blood pressure, health, Healthy, Organ Donation, Pregnancy

Accountability: My Numbers – Pregnant, Vegan, Low Sugar, Kidney Donor, African-American Woman over 40… Curious?

Hello family, I wanted to do this as sort of a follow up to my Brown Sugar post.  This is my accountability post.  If I am talking so much about food and health, I should be practicing it in my own life, right?  Well then, because you are reader and a member of this movement, I want you to have the details.  I decided I’m going to do a post like this every year.

First, though, I want to share a bit about my family medical history.  The thing is, you need to know, that if I’m saying all of this stuff about food and health, that I’m practicing it and it is working for real.

Grandma aka Mere Vé Vé

My maternal grandmother, Veronique, came to the US when I was 4 years old.  She was known as a rather strong woman.  They say that even during the year before she made her way to the US, Mere Vé Vé could be seen carrying heavy loads of harvested vegetables and ground provisions (root vegetables) in buckets from her garden to her home.  In her village, Pointe Michel, Dominica, people’s gardens were not adjacent to their homes.  So picture her treading uphill to a garden plot (at least 5-6 city blocks?  1/4 mile or so?) away from home to carry back food.  She was 58 years old, with no history of any medical problems.  Then she came to 1980’s America.

Within 9 years, she had been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure and she had gone blind from glaucoma.  I can remember her as a fiery lady, always with a joke ready.  She loved to laugh and she loved to dance to songs by The Mighty Sparrow.  I can also remember her sitting on the couch in the living room injecting insulin into her thigh.  By the time I was 13, she passed away.

Uncle Fitzroy

Not long after, there was a scare.  My Uncle Fitzroy – my mother’s younger brother, who arrived a year after my grandma in the US and lived with us through much of my childhood – was rushed to the hospital one night.  The emergency, I later learned, was caused by diabetes.  He was diagnosed in his early 30s.  This gave everyone in my family pause.  Even I, in my early teens, was disturbed by this.

When he arrived in the US at age 23, he was slim, just like all the other recent male Caribbean immigrants of that era with very few exceptions.  He taught me how to play soccer and he also loved to make jokes. In my memory, this was so strange, because I remembered my grandmother and I knew other elderly people were diabetic, but Uncle Fitzroy was still, from my perspective, pretty young.  How could he get this disease already?  Indeed, we all noticed he did start getting kind of fat as time went by, but in those days we had come to expect people to put on extra weight as they got older, like it was just inevitable.  Now I know how wrong we all were!

Mommy

Check In: My Numbers
Mommy, on the left, before I was born, in St Thomas with her best friend sometime in the late 1960’s

My mother was more than likely suffering from some degree of insulin resistance herself, but was never diagnosed.  Now knowing what I know, this hypothesis is because she struggled mightily but unsuccessfully to take off the extra pounds she carried for most of her 40’s.  She tried exercising and did her best to walk a lot and stay active.  She was not into snacks – that was not a real issue for her generation.  But she ate the SAD – the Standard American Diet – for the most part, thinking that there was nothing particularly unhealthy about it.  We all believed that lie.  She was anemic, but there were no other diagnoses, until she was diagnosed with cancer in her lung (she was NOT a smoker, btw) at age 55.  She died the next year.

Why Look Back?

The point of sharing my family’s medical history with you is this: it doesn’t reflect anything that I have going on in my life at the moment.  When I first visited Mount Sinai with the intention of donating a kidney to my father (1), my blood pressure was borderline high and there was talk of potential pre-diabetes.  Yes, and I was 212 lbs, and for my height, that is obese at a Body Mass Index of slightly over 35.  I like the Smart Body Mass Index calculator for a good contextual interpretation of BMI results.

So, without further ado, here are my numbers as of December 6, 2017:

Kidney Donation: March 10, 2016.  Labs from Mount Sinai done in July 11, 2017 show that my one remaining kidney is stable.

Current Condition: 30 Weeks Pregnant (that’s about 7 1/2 months), Age 41

Blood work Results: Slightly anemic, now taking iron supplement more diligently.  Still in prayer for a food-based way to deal with that so I can wean off the supplement.  Please agree with me in prayer for that!  Cholesterol and all other readings were normal.

Blood Pressure: 99/59 – Anything below 120/80 is considered normal.  If your reading is consistently higher than this, you may have High Blood Pressure.  My reading is consistently at or below this level.

Blood Sugar: 83 mg/dL – If your doctor sees anything over 100, the may want to test your fasting and postprandial (after meal) blood sugar a few more times in the near future to see if you are running those numbers consistently.  This is how they determine whether to diagnose you with Diabetes.

Weight: 177 lbs, up from a pre-pregancy weight of 155.  There doesn’t appear to be a method to check BMI during pregnancy, but my pre-pregnancy BMI was just under 26 which, according to the Smart Body Mass Index calculator, is a healthy weight that does not implicate the probably of any health problems developing.

