There is a reason updates have been few and far between the last few days. My daughter Essence, who has been in the hospital battling leukemia since January 12th, is finally back home. After a successful stem cell transplant and over five months of recovery time, she was finally cleared for release on November 25th.
Less than a month after being diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of Leukemia, these were the words my beautiful daughter Essence uttered to me. I remember marveling at her strength then, and continue to do so today as she preps for yet another round (her third) of chemotherapy.
I share my story, my daughter’s story, because as Essence said, maybe it will be a blessing to someone else.
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October is breast cancer awareness month. Not surprisingly, black women are more likely to have not only breast cancer but diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Many of these illnesses that black women are more likely to contract could simply be avoided through a healthy diet and sufficient exercise. We are bombarded with cookbooks and different diets that claim to help us shed the unwanted pounds. But it is easier said than done. Most people generally understand that in order to lead a healthy lifestyle, one must couple exercise and the proper diet. But most women, especially young women, or women on-the-go, cannot always adhere to these stringent guidelines. The thought of eating healthy used to make me cringe. But as I get older, I’m realizing that what I do to my body now will have a direct effect on my life in the near future. The importance of the proper diet and exercise is not emphasized enough, especially not in the black community. Many black women fear that too much exercise will cause them to lose their shape and possibly their favorite asset. Having an hourglass figure is sexy but what’s sexier is being healthy. It is unfortunate that the only time we feel that a change is needed is when we are faced with a dire situation such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Heart disease is one of the leading killers of black women, so we need to look at our selves and examine our lifestyle and make some changes.
For some, eating right is not the problem; the problem is finding the time to exercise during the day. When you are working 12 hour days and sleeping only a few hours every night, it is difficult to squeeze exercise in. And don’t be fooled by the common misconception that because you are small, thin or not overweight that you do not need to exercise. That is an absolute crock. Smaller women can still contract diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure from not eating a balanced diet. Exercise is an exceptional habit to cultivate. Prevention is a lot easier than living with or developing a potentially life-threatening disease or condition. Not only does exercise promote weight control and ward off diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, exercising also releases endorphins to the brain, which in turn generates feelings of happiness and euphoria. If you’re not a gym person try taking a walk outside with friends or join a fitness class at your local gym. There are plethoras of ways you can increase your activity and get your blood flowing. Many doctors have stated that the importance of exercise in warding off illnesses and diseases cannot be overemphasized. Exercise is proficient at warding many types of diseases.
If your main goal is to lose weight, the best way to do that is to lower caloric intake (diet) and increase caloric burn (exercise). When you hear the word diet, it probably paints an unpleasant picture in your head of a woman starving herself, constantly checking the scale for the smallest ounce of weight gain and consuming low calorie snacks and diet sodas. Eating healthy does not have to be this excruciating. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. Everyone is different and therefore my best piece of advice is to eat every food group in moderation. For some people a carb-free diet works and for others going vegan has changed their life. The first thing that we need to do is change our lifestyle habits. It may be hard at first to modify your eating and hit the gym but the benefits to these two elements will save your life.
Janice Gassam is a graduate student currently getting her degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. To contact Janice her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also add her on any of the following social network sites.
I recently purchased a pair of Champion Pace Toning Sneakers. Unlike a lot of people however, I did not purchase them because I thought by simply walking in them my thighs would look like this; rather I bought them because they looked so gosh darn comfortable. As someone who has used walking as a means of daily exercise for over a year now, I have come to realize the importance of a comfortable shoe and am always on the lookout for something to make my daily routine more enjoyable. Not too particular about which brand I bought, I hit up Payless and walked out with a pair for a cool $39.99+ tax (I also got the toning sandals for $29.99).
When I got home I tried them on and just as I had hoped- they were super comfortable and felt like I was walking air. I decided to test them out further and went out for a walk. This is about when things got a lil trippy. Walking down the stairs of my building I felt as if I could tip over at any minute. To say they felt unstable would be an understatement. Even when walking on a flat surface I felt as if I was being pushed back a bit.
Once I got home I read the box my new sneaks came in and sure enough, that unstable feeling I was experiencing was a part of the whole toning experience. Apparently if you feel like you’re about to fall over at any minute it makes your muscles work harder to keep you stable.
I’m still a bit on the fence as to whether I will keep wearing these sneakers or try another brand. I’ve been eying the Shapes Ups by Sketchers lately- though the $110.00 price tag makes me SMH.
Has anyone here tried the Shape Ups or any other brand of toning shoe? If so, what was your experience?
In today’s diet obsessed society, carbohydrates or carbs for short, get a very bad rap. Many of us avoid them completely when trying to lose or maintain weight. Interestingly, carbs are one of the body’s main sources of energy and is very important to our daily body functions. Foods that contain starches, sugars and fiber are all grouped together within the carbohydrate family. Simply put, there are good carbs and bad carbs. It’s our task to determine which carbs are good for us, which ones to avoid at all cost and which ones we cant live without (even if we should avoid them at all cost).
Simple carbs can usually be identified by their ending “ose”. Examples I am sure you have heard before are, glucose/fructose (from fruit) and table sugar (sucrose). Simple carbs should be avoided when possible. I have to admit it can be difficult at times; many low-fat products include simple carbs. These added carbs, provide flavor to our food, which is good for our taste buds, but bad for our waistlines. These simple carbs have no nutritional value, thus our bodies have no need for them. Eating simple carbs will satisfy us in the moment, but we’ll feel hungry soon after.
