Obichukwu Aniedo is the founder and co-owner of Living blossoms, a wholefood enterprise that promote a healthy lifestyle that connects the mind, body and soul. In this interview with MILLICENT AREBUN ONUOHA and CAROLINE KANU, she speaks on the ills of food abuse, unwholesome reign of dieting fads and other matters
Start up Journey
I have always enjoyed exercising. I always want to feel good and look good as well so I want to make sure I am doing something good for my body. It’s really amazing how my body turned out to be. When I was in college, I had a disorder that went out of control, I needed to nourish my body, I needed certain vitamins so what I ate was very key. I began to detest junk foods and tea party for what they really are, I saw them as bondage, like torture. Most of the time foods are abused and are usually junk cheap foods. I was really addicted to junk foods before I had the disorder, I began to pray and discipline myself so I could eat well and eat right. After sometime, I started doing things myself, creating different foods to suit me and that’s how I started my journey.
Does anorexia begin with obsessive weight watching?
Different factors contribute to anorexia. Trauma, depression, mental illness, low self esteem, body shaming, and disordered eating.
There is a general perception that whole-foods and wholesome living is strictly for the rich, how can this be debunked in your opinion?
A lot of people claim not to be able to afford organic food, the truth is, they can. For instance, a bottle of soft drink costs #100, you can get at least three oranges for the same amount. Instead of using that money to buy soft drink which is a junk food, you can buy organic food and eat healthy. Some people spend money buying drug supplements to stay healthy, whereas, they can eat organic food, spend less and get all the vitamins they need. Also, instead of buying pizza for #2500 which is a junk food, I’ll rather use that money to buy something healthy that would be good for my body. Organic foods are not only for the rich. Having the right mindset, being proactive and determination is key to eating healthy.
Is there a difference between whole foods, organic foods and natural foods?
The word organic is often abused and it can be very vague, especially here in Nigeria where people are made to believe foods made locally with the use of fertilizers are organic. Organic foods are foods that have been grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and synthetic chemicals. Natural foods are mostly organic, they are foods that grow naturally, they have not been processed. They can be identified easily, because they are not processed, they are natural. At Living Blossom, we take natural foods and turn them into a meal or creatively make them into dessert or snacks. For example, our ‘coconut mackerel’ , it’s made from coconut, but we have fined it very thinly and baked it into balls, it’s interesting, creative and completely natural.
What inspires your creativity?
The desire to ensure that we eat well all the time, no junk, going back to nature, seeing food for what it is, and enjoying it, is what inspires me. When I see a natural healthy wholesome food, I begin to think of what I can do what I can create that would be better than the junk food that is available, something people will really enjoy. That’s the creativity behind it all.
Weight loss, moderation and portion control; are these also not a form of dieting?
Not at all. It is simply wisdom and the application of it. If most people approached food the rightway, dieting would not be the norm. So many people lack self control when it comes to the way they eat. When they eat something and it tastes good, they become addicted to it, there should be moderation in what we eat because too much of anything is bad. We need to maintain a balance in the food that we eat and administer moderation with self-control and balance. Weight loss has nothing to do with eating whole foods. Over-weight people have to completely do away with junk foods. They should focus more on natural foods. Eating well doesn’t mean you want to lose weight, it should be a way of life for us to live healthy; to me, it is how we are supposed to live. Junk food is not going to get you there, that’s why people think once they are eating well then they are trying to lose weight. To me it is a way of life, it is actually how we are supposed to live. That’s what I believe.
In a country where food is as basic as it can possibly get, how has the response to your business been so far?
In recent times, a lot of people have been exposed, some when they travel abroad, some with the help of social media. Truth is a lot of people have been exposed to eating the way they do from their parents. We necessarily do not need to eat the way we commonly do. I very am in favour of our traditional foods, but many times when people see what I do, they tell me I eat healthy. I tell them our traditional foods are equally healthy, it’s just that a lot of Nigerians eat large, many people do not believe they have eaten unless the quantity of food is much. It is food abuse that’s why there’s need for moderation, self-control and balance. Our foods are very nutritious, very healthy but with high calories, they should be eaten in small quantities. Depending on the energy you use up daily, you don’t necessarily need breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For someone just sitting in the office, or sitting at home all day, you really don’t have to eat all the time. Some people in this category, make sure they eat morning, afternoon, evening and sometimes, late at night. Such habits is not helpful. The reception has been great actually, a lot of people are exposed, they now know there’s a connection between overall health and what we put in our bodies and a lot of people are really paying attention to it.
In Nigeria, organic food is still at its infant stage, how has this affected your business what can you say about that?
Am trying to thread carefully because it’s not everyone that understands organic food. In Nigeria, a lot of things has been blown out of proportion. I focus more on people eating well, eating wholesome foods first of all, especially in a country where there’s no certified organic body to at least create awareness for organic foods and make the organic foods readily accessible.
Some of the fresh produce you need are not readily available in the typical Nigerian market, how do you combat this?
A lot of this fresh food produce are now available in Nigeria. For instance, when I first moved to Nigeria, things like purple cabbage, purple carrots were scarce but right now, a lot of people are going into farming of organic produce. Organic produce that were being imported into the country and sold at an expensive rate, is now grown here in Nigeria and it’s relatively cheaper. For instance, Zucchini that was formerly imported is now grown in the country. A lot of farmers grow natural foods or purely organic foods here in Nigeria and they are affordable. As a result of this, they are more readily available.
Having access to PDO approved items can be very exclusive; does this affect the prices of your end product positively or otherwise?
The Protected Designation of Origin products we have are renowned for quality and have received several awards. The prices are simply a true reflection of what they are and their incredible value.
Some of the things we bring into the country are quite expensive, such as the olive oil, honey, etc. They are expensive, because of the cost of shipping them in and clearing them at the port.
Advice to emerging wholefood entrepreneurs
My advice to them is that they should stay humble. Most times, people want quick cash, they want to be called CEO very quickly, you want your brand to be known everywhere. We grow and expand, and become what we want to be by serving others. It’s our willingness to serve that has been keeping us going and getting more customers to patronize us. Also stay humble, treat your colleagues and staff right.