Note that my weight this far into the 3rd trimester is still far less than my weight was before Really Nourish.  In other words, at almost 8 months pregnant, I’m still lighter than I was then, and I was not pregnant then!  

How’s that for an African-American woman?  

In Case You Were Thinking It…

One last thing – it isn’t because I moved out of America that I am able to maintain the healthy lifestyle that produces these great results.  As of January 2017, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the top 3 obese countries in Latin America according to the Pan American Health Organization.  Here, 31% of the population is obese and 50% is at least overweight.  We’re also running about a 10% diabetes rate here, and a recent article in a local newspaper reported that heart disease has now overtaken crime as the number one killer of Trinidadians.  So, no, the lifestyle here does NOT lend itself to better health.  Fast food and junk food are as ubiquitous here as they are states-side.  I have to make the same deliberate, concerted effort to keep my food life on track as I did back in New York.

Nonetheless, my Really Nourish tribe, I wanted you to know that I am indeed dedicated.  I will keep it going, and you can consider me a source of support and information.  In fact, for this to really keep going, its important that the tribe grows.

Click here to see how YOU can get involved.

So there’s my evidence, family.  Thank you for motivating me.

Footnote:

(1) I did not include my dad’s medical history because he’s not my blood relative.  He’s actually my stepfather.  Having said that, his medical history is a bit more relevant than some would make it, because when looking into medical history for lifestyle diseases, we should really shift our thinking from bloodlines to social settings.  This suggestion is based on the information from The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D, which explains that

  1. Genetics only account for 2-3% of a person’s predisposition towards the diseases in this category,
  2. The other 97-98% of predisposition comes from environmental factors, of which diet is one, and
  3. Dietary changes can turn genes on and off.

Therefore, it is not who is related to me by blood, but who I ate with throughout my childhood, that truly would have set the patterns leading toward lifestyle diseases.  Therefore: My dad was diagnosed with hypertension in 1982, and although he experienced swelling in his feet sometime in the 1990’s, he never followed up on this with a doctor.  Indeed, he could have been suffering from renal disease since then.  He had a heart attack at age 62 or so, and then both his kidneys failed (end stage renal disease) at age 68.  He married my mom when I was 10, so he’s my dad, with whom I was socialized, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, throughout the remainder of my childhood.

food, Healthy, non-gmo, Organic, Prayer, shopping, Weight Loss

My Really Nourish Journey with Thrive Market

More than 2 years into my journey from the brink of statistical-status to becoming more than a conqueror over the one of the enemy’s most virile attacks on mankind, I now share with you my Really Nourish Journey with Thrive Market.

Kidney Failure

In November 2014, my father was diagnosed with renal failure.  At his first dialysis appointment in Brooklyn, NY, I sat with the center’s kind social worker, Lisa.  I was clueless.  She explained the basics.  How the kidney functions in the body.  How the dialysis would substitute the lost function by cleaning the blood.  It was a crash course in Biology, a subject I struggled to complete in high school with a barely passing grade.

My first question to her was how long he would have to do the dialysis treatments.  Her face gave me the answer: for the rest of his life.  My dad was already inside getting set up for his first dialysis session.  I was saddened by the thought that this could be his life – in New York, far away from his beautiful island home in the dead of winter, sitting in a clinic hooked up to a machine for 4 hours three times a week.

Your’re from… Where Now?

My family is from the Commonwealth of Dominica.  It’s the bucolic island nation that was destroyed during Hurricane Maria.  Before Maria, most people had not heard of this country.  As a child growing up in Brooklyn, I constantly had to offer the following kinds of explanations about where my family came from: “It’s in the Eastern Caribbean between Martinique and Guadeloupe.”  “No, not the Dominican Republic, that’s a different country.”  “No, we don’t speak Spanish, we speak English and Patois.” In third grade at PS 119, I was so excited to do a presentation about what my family had taught me about Christmas in Dominica.  As I resumed my seat, I remember my teacher adding “In America, we call it the Dominican Republic.”  I still remember the feeling of my heart sinking.

After my mother died of cancer at age 56 in 1999, my dad moved back there and built the house they were supposed to retire together in.  They had bought a great piece of land in the village of Pointe Michel the early 90’s, and I remember my dad sketching the first and subsequent drafts of the house he would build.  We sat on Saturday mornings looking at his sketch and he talked at length about this house.  Sometimes my mom would roll her eyes.  I was a teen in those days.  I enjoyed the time we spent together.  Indeed, he built the very house he drew.  Although my mother never lived to see it, she is the one who made it possible because it was the pension and life insurance money that financed it’s construction.  Remarkable, the house is the among the 5% of homes that survived Maria.