Corn Syrup (avoid at all cost!)
Most packaged foods
Pasta made with white flour
Complex carbs simply put, are the good carbs. Complex carbs are better for us because they leave us feeling full after we have eaten. Complex carbs. have nutritional value, which the body can use. Our bodies take a longer time to digest complex carbs., they burn slowly in our system, which keeps us feeling full for a longer period of time. Though, complex carbs are good for us, certain complex carbs must be eaten with moderation, (i.e. Pasta – made with whole grain).
Lettuce (greener the better)
Apples (The skin contain the majority of nutriential value)
Share your weight/fitness story?
I was 5’2 in height and 273lbs in the 8th grade.
Over the last eight (8) years, now at 29 years old and still around 5’2ish, I have lost and maintained a 123lb weight loss without gastric bypass surgery, any commercial diet programs or fad diets.
I attribute my weight loss success to strengthening my faith, determination, patience…and a treadmill.
Exercise has been the central tool in my transformation, but it’s still only one part of the puzzle towards health. I significantly changed how I eat; altering my relationship to food and eating. Again, I adhere to no specific diet. I practice mindful eating, remaining disciplined and limiting my intake of carbohydrates, sugar, dairy products and caffeine.
What was your turning point and/or “Ah-ha!” moment?
There was no major incident that caused me to have an “aha moment” really. One day I was home visiting from college. And I just said to myself “I had enough!” Enough of wearing body girdles to fit into certain outfits, enough of being the girl that guys never acknowledged. Overall being obese had caused me to miss out on enjoying simple things in life: I had not worn a bathing suit since I was 9 years old, was never able to ride a roller coaster because the safety bar did not fit over my stomach, and did not have my first boyfriend until graduate school.
How has losing weight/being healthy & fit changed your life?
Outside of all the superficial stuff of being able to wear cute clothes and a guy or two noticing me, my weight loss has made me more driven all around. Losing 123lbs has made me feel as if no obstacle is too big whether its school, work-related or family-related. Life has taught me that God is never gonna give me more than I am capable of handling.
How often do you exercise?
My key to success was learning to replace an unhealthy addiction: mindless eating while sitting in front of the television, with a healthy addiction: hitting the gym everyday. “I eat everyday, so I workout everyday,” is my number one fitness tip when giving advice to others.
What is your favorite workout?
For 60 minutes, I love to do a combined high speed and high incline walk on the treadmill while listening to music and/or watching a mindless reality show. It really makes me feel like I’m challenging myself and using every muscle in my body to pull myself up on the incline. And it has also given me a great booty!
What 5 food items are “must haves” in your kitchen?
Costco’s Kirkland Organic Salt-Free Seasoning – Sure it is healthy, but I have just never been a fan of salty food.
Economy size bag of frozen chicken breasts. – I think of chicken breasts as my “chameleon food.” I can make them adapt too almost any dish and they are a convenient source of lean protein.
Frozen veggies such as cauliflower, spinach and bell peppers – Being that I am a single lady and feeding only me, fresh veggies tend to spoil very quickly. Frozen veggies of course last longer, are usually already chopped and cheaper!
Leak-proof Tupperware – I am a creation of convenience. On Sunday, I typically cook my lunches and dinners for the week and put them in Tupperware. That way I always have healthy food ready that I can just pop in the microwave.
Bottled water, water, water and more water – I live in Washington, DC and there has been way too much controversy on drinking the tap water here. Water keeps me well hydrated for my workouts and lubricates my joints for tough workouts as well.
What is your favorite motivational/inspirational quote?
“Those who can most be accounted brave are those who know best know the meaning of what is sweet in life and what is terrible, and then go out undeterred to meet what is to come.” ~Pericles (a gift from Tulane Professor Cinda Lanza, when I was having a really bad day)
How do you find balance in your life?
My faith, exercise and travel have become my therapy.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
It would be expected that losing 123lbs is my greatest accomplishment. However, my greatest accomplishment is coming to peace with the car accident death of my two teenage cousins and absence of my father after my parents’ divorce. For many years, I was angry at the world and God about these two things. I dealt with my anger by vacuuming in Hot Pockets and Hostess cupcakes. Perhaps my real “aha moment” was reaching a place of forgiveness.
What do you love most about your body?
I love and admire my body’s stamina when I am at the gym. My body’s endurance when working out surprises me everyday. And of course I love my booty!
A cardiologist looking at a sonogram of my heart, told me that I have the heart and heart rate of a marathon runner!
What are the last 5 songs played on your iPod?
Bootylicious – Destiny’s Child
Keep Hope Alive – Crystal Method
Again – Faith Evans
All Nite (Don’t Stop) – Janet Jackson
On to the Next One – Jay Z
What weight loss/fitness tools do you use that you rely on in your weight loss/fit life journey?
Good, comfortable and affordable workout clothes from discount designer stores like Marshall’s and Ross. You really can find the durable sweat resistant workout clothes there for half the price. For me, having cute fitness clothes, motivates me to workout.
My IPOD and Black Berry! A few weeks ago I learned how to stream music through my Black Berry so it’s a stand in for my IPOD from time to time.
I am a member of many online wellness and fitness communities. Discussing health and wellness with individuals from all over the world keeps me motivated and most of all EDUCATED on adhering to a health lifestyle.