Entry #67 – The Banker’s diet

Gone are the days when I used to enjoy the luxury of living only 15mins away from my office. I would wake up at 7.00am, take a shower before leaving my flat at 7.15, and then I’d be in my office by 7.30am (resumption time). With my new job I live about 1hr away…when there’s no traffic, but 3hrs when I’m on my way back home during rush hour. A couple of things have suffered with this recent change: My biceps and triceps got smaller; my alarm clock and I are no longer on speaking terms;  my blog developed cobwebs; and more importantly, I have developed an eating disorder…well, let’s just say I don’t eat in any particular order anymore.

3-square meals are usually the norm when it comes to daily food consumption. However, the diet of the average banker in Lagos is rather different. Most bachelors eat at least twice a day – one outdoor meal from the local canteen and a home-cooked meal. Married men however may eat just one heavy meal at night since its in their best interest not to piss their wives off. The result? Pot belly.  I currently fall into the bachelor category (phew!) but dare I say the content of my meals may raise a few eyebrows:

Morning – Rice, beans and plantain (as early as 8.30am!)

Afternoon – A sausage roll (The Superbite brand)

In between – Fried Yam with pepper sauce, plantain chips

Evening – Bowl of cereal and/or a packet of noodles (Indomie Chicken flavour, of course)

I am well aware of the fact that this diet (eaten 5days a week) is not a balanced diet. It is a banker’s diet. Once in a while I throw in the odd stewed vegetables and an apple with some almonds but generally there’s little time to eat. Eating outdoors all the time is very risky. Bankers in Lagos could probably tell you a few of their food-poisoning stories. There have been instances of stooling and even Typhoid inflicted on unsuspecting bankers who patronized canteens with suspicious water supplies. The cost of such food is part of the allure. At 100 Naira (less than 50 pence/75 cents) you could have a meal of rice or beans that could keep you going for the next 4hrs. And don’t get me started on the inevitable addiction to energy drinks loaded with abnormal amounts of caffeine. Coffee is so 80s now…

I’m trying to find the balance I once had so I’m faced with 3 choices – Get yet another job and location OR Get familiar with just one outdoor meal source and stick to it OR Get married! (at least the fear of getting a pot belly would probably encourage me to do more exercise, which would equally restore my biceps and triceps to their former glory :D)

My addiction

I was only 17. Finished high school and got my mind set for the next phase – A Levels.Wanted my parents to spend less so I vowed to do a 9-month intensive study programme at home. A 2-year programme abroad would have been the wiser option. Would have been less stressful, better paced and more likely to yield outstanding results. But why spend N2m when you could spend N250,000?

Others before me had done it. Some with straight A’s and some with B’s. We’ve all got brains, I thought. If I equally studied just as hard then I could pull it off. I was going to dedicate myself 25 hrs a day, 8 days a week, I thought. I chose Economics, Business Studies and English Literature. Nothing and no one was going to distract me. My entry into a UK university was within my reach. It was that or risk spending 6years amidst strikes doing a 3year-course in Lag.

3months into the course I realize that I’m achieving only 6hrs of private study aside from lectures and lunch breaks. Some of my peers were doing 10-12 hrs and were topping the class. I got the result of my Mock exam and my heart sunk: nothing but D’s – not usually enough to make the cut. I knew what I had to do. I needed to know the secret behind keeping up late and becoming a human hardrive of study notes.

Thats when my Economics tutor introduced me to an uncontrolled substance, readily available in most supermarkets and very affordable. In my case it was already a household drug…right there under my nose the whole time. I took a small dose, and managed to stay up for longer, retain information better…i didnt have to wedge matchsticks between my eyelids anymore. I had the edge.

I was getting better with my exam writing techniques, I was analysing questions of Cambridge standard, I was getting commendations from my tutors for my rapid improvement. My family were 101% behind me and the big exam was bearly 2 months away. God and my drug would get me through this, I thought.

And then it happened. Just when I least suspected. It wasn’t a hault in the production of my drug, nor was it a depletion of the supply I kept at home. I was struck with Typhoid. I lost 5kg and along with it all my apetite, my concentration and willpower to complete my sworn task. I had no energy and for 1 month I had undergone intensive treatment. I kicked myself for ignoring my immune system. I let my guard down and my white blood cells were facing the music. It took 1 month to get back on my feet.

With only 1 month left to revise I resumed my drug intake.I stepped it up to a more concentrated level and also doubled my intake. I became a shaky leaf and I had extreme highs and suicidal lows. I was a walking zombie.  No longer eye candy but an eye sore for the girls in class. My secret was out. I was desperate and I got hooked. After the exam I would never touch this substance again. I wanted my life back.

God was probably teaching me a lesson. I passed with the exact minimum no. of points to gain entry into the Business School of my choice. I walked tall with my head held up high once I arrived at Heathrow airport. As I walked through the duty free section, past Starbucks, I got a hint of the aroma that haunted me for 9 months. My heartbeat accelerated at the prospect of just getting a quick fix. I reminisced about those long nights when I’d sneak to the kitchen cabinet, set up my chemistry lab and begin to experiment with the brown crumbly substance…How the sound of the of the kettle boiling got me excited…How the feel of a teaspoon made me weak in the knees…How that first sip was no different from the warmth of a woman you couldn’t get enough of.

I reminisced long and hard until I saw a little boy smile at me as he sipped on an ice-cold Frappucino. You’re starting pretty early, I thought. Just you wait till you’re 17 and you’ll be sorry, I thought. My hands started shaking. I dipped into my pockets and felt some loose pound coins. I struggled to make a stand, to abstain and conquer my addiction. I took a deep breath and took a bold step forward…or was it back…I can’t remember…

But what I do remember is that it was the first 3pounds I’d ever spent…and I enjoyed every f***ing penny of it.