My dad, who had minimal education, singlehandedly built one of Dominica’s first Climate Change resilient houses.  We didn’t know this at the time of the conversation we were having.  Dominica hadn’t even been through Tropical Storm Erica as yet.  All I knew was that I wanted him to go home, because I knew that if he couldn’t, it would be a sad, ironic tragedy that might send him to an early grave.

Becoming a Living Donor

“Unless,” Lisa the social worker said, “someone were willing to give him a kidney, then he could come off the dialysis.”

The Spirit prompted me immediately. “Maybe I could give him one,” I replied, without a moment of hesitation.  Her face lit up in response.  She excused herself and disappeared to her office, reappearing with brochures for two transplant centers.  Now the conversation was a little more upbeat, as she explained this process which in retrospect I knew she wished was an option for all her patients at the center.  I would only learn later how inexplicably rare living family donor volunteers are for those needing transplants.

I called my husband in Trinidad to get his consent, and when my dad came out, we got in the Zipcar and drove home.  Tears came to his eyes when I told him about what Lisa and I had discussed.  Again, I still didn’t think it was a big deal.  For me the bottom line was this: if I was able, then I was willing.

We haven’t gotten to Really Nourish yet.  We are going to fast forward through the next few months now that you know how it all started.

My Really Nourish Journey with Thrive Market Begins

On a cold day in January 2015, Dad and I traveled by train together to the Recanati-Miller Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  My presumption walking in the door was that the only obstacle might be that we don’t match for a transplant.  The thing is, Dad is my stepfather, so we are not blood relatives.  Nonetheless, I was prayed up and encouraged by faith.  People donate kidneys all the time to recipients who are not blood relatives.  In fact, sometimes people get kidneys from living or diseased donors who they don’t even know.

We arrived late and were sent to separate rooms.  Dad went to one room to be introduced to and briefed by a kidney transplant recipient team.  I went into the room where donors get a similar briefing.  My briefing included a rude awakening that blindsided me.  It started with a questionnaire and a physical.  They took my height and weight.  They took my blood pressure in both arms.  One arm was higher than I’ve ever seen my blood pressure read before.  It was borderline hypertensive, I was told.  The donor team nurse was a hard-faced, bespectacled white woman who had probably been doing this for years and was unimpressed by my enthusiasm to “Donate Life”.   About my weight and the implications – in a nutshell I was a 39-year-old obese black woman – the nurse tersely explained that I may not be in good enough health to be the donor.

Diabetes?? Me???

“You know that African Americans are more prone to diabetes, and that being overweight is a precursor,” she explained.  “And your blood pressure…” She wheeled on her rolling stool over to a desk drawer and took out a sheet to hand me.  She ordered me to get three more blood pressure readings on three different days.  I could do this for free at any Duane Reade, she explained.  (See my video on this topic)

Also, on the questionnaire, I was asked if I had ever been diagnosed with Diabetes in the last 10 years.  I wanted to be honest, so I indicated that I remember having been told something about potentially having gestational diabetes with my then 21-month-old son.  “If this was a true diagnosis,” she said, “you won’t be able to donate.”  I remember I had developed a daily candy bar habit during that pregnancy.  I remember a discussion with my midwife at the Brooklyn Birthing Center about my blood sugar. There was a mention of gestational diabetes while I was in labor.  I just couldn’t remember if was a diagnosis or a caution.  So I now had to get my medical records from the birthing center.

More members of the donor team came in the room and spoke with me.  Then, I was allowed to join Dad in his briefing room.  When I arrived, the nutritionist was just finishing up, and a transplant surgeon came in after her to explain the surgery.  Another Biology lesson.  Unlike in high school more than 20 years earlier, I was finding science suddenly fascinating!

Nonetheless, the talk with the donor team nurse weighed heavy on my mind.  I couldn’t imagine that I could possibly be in poor health.  Up until that point, I had never had any cause to be concerned about high blood pressure.  The only talk of diabetes I had ever had during my life was during that pregnancy. On the way home, I shared some of the talk with my dad.  I was mad at the whole “African Americans are more prone” thing.  I later researched that and discovered why that is, and it isn’t because God made us inferior, that’s for sure!  For the moment, while I was in a little bit of denial, I was also prompted to really start thinking long and hard about what direction my health was going in.

I Thought I Was Doing All the Right Things!

There are people who know they are obese, have already developed the related diseases and have an addiction to food that they are aware of.  Then there are people like me.  I thought I was doing things the right way.  My then 6-year-old daughter knew never to ask me to take her to a Mc Donald’s.  We didn’t frequent that or any other similar fast food places, other than Subway occasionally.   At least at subway, we could get lots of fresh veggies on the sandwiches with the meat and cheese, and only juice.  No soda!  Also at home, we drank 100% juices.  I didn’t buy soda or “juice drinks” for my family.  We had started to buy more organic foods, also.

