This post is sponsored by Arivale, but these opinions and experiences are all mine.
I do my best to consistently reflect and celebrate self-love and beauty on my own terms, to represent joy at all stages of my journey. But I would be lying to you and myself if I didn’t admit that it took me a long time to get here, to a place of body positivity and understanding of self. It took me far too long to reject my miseducation and recognize decades of self-taught self-flagellation. It has taken me even longer to truly adopt practices of self-care that are holistic and make sense for my personality and lifestyle. Or even begin trying. Let me explain.
I remember being put in a weight loss group at age 12 – it was me, my mom and a group of adult women. We would come up one by one to be weighed in front of the room and the leader would triumphantly share our losses, or sadly share our gains. It was awful. I hated it. When I quit that, I began a cycle of intense, often ill-fitting weight loss programs. By the time I left Trinidad to go to college, I was bulimic. In college, therapy helped me deal with those triggers and to fight the impetus for my bulimia. I try to avoid those triggers but many of those feelings remain. And in terms of exercise, I recognize a cyclical pattern in my life. That pattern is – recognize my lifestyle is too sedentary or that my diet isn’t giving me the nutrients I need, say I’m gonna do something about it, start doing something about it, feel utterly joyless and quit in frustration, despair, rinse and repeat.
It’s kind of funny to look back at my blog posts through the years around this topic – starting in 2009 I started sharing posts about my efforts using the title “The Journey.” Health was a trigger then, too. Before I left Miami in 2009, I was briefly diagnosed with high blood pressure and I got an ulcer because of my job-related stress. I realized I needed to eat differently to deal with my upset, ulcerated, stressed out stomach, and to stave off that high blood pressure, which is rampant in my family history. I’ve seen what they look like, and I don’t want those problems. I got it together and wound up being taken off HBP medicine, and my ulcer went away. Ever since then I’ve been on an ongoing journey to…something. I was raised to think of that something as “weight loss,” but I rebuke that reductive thinking. For some time it changed to “fitness,” but that is a vague term that doesn’t give concrete guidance or structure. I want to be “fit,” but what I do I actually need to do, to be that? What does that mean for me? This is an area that has long triggered a familiar feeling of failure. For me, dress sizes, numbers on a scale or measurements on a tape measure easily lead me to despair. I am on a journey of self love and self care, and I want to love and care for myself at every stage of the journey. My health wound up giving me the most essential kick-in-the-rear to let me know that my self-care needed to be more holistic. I needed to take better care of myself for real, not in a superficial way.
My Wake Up Call
In 2016, I got a kidney stone because I didn’t drink enough water – click here to read about that experience. That was incredibly painful, traumatic and highly instructive, as my mom would say. It taught me a lot about my body, my needs, my deficiencies. I started drinking more water and generally taking better care of myself, and I thought I was doing alright. But then all around me came these indicators that I needed to go even harder and take this journey even more seriously ASAP. First my sister was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Two of my brothers, too. And in January of this year, my mom underwent triple bypass heart surgery. I haven’t shared any of this publicly, but privately it has been a lot. It’s been upsetting. Even though I don’t live at home, just watching my mom go through this and coming to terms with the effects of her recovery has been the ultimate wake-up call. The alarm bells are ringing. I have to wake up and LIVE. Because we only have one life, we get only one body. I see the writing on the wall. It couldn’t have been clearer, in the lead up to and wake of my mom’s surgery. I know I have to make more concentrated efforts for my health, if I don’t want my later years to be affected like that.
For too many years, I worried about dress sizes and weight instead of recognizing my body as a temple worthy of love and in need of maintenance at every stage of my journey. Instead of celebrating the gift of mobility and movement, I obsessed more about my appearance than my capabilities. I thought of diets as intentional deprivation instead of recognizing food as nutrition that could help, heal and empower me. I have tried many a diet – Atkins, South Beach, and briefly paleo and keto. I kinda sorta tried variations of Weight Watchers. Here’s the thing — I always went into these things thinking more about the possibility of losing pounds, than considering what my body needed in terms of nourishment. Now, thanks to Arivale I have a whole new understanding of what my body needs and why, and also how to take the best possible care of myself. It’s all made me re-examine what I thought of as self-care and self-love. Nowadays I’m putting in so much more sweat into those concepts.
