Dubai: As the lockdown continues, cooking shows and home cooking tips are all the rage, but do you know whether what you are cooking is helping your body or hindering it? Yes, the food that you choose to eat sometimes feeds the disease instead of fighting it and consumers don’t make that connection. It was this realisation about the gap in education and understanding of health and wellness in the UAE that led Dubai resident Lee Sandwith to start ingfit, a nutrition and lifestyle store in the emirates.
Building on his own personal weight loss and metabolic healing journey, Sandwith started the initiative to make people realise that nutrition and lifestyle are central to the metabolic diseases plaguing our population today. Sandwith says he had been dealing with weight issues when he finally “took full responsibility for my own destiny” and started educating himself on the subject. The results quickly followed: “Within two months I had dropped over 10kg and only a few months later I was down to my fighting weight of around 70kg.”
The biggest change from this journey, he says, was when he “switched from eating the office canteen food and takeaways to preparing my own food”.
Sandwith says the insights he gathered from his weight-loss transformation would eventually became a foundation of the ingfit concept. “I’ve been there and I know how much you can achieve with the right information, education and support,” says Sandwith, who serves as general manager and head nutrition expert of ingfit.
Talking of some of the most common nutrition pitfalls nowadays, Sandwith says, “What people don’t realise is that we weren’t designed to have a constant stream of high-carb processed foods in our diets, and because we have fed our bodies this way for a lifetime, the signalling pathways that are activated in response to these carbohydrates are overworked and begin to break down, causing compromised immunity and metabolic disease.
“Pair this with the daily consumption of oils, which are proven to damage our cells — sunflower, canola, grapeseed, the list goes on — and you really have a recipe for disaster in the body.”
A Khalifa Fund company
Sandwith’s idea was further fuelled when he met Dr Khadija Al Ameri, a business school professor in Zayed University. Al Ameri was interested in public health in the UAE and concerned about the rising numbers of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. When they met, ingfit began to grow its wings and the vision was born. It was under Dr Khadija’s leadership and entrepreneurship that ingfit became a Khalifa Fund company earlier this year.
“Our goal is to have a society where the health of our nation is aligned with the extraordinary progress the UAE has made in other fields,” explains Dr Al Ameri. “Where people live an active, mindful life and choose a diet comprising high-quality wholefoods instead of medication. Our hope is to radically transform the health of the UAE through education, coaching and offering products, which comply with cutting-edge nutritional science.”
The Keto diet
ingfit primarily embraces the keto diet, but has widened its reach to include paleo and vegan options as well to support consumers on their personal health journeys. Popular products include low-carb replacements of favourite foods, such as breads, pastas and snacks, as well as their range of clean oil mayos. ingfit also has its own range of keto-friendly bread mixes, pizza base mixes and pastas. Home delivery is available all across the UAE, with a next-day delivery option in Dubai if the order is placed before 2pm. Freshly baked goods in the basket has a delivery time of two days.
“We have always believed that keto is a dietary intervention, which serves the purpose of healing most people’s bodies from metabolic disease, says Sandwith. “However, once this healing has taken place there is room to move towards increasing carb intake, but making sure that it’s from healthy carbohydrates. Paleo is also a great option for people with autoimmune conditions as it doesn’t include gluten or dairy, both of which can be inflammatory for some people. Some people choose vegan or vegetarian diets. We wanted to make sure they have a safe place to shop.”
A COVID-19 wake-up call
Talking about the importance of metabolic health during a pandemic, such as COVID-19, Sandwith says, “If you look at the deaths from COVID-19, they are overwhelmingly people with underlying metabolic conditions. And those who have had the hardest time with the disease and are left with permanent damage belong to the same group. Throughout our lifetimes, we slowly erode our immune systems by constantly feeding them sugar, vegetable oils and trans fats. So when a pathogen such as COVID-19 arrives in the body, the immune system is already so compromised from a lifetime of disuse that it is not able to win the fight. If there was ever a wake-up call to realise that every bite we take is either fighting the disease or feeding it, it has been with this pandemic.”
The ingfit philosophy
Sandwith says there are three key issues at the core of ingfit’s philosophy. “First, the path to wellness must start with an acceptance of ownership; second is the importance of self-education. We have access to all of the information we need to learn about health, wellness and nutrition, but a major component of this is learning about yourself. There is the need for a personalised approach to wellness as no two bodies are the same. Last but not least is the value of community. We have a fabulous community in the UAE and being part of it makes the journey fulfilling and rewarding.”
ingfit’s advisory board, which oversees the brand’s product choices and nutritional education, includes leading world authorities on healing metabolic diseases, such as Dr Eric Westman and Dr Ali Al Lawati, as well as doctors currently implementing keto to treat metabolic disease here in the UAE such as Dr Feruza Gafarova. Consumers can choose to work with ingfit’s recommended health coaches and nutritionists listed on the site to reach their weight and nutrition goals.
Lee Sandwith believes that self-education is of primary importance for a sustained wellness plan. ingfit has now put together the most important information on the basics of metabolic health and how to drastically improve yours permanently (and lose weight along with it). The brand is launching three tiers of this weight-loss and self-education package after Eid at 50 per cent off for five days.