Did I still eat candy bars?  Yes I did, but not daily like that phase I went through in the third trimester with Judah.  How many?  I didn’t keep track.  Did I still order pizza?  In retrospect, I did this pretty frequently, and we liked pepperoni on ours.  But it was from a local mom-and-pop place, not a chain, so I perceived this to be a better option.  Also, I did still eat burgers and fries, but again, from local places, so again, I thought it was better.

Homemade: Not Always “Better”

In general, I made a lot of things from scratch and did a lot of home cooking.  A healthy daily breakfast almost invariably included two eggs, and if I made them at home, I thought it was better than getting them on the street or in a fast food place.  I was buying organic, free range eggs now.  It was better.  We drank skim milk.  We ate whole wheat bread.  My blood pressure readings were still fine and other than that encounter during the last pregnancy, my blood sugar was normal.  I thought I was doing the right things.

Looking back now, it all seems absurd.  Even when my Dad first saw me while he was in the hospital in December 2014, he remarked at how big I had gotten.  I waved that off.  I was getting older, and I was from a family of women who tended to be “thicker”.  My mom was thick, too.  Two children, 39 years old, what did he expect?  My husband thought I was sexy.  That’s not the absurd part.  I was beautiful in those days too.

The absurd part was how ignorant I was about the path that I was on.  Suddenly coming face to face with the possibility that my health was not what I thought it was shocked me.  I remembered that my daughter had come home one day from school last year with some results of some school program health screenings.  This paper she handed me said that she was overweight according to something called BMI.  That memory prompted me

IMG_0337
Me, April 2015, over 200lbs, size 12 jeans

to research this concept.  I found a Body Mass Index calculator online and entered my height and weight.  That’s the day I discovered that I was…

OBESE!

The next visit at Mount Sinai was no better.  My weight had gone up 2 lbs since the previous visit, and some bloodwork indicated that I could be prediabetic.  I quickly leapt out of denial and into acceptance.  My acceptance was not to say I was going to live like that.  It was my impetus to nip this thing in the bud.  The end goal was to donate the kidney, and I couldn’t let anything, not even my ignorance about my health, stop me.  I went straight to The Great Physician for a follow up.

The Great Physician’s Prescription

In prayer, I remember saying these words to Jehovah Rapha, our God who heals: “You say all the answers I need in life are in Your word.  Please show me.”  I told Him that I just wanted, if it is His will, to make sure that my health was going to be good enough to be a donor if we match.  At least, I said, if we don’t match, I would like to sow a kidney by donating to someone I do match so maybe I could reap one for him.  They explained to me that there is a program for that.  It works like a swap. I could match someone else, and that person’s donor that didn’t match them might match Dad, then we all go in and swap kidneys.  I was open to that.

The thing is I had not ever been careless about my health.  Misguided, certainly, but not careless!  I know there are many people out there like that, and when they develop the health problems regardless of how careful they are, they just think they couldn’t avoid it.  They are selective about their food, but by the wrong criteria.  They are bamboozled by Big Food’s propaganda because they trusted the untrustworthy.  I should say we, because I was right there with them.  Like I said, I thought I was making good choices for myself and my children.  My choices were corroborated by those who I thought would never want to mislead people.  It’s food, for crying out loud.  Would our government allow this?

In June 2015, I was able to return the sheet to the donor team nurse with three normal level blood pressure checks.  She was mildly satisfied.  She still wanted to see my birthing center medical records, and I weighed heavier than before once again.  I was now 212 lbs and swelling.  On the bright side, the blood work for the match test had come back.  My dad and I matched perfectly for a transplant!  As I rejoiced, Holy Spirit prompted me to read some scriptures.  He started me off with Proverbs 23:1-3.  Then I saw the documentary Fed-Up.  I started to understand what I had been doing wrong, why I had been doing the wrong things and what I was headed for if I didn’t make huge changes.

Thrive Market, My Oasis in the Food Desert: My Shopping Checklist

This was the birth of Really Nourish.  Very soon, I learned about Thrive Market.  Living in a food desert on the north shore of Staten Island, New York, I suddenly found it difficult to get the new kinds of foods I wanted to be stocking my household with.  Up until I found Thrive, I would take a 30-minute bus ride to a nicer neighborhood in Staten Island to shop.  I paid them $5.00 to deliver my groceries home and then got back on the bus.  Anytime I had a Zipcar, I fit in a shopping stop before heading back to my little food desert neighborhood.  Eventually, I started taking the Staten Island Ferry into lower Manhattan to go to Whole Foods, because even that Staten Island supermarket’s selection of organic produce and packaged food was lean.  Whole Foods had things like sprouted bread, inexpensive, organic dry goods by the pound, and lots of organic, in season, well priced local produce. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy as much as I wanted on each trip because I had to carry it all home – no home delivery to Staten Island available.  Thrive became my oasis in a food desert!