My Arivale Experience
So what is Arivale? It’s a lot of things and kind of challenging to explain. At its essence, it’s a holistic assessment of your health that can help you change your life. The existing healthcare system is reactive, meaning you get sick and then have to do something about it. To me, the concept of Arivale is proactive healthcare – meaning you find out the things that can affect your quality of life based on data and genetics, and then you learn ways to address them. They describe themselves as “a revolutionary new wellness company that combines cutting-edge science, personalized data, and tailored coaching to help clients optimize wellness.” Optimize wellness, avoid disease. That’s the basic concept.
This all happened because I went to a meeting with Arivale co-founder Clayton Lewis when he came to Chicago. We had tea, I shared some of my recent family history (this was soon after my mom’s surgery) and his response was instantly empathetic. I was invited to try the program in the hopes that I would like it and want to share it with my readers. And I honestly do like it enough to do that. I’m happy to report that it’s been a total game changer for me. I have a greater understanding of myself than I ever had before, inside and out. What I really appreciate is that the program meets me where I am and makes room for my own goals, desires and LIFE. This isn’t a weight loss program – if that isn’t a goal for you, then you don’t have to lose anything. This isn’t a fitness program – if you don’t want to be more active, that’s up to you. Basically, it gives you an assessment of your health that is based on your personalized needs. It’s helping me to make a lasting mental shift to improve my health holistically and sustainably. It’s helping me to break some of the cycles and triggers of my past. The program fits into your life and meets you where you are, instead of adding something else to your plate.
There are three parts to this thing – data, coaching, and accountability.
Here’s how it starts – you log in and begin filling out some pretty detailed assessments. Like hurt your own feelings, stuff you never thought about kind of assessments. Just doing the assessments made me reassess some stuff – they ask about diet, digestive health, exercise readiness, stress, lifestyle, journey and happiness. Happiness, y’all. This program considers all the factors of health, beyond the obvious physical details. Just filling out the diet and digestive health made me recognize deficiencies in my day to day consumption. Answering honest questions about my happiness, my personality, my day to day diet and activities were all little wake-up calls within themselves.
After you do the assessments, then you get your blood drawn. I went to a lab and submitted blood for the Arivale team to review. When the results came back, my coach and I got on the phone and she explained it all to me while I looked for myself and asked all the questions possible. Your blood reveals vital data and genetics. If you choose, you can opt in for a stress and gut microbiome test. I did. Your stool sample reveals details about your microbiome. Your saliva reveals your cortisol levels – telling your health coach things about your sleep and stress levels that they never would otherwise know. And the coach is there to talk you through all of it with no judgement, just facts.
I submitted my labs, and I was matched up with a personal coach who explained everything. Arivale members choose a personal coach from over 60 registered dieticians and certified nutritionists. My coach’s name is Christie. I can reach her any time via e mail or message through the Arivale app. And every two weeks or so, we get on the phone to talk about my diet, my lifestyle changes, what I need to think about in order to make the changes I say I want to make. If I have fallen down on my goals or not met my own expectations, she doesn’t make me feel bad – she helps me to reset my expectations and keep going from there. Like I said, they meet you where you are.
My Arivale Lessons
Coach Christie helped me to understand the details of my data. Some of it is stuff I’ve known or had a strong feeling about. Some of it is stuff I had no idea about. It turns out that I need to pay closer attention to my heart health in terms of HDL and LDL particles, I need to up my omega-3’s and 6’s, and chronic inflammation is an issue for me, so my diet needs to change in specific ways. I knew diabetes was in my family, but I didn’t know that I had my own insulin resistance issues to keep an eye on. It also turns out that I have the adverse full effect single genetic variant for type 2 diabetes and dietary fat. I need to watch my vitamin D and ferritin (that’s iron). My coach had to explain all of this to me, and she was matter-of-fact, not alarmist. These stats are real. I am glad to be aware of where I’m doing well and where I need to improve. This is a snapshot from my actual health dimensions, just so you can see what I mean.
