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‘Catelli Girl’ now health advocate


‘Catelli Girl’ now health advocate

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ONCE UPON A TIME, macaroni and cheese was a staple in Claire Haynes’ diet.

So much so, that among her friends she was known as the “face” of the dish that has become a must on the plates of many Barbadians.

At six years old, Claire’s little face was featured on the box of Catelli Macaroni and Cheese that retailed at supermarkets across the country.

Now, even though more than 25 years have passed, Claire, though resistant, is still recognised by many as the cute little girl in her pretty pink outfit, smiling sweetly as she poses with a spoonful of mac and cheese.

That was then.

Today a different Claire emerges.

The 33-year-old is now the mother of a very active four-year-old Manahsi and macaroni and cheese is no longer a part of her daily diet.

Claire is now a very vocal advocate against this dish and is on a mission to help Barbados and the Caribbean to maintain and develop a culture of a more healthy diet.

“Mac and cheese was my absolute favourite meal. My friends always requested I make it since I would have a special cooking method,” she laughed as she relaxed in her St James home.

But that love for mac and cheese all changed when she got into nutrition and health and fitness about a decade ago.

“That was when I had just graduated from the University of the West Indies. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry and two things happened. I began to have my own health issues, and at the same time I landed my first job managing a nutritional clinic.

“It was then I realised what my diet choices were doing to my health,” she said.

Claire said while physically she was what most Bajans would consider to be chubby, she knew that being overweight, along with some “ridiculous” weight loss practices and a not-so-good eating habit, wasn’t the ideal way to ensure she lived a healthy, robust and fulfilled life.

Sipping a glass of water while distracted by the majestic view of the Caribbean Sea that her front door frames, a well toned and svelte Claire recalled that as her health issues progressed, medicine failed to remedy the symptoms.

She recounted: “I was going to the doctor at the time and wasn’t getting help with the medication. The doctor finally placed me on a diet of no sugars for three months. It was hard, really hard, but it got better. So that was when I really started to change.”

Now she lives by the mantra that exercise is her meditation and she believes in public advocacy campaigns to make people aware of what health and diet truly entail.

“I think there are a lot of cultural barriers to break before we even begin to see a change, and I think that a lot of times the message is not structured in a way that is appealing to the average person. I think the missing element is the practicality to changing eating habits and that is what I try to do.”

Claire has been blogging for some time now about various health practices and advice. However, she recently launched a Facebook page, Caribbean Nutrition Health Chronicles, where she shares her own personal journey and how she balances life as a mother.

This, for her, is the most important aspect of her work: reaffirming and instilling the importance of eating healthy into youngsters who will be the future of a healthier Barbados.

She said that as a mother she knew how difficult, time-consuming and taxing it was to try to instill healthy values into children, but she believed this was a goal that could be achieved and was most urgently needed.

To ensure this happens, she advises that people create a list of non-negotiable foods. Hers for Manahsi is carbonated drinks.

“Soft drinks are one of the biggest contributors to obesity so I have had discussions with all his teachers so they know he is not to have soft drinks. I never have soft drinks in the house for him. That is my personal non-negotiable. It may be something different for another parent. I think it is a good place to start.

“I don’t have television so I monitor his TV shows, thereby the type of advertising he is exposed to. So I hardly ever have Manahsi at the supermarket harassing me to get certain snacks because he doesn’t see them being promoted.

“A healthy lifestyle takes a lot of critiquing and sacrifice. I knew what was my long-term goal. If you want to have a certain life, you have got to know what your value system is,” she added. (GBM)