Really Nourish Journey with Thrive Market
Thrive Market Really Nourish Shopping Checklist

 

My new approach was:

  1. Whole Foods and my local weekly farmer’s market (only operating on Saturday mornings in warmer months). This is how I would stock up on in-season, largely organic fruits and vegetables and fresh breads.  I also bought, before I gave it up, organic, grass fed, locally reared animal products.
  2. In the colder months, I started shopping Fresh Direct for those items.
  3. Then I would hop onto ThriveMarket.com and order the other stuff I used to have to lug – flour and rice and pasta, healthy snacks for the children and they would send it right to my door!

Because the prices were so low, I was now able to try out health products like spirulina and essential oils that were out of my range before.  I never paid for delivery, because my orders were always more than $49.00.  I always got a cool freebee and my kids loved to play in the boxes for days after stuff arrived.  The packaging was even thoughtful.  I was impressed that everything glass wasn’t in plastic bubble wrap.  They used something biodegradable, either some corrugated cardboard or some cool kind of cardboard webbing that my children also liked to play with.  Let me show you the kind of shopping I did with Thrive.

Really Nourish Journey with Thrive Market: The Changes

In the first month, I dropped 20 lbs by reducing my overall free sugar consumption to under 25 grams a day.  I had to actually throw some stuff out in my kitchen and pour some juice down the drain.  During that summer, I did lots of yoga with my kids, but not much additional exercise.  The 20 stayed off but I couldn’t get below 192 for anything man!  Then, after a couple of books, lots more scripture, several more documentaries including Cowspiracy, I made my choice to go vegan.  That’s when my journey took me from obese-land, through the overweight mountains to the border lands of normal weight country.

New Nurse 🙂

Along the journey, the donor team at Mount Sinai swapped the hard-faced gate keeper donor team nurse to the lovely, kind faced one, Montgomery Roach.  Every visit to Mount Sinai was full of smiles now.  Montgomery was excited and encouraged to prepare me for the transplant.  My nutritionist was excited about the changes I had made, and everything was full steam ahead for the surgery.

The Big Day!

In March 2016, on a cool early morning, Dad and I shared an Access-a-Ride to Mount Sinai for surgery.  It was the culmination of a 17 month journey.  It was a relatively short wait, but there was a lifetime of change in both of us during that time.  The surgery was a flawless success.  While in the surprisingly comfortable and pretty recovery suite (donated by a past donor who wanted future donors to have at least the reward of a nice place to stay after donating an organ), one of the surgeons came in to see me.  He told me that the kidney was “beautiful”.   How great it was to know that

IMG_3737
Me on Emancipation Day August 1, 2016, under 170 lbs, size 8 skinny jeans.  Currently, in December 2017, I am 7 months pregnant with my 3rd child and still under 170, blood pressure 99/59, blood sugar 83 mg/dL. My pre-pregnancy weight was 155.

not only could I give my Dad an organ that would allow him to go home and live a normal life in his beloved Dominica, but that the quality of the gift was good enough that a surgeon who had done this 400 times before in his career was impressed!   I moved to Trinidad a bit later that year, but still maintain my Thrive membership.  Just recently, I joined Thrive as an affiliate, so I could accompany my story with a resource that my American members can use to actually achieve their goals no matter where they live.  Here’s more about Thrive’s commitment to making high quality food available to everyone.

The Future

God gets all the glory, but I believe part of His plan was that Thrive Market relieve me of the problem of food desert life by giving me affordable, easy access to the kind of food He wanted me to use to care for His temple.  Thrive Market can be a vital partner in your journey too.  My next goal is to help bring this kind of thing here to Trinidad and the rest of the Caribbean Islands.  If the American way of life is going to be exported here along with it’s lifestyle disease health pandemic, and this is happening rapidly around the world, then why can’t we also export the groundswell movement towards more affordable access to healthier options with free delivery in cool, environmental friendly packaging?

Wouldn’t that be a more responsible thing to share with the rest of the world?

Click Here for an 8 Day Devotional to help you start your own journey!

Food Life During The Holidays
food, God's word, Healthy, seasonal

Food Life During The Holidays aka “I Got 99 Problems but a Fruit Aint One”

Now that the holidays are upon us, and its a perfect time to start thinking ahead about managing your food life during the holidays.  Your family, they love you, but they may not be completely ready to respect your choices.  The bottom line is if you made a commitment – especially if you made that commitment unto the Lord, then its important that you stand firm in it.  Put on your whole armor today, because you are going to be the only one looking back in the mirror at yourself on January 3rd when the dust settles!

