­tween the classes, the un­em­ploy­ment amongst our young peo­ple, the ris­ing cost of liv­ing whilst wages re­main stag­nant and all the dif­fi­cul­ties this breeds, the way we trash our en­vi­ron­ment and how some per­pe­tra­tors get away scot free.” The turn­ing point for her was last year when gov­ern­ment made plans to spend $35, 000 to wel­come home del­e­gates to COP 23 in Bonn, Ger­many. “I took that as an af­front to de­cency when so many in this coun­try were still reel­ing from TC Win­ston in 2016 and had not been re­ha­bil­i­tated. I took to so­cial me­dia to try to con­vince the pow­ers that be to can­cel the party and to some ex­tent it worked. “NFP was a nat­u­ral choice for me. I have said be­fore, and I quote from the lead­er­ship guru John Maxwell when I say, ‘ev­ery­thing rises and falls on lead­er­ship’. I be­lieve the NFP is the only party that can lead Fiji to the in­clu­sive, peace­ful and just fu­ture that we all de­serve.” “One where reach­ing our full po­ten­tial eco­nom­i­cally is re­al­is­tic, where we can raise liv­ing stan­dards and de­crease debt, raise dig­nity and de­crease hope­less­ness. “Lenora has high hopes of a fu­ture where there is no crony­ism, no nepo­tism and no favours. Whether that will hap­pen only time will tell!


• Koro – Dravuni, Ono, Ka­davu • Koro ni Vasu – Na­voka, Nabaitavo, Naitasiri • El­dest child of Radike and Eta Qereqeretabua. One brother, • Sak­iusa who lives in Auck­land with his fam­ily. Lenora is mar­ried to Poasa Qiri who is from Buliya, Ono, Ka­davu…same Yavusa. • They have one daugh­ter, Ana-Lisa who is 24 and a chef in Nauru. • She is a cer­ti­fied Open Water diver and the most in­ter­est­ing place she’s dived was Alexan­dria, Egypt. • At four years old she fell from the first floor bal­cony of their home at Pikeu Street, Nabua whilst fight­ing with her then two-year-old brother. • She nearly drowned in the Nadi Air­port Club pool as a Form Four stu­dent and also got hit by a car cross­ing the road in down­town Nadi as a teenager.

Beauty and grace…Lenora re­laxes in her gar­den. Photo: Jone Luvenitoga

Lenora and her chef daugh­ter, Ana-Lisa. Photo: Sup­plied

With mum, Eta and dad, Radike. Photo: Sup­plied

Lenora has a chat with hus­band, Poasa. Photo: Jone Luvenitoga

Serene…Lenora reads un­der the shade of a mokosoi tree. Photo: Jone Luvenitoga

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