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
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