Step 1: Define YOUR Food Life

  • Vegan – “I refrain from all animal flesh and animal-based foods.”
  • Vegetarian – “I refrain from animal flesh but still consume dairy and eggs regularly.”  This used to be referred to as Lacto-ovo Vegetarian, but since the only alternative to this is complete abstension from anything that comes from an animal has a name now, the word Vegetarian covers this category.
  • Pesco-Vegetarian – “I refrain from the flesh of all land and air animals, but I still eat aquatic flesh.”  Most likely, a Pesco-Vegetarian still also consumes dairy and eggs.

Other food life parameters can include the following:

  • Abstaining or adhering to a low maximum daily intake of sugar and refined starch.
  • Adhering to a low maximum daily intake of sodium.
  • Organic and non-gmo focused.
  • Calendar-based abstention – One interesting option, either as a weaning approach or just as a decided practice, is to pick a day or two in the week to abstain, like “No Meat Monday’s”.

There are indeed even more food life parameters, such as paleo and raw foods.  These may not be as sustainable as the ones above, as they teeter on the brink of the “fad diet” pit, so we will not address them here.  The point is to be able to sustain something that is sustainable, even when it becomes markedly more difficult because of the change in the environment that festivities bring.

Your Food Life is Not That Simple

Also, your food life is likely to be a combination of these.   That makes sense, because the fact is you can’t isolate one food category or food component as the culprit for all problems.  Just like how the enemy can come at you with 99 problems seemingly all at once, it is often a combination of problematic food components that bring and sustain disease in the body.

For example, this is my personal food life definition:

  1. I adhere to the vegan principle of a plant-based daily diet based on a strong Biblical Case for Veganism.
  2. Within my veganism, I allow myself animal-based foods on an extremely limited basis (more on this later).
  3. No more than 25 grams of free sugars per day on average.  (so some days I may get 30-40, but some other days I have less than 10 or none at all).
  4. My grain consists of whole wheat and whole grain baked products and pastas, brown rice, and other cooked or raw whole grains over their refined white counterparts.
  5. I seek out the organic or at least non-gmo alternative for every food item I eat and serve my family, as well as paying attention to other details of the production such as fair treatment of farmers and workers and sustainable practice.
  6. Grow as much of my own food as I possibly can in the space I have available wherever I live.

This is a complex food life definition indeed, but it all has its roots in a combination of altruistically-motivated science and biblical precepts, and I have experienced the positive effects of these choices in my spirit, my mind and my body.

The point here is to have a clear definition of your own food life, not to tell everyone, but so that you yourself are sure what your overall choices are and why you are making them.  Unfortunately, gone are the days when we could just eat and not think that hard about it.  An industry has risen from that mindset to exploit the trust we once had in food.  It was a justifiable trust because, up to about 150 years ago, food in general was just as God intended it to be.  This industry is out of control with the tampering and the age of food vigilance is now upon us.  We need to be deliberate about our choices.

 

Step 2: Clearly Define Allowances, Especial in our Food Life During The Holidays

This is where I address my earlier statement that I allow myself animal-based foods on an extremely limited basis.  Let me begin by defining two demons that can derail your train faster than you can blink:

Once in a While (in the Caribbean, we might say “Its Not Everyday Nah!”)

Everything in Moderation

Once in a While/It’s Not Everyday

These statements are open doors for defeat.  When someone says “once in a while” but does not define in clear terms what “a while” is, they overdo it without even realizing.  Define your “while“.   If you say “It’s Not Everyday“, then how often is it?  For me, I buy one dozen common foul eggs (eggs laid by chickens that are truly free-range because I see them running around free in the neighbors’ yards) every 4-8 weeks for my entire family (my husband does not abstain from anything, so mostly they are for him).  I personally have no more than 4 eggs out of that dozen, and usually, I get no more than two.  That’s it. So my “while“, in this case, is 4-8 weeks.  This both sets a limit and prevents habit formation.

You can do a Second Saturday treat, as in “On the second Saturday of every month, I have myself a ______________” (currant roll, piece of cake, tall chai latte, grilled cheese sandwich on white bread, omnivorous breakfast – I mean ONE of these things, not all of them!).  Alternatively, if you have a standing monthly date for a meal with a particular person, you can use that occassion as your allowance day.

Delicacies and Dainties – Deceptive Foods

Your Food Life During The Holidays
It’s Not Every Day!

These are delicacies – some bible versions call them dainties.  They are foods that we shouldn’t eat daily, or even weekly.  This limited consumption approach is consistent with the way people ate delicacies in biblical times.  The common man did not eat animal flesh or honey (that era’s equivalent of sugar) daily, or even weekly.  This was not because of purposeful abstention.  It simply was not available daily – those things were too rare and expensive.  You would think with all the Levitical laws discussing animal consumption that it was eaten all the time, but in fact, it was only on a few feast days per year that the Hebrews ate “like kings”.  Indeed, we are cautioned in Proverbs 23:1-3 from craving those things that scripture tells us are deceptive foods.

