I’ve gotten quite a few questions about fitness and exercise, from readers wondering why I haven’t discussed these issues yet. I mean, if I’ve already had a shoe post, why not write about fitness?
The truth is, I don’t feel qualified to fully explore those issues yet. I always want to feel confident that I know what I’m writing about, and I’m currently on my own journey that perhaps someday, I’ll document and share with the world when I’ve reached my weight loss goal.
I’ve been a card-carrying member of Team Chunk my whole life. I’ve been on almost every diet you can think of. I’ve tried quick-fix diet pills, and struggled with an eating disorder in my teenage years. Finally, I’ve come to a place of love and acceptance of my body. I’m happy in my skin, but I need to focus on my health. And the only way I can do that is with a balanced diet and regular exercise. It ain’t easy, y’all. And I know I’m far from alone in my struggle.
The statistics don’t lie — Diet and exercise are real issues that need to be addressed in our community. According to that CBS News article, just one in seven US adults reported regular physical activity along with consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A mere 13 percent of African American women reported both healthy eating and exercise. That’s all kinds of wrong, bellas. And not only that, we tend to also be wrong and strong.
To quote from this Washington Post article, “Compared with overweight white Americans, overweight black Americans are two to three times more likely to say their weight is average — even after they’ve been diagnosed as overweight or obese by a doctor.” And the scariest statistic of all — “It’s estimated that about 75 percent of black Americans are now overweight or obese.” Yikes.
There’s no shortage of excuses as to why we don’t get off our butts and work it out. Trust me, I’ve used almost all of them, and they’re all weak. We’re too busy. We don’t have enough hours in a day. Unhealthy food is so much cheaper/yummier than healthy food. We want to have “a little meat on our bones,” and to be “bootylicious.” And the most ludicrous excuse of all, we don’t want to get our hair sweaty. That article, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was a real eye-opener.
Here’s a relevant quote: “Dr. Michael Railey, medical director of the St. Louis County Health Department, says that health disparities are reaching a crisis level for black women and that it’s time health officials take gender into consideration for any health concerns because one size doesn’t fit all. For example, Railey says, “For black women to exercise, there needs to be a social connection. Studies tell us that black women will work out in groups, but not alone. Men are more likely to work out alone.” Also, to get black women to exercise and adopt healthful lifestyles, you must take hair and appearance into consideration, Railey says. “If a woman spends hours in a (salon) chair and spends $60, she’s out of the gym for at least two days,” Railey says.”
Sorry, but I don’t think that hair makes a valid excuse for not exercising.
If your hair is natural and you rock a wash n’ go, you don’t have to worry about sweating out a hairstyle. Motown Girl offers a helpful hair routine for afrobellas working on their fitness, and her method’s working for me. When I work out, I pull my hair back with a stretchy, comfy, terry cloth headband. Then post-workout I shower and rinse the salt and sweat out of my hair with cool, refreshing water. Then I do a conditioner wash with something really gentle, like Deva Curl One Condition, and if I’m working out after work or night when I’m not going anywhere later (which is usually the case), I might slather on a little Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme on my hair itself for bedtime moisture. Then I make sure my hair’s dry before bed. That’s it, no more excuses.
True beauty starts from within. Literally. So the best way to clear up your skin, lose weight, and create a generally luminous glow is by ingesting the right things, and treating your body like the temple it is. Like I said, I’m a work in need of alot of progress myself. My goal is to be fit, and I’m far from it right now — that fact slapped me in the face when I stayed with my friend Jenny, who lives in a 6 floor walk-up apartment in New York City. I thought I was going to frickin’ die after we brought our suitcases upstairs, and that experience served as the wake-up call that my father’s been trying to give me for years. Please know that this is being written by someone who has agonized over weight issues her whole life. Finally, at the ripe old age of 28, I’m really trying to change my life for the better by being healthier and making exercise a part of my life. Here are a few dietary things that have been working for me so far.
I’ve managed to more-or-less lay down the soda and liquid calorie splurges (so long, Starbucks), and I’m trying to really start drinking water. Not just Vitamin Water, regular water. If I do have the urge for a fizzy drink, I’ll have an Izze, or The Switch, both are carbonated 100% juices.
I also really like Bloom Energy, a new drink from DelMonte that has a full serving of real fruit, antioxidants, and 100% vitamin C. It’s going nationwide soon, but right now you can find it on store shelves in Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix. It’s got a little caffeine kick, but nothing near Red Bull. The Wild Berry’s delicious, and the can’s 100 calories.
But I have to at least drink four or five glasses of plain ol’ water before I indulge with any kind of sweet, carbonated beverage.
This isn’t the kind of weight-loss tea that will give you the jitters or make your digestive tract curl up in a knot. It’s an organic rooibos blend that includes cinnamon, orange peel, and carob to help bust your sugar cravings. So I drink an ice-cold glass after dinner, and I’m less likely to start fiending for dessert.
One of my major issues in the past was eating too late. So when I’m up late and start getting midnight snack cravings, I brush my teeth, use my Waterpik (which I LOVE, by the way… how did I go for so long without one?), and use my medicated mouthwash that the dentist prescribed for me. It pretty much tastes like licking pennies, and effectively kills any desire for food. Besides, I’m not supposed to eat or drink anything for a half hour after using it.