The next part is, Coach Christie knows what I’ve been up to. This is the accountability piece. If you have a Fitbit, you can sync it with your Arivale app. I’m doing this, and wearing a Fitbit every day has been a GAME CHANGER. I am constantly aware of my activity (or lack thereof) and that prompt to get up and move is so essential. I am so much less sedentary than before. I have physical goals and a steady reminder to keep me going and keep me encouraged. Plus it tracks my sleep, which has been a real problem within the last years. I got into this bad “they sleep, we grind” mentality which led me to having pretty erratic sleep patterns. Now I am recognizing the effects of my insomnia on my mind and body and being really intentional about dealing with it. Sleep is important for health, and for too many years I thought I didn’t need it like I do. I average 5 hours and 30 minutes a night. I made it a full 8 hours one night in August and I want that ALL the time. It’s a new goal, for real.
The gift of the Arivale program is awareness. Having my clinical results at my fingertips makes me feel empowered in my own health care. All around me, I’m seeing the results that come from a lack of awareness or a late awareness. I know I’m not the only one — too many of us are growing older and discovering family health issues that we may not know how to tackle or change. This is intentionally addressing that.
I may not be able to change everything, but I now am so much more informed than I ever was before. I feel more conscious in my efforts. What’s that old saying? Knowledge is power. It’s so true!
What You Should Know + A Special Afrobella Arivale Offer
One of my main concerns about doing Arivale was security. You want me to turn over ALL my health data and genetic info? Given what has been happening and has happened to data on the internet, I had my concerns. Also, what exactly will you do with this data? Many of America’s top executives are participating in the Arivale program, and they keep security super tight – I was concerned about that, so I had to ask. Click here to read more about their privacy and security policies.
I don’t just sign up for any and everything and I don’t endorse or share any and everything. This program is working for me. As they describe it, it’s a scientific path to wellness. It’s not a magic bullet or cure-all. All of the changes have to come from you.
My journey will continue beyond this trial period, but already I feel so much more empowered. What makes this approach so different for me is the grounding in information, and the continual guidance. I’m not fumbling in the dark and wondering if I should try this or that. I know what I need to fix. I know what I need to do. Now, just to do it consistently. I’ve been given all the tools I need!
Here’s some data straight from Arivale about their program:
Within six months of joining Arivale, members see improvement in their risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and more. More importantly:
* 84 percent of members who felt they’d lost control of their lives no longer felt that way.
* 74 percent of members who felt their health was on the wrong path no longer felt that way.
* 71 percent of members who felt rundown no longer felt that way.
You can count me in that number. I feel like I’m regaining control of my life in a new way. I look forward to doing more of what I need to do – eating healthy, staying active, drinking water, minding my business. I’m making sustainable lifestyle changes. I look forward to doing my second round of labs, to see where I’ve progressed – I’ll share those details with you when I get my results!
The people at Arivale have a special offer for Afrobella readers. If you sign up here using my direct sign up link, here’s what you get for $99 per month:
- A blood draw every six months to reveal 3,000+ genetic variants and track disease risks and improvements through 40+ blood markers including your predispositions for weight gain, stress, optimal diet, heart disease, and more.
- 40+ markers from your blood tested every six months to track and improve inflammation, diabetes risk, nutritional deficiencies, and more.
- Lifestyle analysis and management, including nutrition, sleep, and stress
- A personalized action plan and support via the Arivale dashboard and app
- Personal, one-on-one support from a licensed health-care professional
- If you sign up in September with my link you also get to choose a gut microbiome or stress test ($99 value)
Considering the price of doctor copays and labs, I think this approach is worth a try – it’s definitely working for me. Even giving the Arivale program a shot for the months I have, has made a tremendous difference in my approach to my health. I’m coming from a different place of understanding now. And knowing better is definitely leading to doing better.
Click here to give Arivale a try, using my special code >> https://www.arivale.com/afrobella.
Ask me ANYTHING about my Arivale experience in the comments below – I’ll answer, or someone from Arivale will!
This post is sponsored by Arivale, but these opinions and experiences are all mine.