In the 19th century, the deception was made real: people actually came to believe that whatever the wealthy ate regularly was healthier for the body and mind and everyone should eat those food regularly too.   The scripture speaks against this, calling the over consumption of animal flesh gluttony (Proverbs 23:20-21), cautioning against overindulging in honey so you don’t get sick (Proverbs 25:16), and clearly stating that if we get sucked into the glamour of eating like a king we might as well put a knife to our own throats (Proverbs 23:2)  I recommend you do not do more than one allowance day per month.  That way, you can really stick to your food life choices in a pure way.

Everything in Moderation

The problem in the term “Everything in Moderation” is the word “Everything“.   I bet there’s a long list of things you like to eat and drink that you know you shouldn’t, so you “try not to”, and your week goes something like this.

Monday – I’m going to have a slice of pizza for lunch. But I won’t have any pizza again for the week.  Everything in Moderation.  I’ll get a candy bar on the way home, but I don’t do that every day.

Tuesday – I had a candy bar yesterday, so I won’t have that today.  What will I wash my lunch down with?  Well, I’m eating a salad, so I think I’ll have a soda.  Everything in Moderation!

Your week continues like this, and perhaps you sit down Sunday and think back on what you ate and drank this past week that might not have been good.  It went something like this:

Monday – Pizza and candy bar

Tuesday – A (well sweetened) Frappucino with whipped cream and one Soda

Wednesday – Bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin,  and a bottle of iced tea with dinner

Thursday – Cheeseburger for lunch with fries and a milkshake

Friday – Sugar cereal with dairy milk and a tall glass of juice for breakfast, Baked Ziti dinner.

Saturday – Brunch out with friends…

So you have had moderate amounts of each unhealthy thing this week.  You have not had any one thing everyday, but you have had EVERYTHING.  If you continue to eat like this week in, week out over years in your life, do you expect to remain in good health?  This is a recipe for disaster in your food life during the holidays!

Step 3: Think Ahead About Your Food Life During The Holidays NOW

So it’s mid-November and you know you have these coming up: Thanksgiving dinner and at least one party or dinner during the December holiday season.  The Thanksgiving dinner for Americans is a specific day, so that is an easy one to decide upon.  Starting now, make that day your one allowance day.  It is your feast day, and you Your Food Life During The Holidayscan eat whatever is served.  In Trinidad, people have a thanksgiving anytime they please!  Find out in advance what to expect from the food offering, and decide from there

a. if you are going,

b. if you are invited to more than one, which one you will go to or

c. if one is offering a meal that more suits your food life than others.

Every other day of the month should be all about your commitment to your food life.

October is the beginning of food festivals for some.  Perhaps you were faced with a need to dodge such bullets as copious amounts of sugar and milk-laden sweets during Diwali and Halloween candy.  The December holiday season is more of a minefield.  There can be weekly parties, kids parties and school events.  We could have dinner with one relative on Christmas eve, another on Christmas day proper and still a third fête to attend on Boxing Day.  There could be Hanukkah meals and Kwanzaa meals depending on the structure of your life, plus family birthdays.   This could mean a month of constant flaming food missiles coming your way.  It is extremely important to make early decisions as to how you will deal with these.

Food Life During The Holidays
Plan Ahead to Succeed This Holiday Season

Here are some options:

  1. Offer to host one or two events.  When people are coming to YOUR house, you have total control over what is being served.  I say don’t tell them in advance what you’re serving – why should you? Make your carefully chosen love menu a pleasant surprise!
  2. Set limits for each month, and honor your food life choices without allowances every single other day of the season.   Decide as you cruise past October 15th whether or not you will indulge in a treat from Diwali or Halloween.  Limit it to one item.  (Note: I hope that, if you are Christian, you are not participating in Halloween.  If so, please click here for a great sermon by Pastor Fred Price Jr. on why this is NO GOOD!) Indeed, sometimes they just come home with stuff they were given in school or there may be something going on at your job where you get treats.  Make your decision in advance. Don’t hesitate to throw any excess candy or other unwholesome junk right in the trash!  It’s not nourishment, you are not discarding anything valuable.  Use the garbage can instead of your holy temple as the dump!  Think ahead now about December.  Make your election sure that you will do three days of feasting for the month.  As you come to the end of November, you should have a clearer idea of what those days are based on invitations and your family customs.  PICK DATES NOW.  Some people also have family birthdays during these time frames.  It’s so important to set limits in advance!

Expect The Unexpected

Your Food Life During the HolidaysIMPORTANT:  Unexpected pops up, like another birthday or a late invitation (Black Friday Breakfast, another holiday outing with coworkers) do happen.  You can either swap with another feast day you already set, or JUST SKIP IT.  One other option is to just leave room for ONE pop up, because sometimes y’all just spontaneously decide to go and feast together after church one day or something.  In a sense, you can even plan ahead for that!