I make a weekly menu because I’m a list-making dork and I need organization in my life. Going to the grocery armed with a list helps to prevent me from loading up on stuff I don’t need, and veggies that will just rot in my crisper. And yes, I try to cook dinner at least four nights a week — that way I know I’m eating healthy. I’m working really hard at cooking dinner earlier, but if I get home from work at 7:30, 8:00, or 8:30 like I did last night, that’s really difficult. I try not to serve dinner after 8:30, 9:00 (which is way too late as it is), but sometimes that’s unavoidable, and I always feel so horribly guilty after those “damn it’s late, what’s for dinner, McDonald’s/pizza/Boston Market it is” nights. But we all have them, and that’s where having a weekly menu really helps.
On the nights when I know I’m cooking dinner for sure, I try to make the most delicious and healthy meals possible. My typical goal is to include as many veggies in each recipe as possible, while still making something that’s delicious enough to make the husband say “mmmm, this is awesome.”
A perfect example of such a meal is my teriyaki chicken stir fry, which is super easy and will take you less than a half hour to prepare. I’ll give you the recipe for right now.
Get 1 pack of lean organic chicken cutlets
1 bag broccoli slaw,
and organic spinach fettucine, if you’ve got someone in your life who insists that a meal isn’t a meal without pasta or potatoes.
First things first, cut up your chicken into thin strips and season it. This is where the fun and creative part of cooking comes into play.
In a little bowl, I mixed a sprinkle of five spice powder, a teenier sprinkle of Jamaican all spice, Mrs Dash original, Maggi Sweet Chili Sauce, and Gourmet Garden ginger. I love the Gourmet Garden seasonings. Because I’m a sucker for a shortcut, I own several of their fresh herbs-in-a-tube, and I keep them in my freezer. (also, because my entire herb garden died. I’m a pretty terrible gardener, sad to say).
Paint on the seasoning on the chicken and let it marinate.
Next, cut up your onion and peppers into thin, bite-size pieces.
Make your spinach fettuccine on the side, follow package directions.
In a big stir fry pan (or big frying pan, whatever you’ve got), and I usually coat the pan with a little olive and sesame oil, very little. Cooking spray is also a good way to go.
Then, on medium heat I sautÃ©ed some garlic, and because I’m Caribbean, I must add half a teaspoon of browning in there first.
Then I pour in 1/2 cup of water and my broccoli slaw. Broccoli slaw mix is a super nutritious, pre-bagged blend of shredded broccoli stems, carrots, and red cabbage. It’s pretty crunchy, so unless you want a hard stir fry, you’ll want to let your slaw steam cook for a while, with a small amount of water in a covered pot. For flavor, you can add a teaspoon or so of teriyaki sauce (this low-sodium kind is one of my favorites).
Add your other veggies on low heat, and cover the pot so steam builds up. I usually let them cook on their own for seven to ten minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing’s sticking or overcooking.
Then you add the seasoned chicken to your simmering veggies. Turn the heat to high, and stir fry until the chicken’s cooked through completely and your veggies are as tender as you’d like them. See how yummy it looks, cooking in my frying pan? Then turn it down to a low/medium heat, and add your cooked spinach fettucine.
Stir well to make sure everything’s tossed and yummy and coated with delicious sauce, and serve in reasonably sized portions.
That’s a delicious, easy to cook meal that includes an amazing rainbow of seven veggies in one serving. The most wonderful thing about stir fry is, you can totally remix the recipe. You can make it with only veggies if you’d like. Sometimes I stir fry with shrimp, and I add different vegetables, like snow peas, broccolini, mushrooms of all varieties, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, or those cans of stir fry veggies you’ll find in the ethnic aisle, alongside many of the seasonings I used.
Here’s another stir fry I made, with broccoli, straw mushrooms, snow peas, and bean sprouts. I served it on a bed of baby spinach.
I’m always looking for healthier things to add. Someday soon I will try those tofu shiritaki noodles that Hungry Girl adores. It’ll take some convincing for the husband though. If you want more healthy recipes, check out Whole Foods.com, or the links I suggested earlier.
Like I said, I’m trying hard to be what I’m talking about here.
I was very inspired recently by seeing a college friend of mine, who’s always battled with weight herself. Since January she’s lost 30 pounds by working out on an elliptical trainer every day, and eating sensibly. We went out to dinner and her discipline really impressed me. A good guy friend of mine has recently lost a ton of weight by working out and being on Nutrisystem. The homie E-Fresh became like Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction; he walks the earth. And he’s significantly slimmer for all of his walking. One of my co-worker friends — who was already pretty slender, in my opinion — has now become fit, toned, and lost 17 pounds along the way. She keps track of her food intake and exercise routines on Fitday.com, and does her damndest to steer clear whenever we have an office birthday cake.
I’m looking around me for inspiration, and finding it.
I figure if Oprah, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland can find the time to work out every day and become fit, I can too. I’m striving to stop making excuses to myself, and stop postponing something so vitally important.
If any of you would care to join me on my journey to fitness, let me know and I’ll keep the recipes and healthy food posts coming!