Talking Health Inside Lenora’s World
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. “
LENORA’S FAMOUS BUI NI GA
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.
HOW DOES SHE DO IT TO LOOK IMMACULATE?
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. “
LENORA’S FUTURE AND POLITICS
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!
SOME LENORA FACTS
• 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