How you manage your food life during the holidays will influence your food life into the next year.  Remember, it’s a large chunk of time during which poor habits can form.  You may find it  hard to break these habits well into the next year.  Now 2 1/2 months stretches into 4-5, and half the year is lost to poor temple stewardship.  Remember also that there are other times of year – Valentine’s, Carnival, Easter/Resurrection, Mother’s/Father’s/Grandparent’s/Secretary’s Day, Independence – that provide excuses for feasting.  You need to be on top of your game all year round.

When we lead our lives with discipline, we are much better for it.  Do it for the real crown!  1 Corinthians 5:29

 

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others
Devotional, eating, food, Giving, God's word, health, Healthy, Weight Loss

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others

Making it to 8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others is a milestone!  Obviously you are on a kingdom agenda.  Many would not go this route to improving themselves, but you did.  Why did you choose this road?  Because it wasn’t just about how you look.  It was about your mandate as a Christian.  It is much harder and a lot less convincing to go and tell the nations about the free gift of salvation if you are visibly and internally unhealthy.

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others – The Best News Ever! 

After the first 4-6 weeks of applying your fresh, new biblical perspective to your life, you will have results to strengthen

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others
The Best News EVER!

your testimony.  Now you can share the great news with others.  You can testify to people in your ministry, but also, you can connect your good news with the gospel of salvation outside the church.

Many people are waking up every day and grateful to be in the land of the living, but as we talked about on Day 4, their lives may not be how God intended.  More than 75% of Americans take at least one prescription medication every single day.  Hospitals everywhere in the world are over-populated and under-staffed.  Can you imagine that even Christians are walking around with diseases that they have been told are incurable?  Isn’t that what the doctors told the woman with the issue of blood?

Luke 8:43 (KJV) And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,

She would not take no for an answer.  She pressed through throngs of people, unhindered by the sickness she had endured for 12 years that made her stink.  Her goal was to only touch the hem of His garment.

Luke 8:48 (KJV) And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

She was healed by her faith.  This woman chased Jesus down because she trusted Him.  The doctors she spent all her money on failed, but God prevailed.  The best news ever is that Jesus died so we could have life and have it more abundantly.  The promise is not just life, existence, seeing another day.  The promise is an abundant life.

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others – Own Your Testimony

What makes your testimony so important is that you got your answers to your physical and medical problems from scripture.  Your message is vital now, for not only does it show people how to overcome, it also shows them that God has the answers they need.  In fact, much like that woman from Luke 8, many have been dealing for years, even decades, with weight problems, heart, liver or kidney problems, diabetes, depression and other mental illnesses, and autoimmune diseases.  The answers revealed in this devotional address all of these issues.

One thing you can do at this stage is get a check up and blood work, then do it again 6 weeks from now to see what has changed.  Not only will you wow your doctor, but you will also have some science-based evidence to strengthen your testimony.

You are on the hard road now, but owning your testimony will help you continue on your new path.  The more you tell your story, the more you will stay on the road you have embarked upon, because now that you are telling others, they will look to you as an example.  Just as you sought a support system on Day 5, you will be a source of support and encouragement for others now.

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others – Give

Here are some more great things YOU can do to bless others:

  • Be someone’s war counsel.  God is so sweet, He has a perfectly harmonious way of connecting people.  You will start coming into contact with more people who want to do what you are doing.  Be ready to offer support and advice.  Share scriptures and recipes, or bible case studies and shopping advice.  Take someone to lunch at a restaurant with a Really Nourish-friendly menu or invite them over.
  • Offer help in your church.  Car pool members of your church to health food stores and supermarkets they could not normally get to easily.  Run a healthy food drive, or offer to help out with some new, healthier recipes in the soup kitchen.
  • Give.  Give away clean, healthy food of the quality you yourself now adhere to.  Here’s a short article about that.
    8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others
    My dad and I, one month after our transplant at a Living Donor Meet and Greet event.

    Give money to and/or volunteer time with a food activist organization.

  • Donate. Consider becoming an organ donor.  Now that you have a clean, healthy body, help someone who needs a kidney or liver by being a living donor.  Here’s an article about my experience donating.  Also, check that box on your driver’s license.
  • Get your children involved.  Teach them these principles now, so they never have to go through what you may have gone through in their lives.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable involving a king.  The king says that people saw him in so much need  and  they fed him, took him in, clothed him and took care of him.  The righteous people were puzzled by this.  They asked him something like “when did all this happen?” His reply in verse 40 is “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV).

Be generous with your good fruit.  Bless as many other people as you can with it.

8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devo Day 8: Bless Others – Scriptures 

In the book of Matthew 25:31-40, 28:16-20

Luke 8:43-48

To return to the 8 Day Really Nourish Yourself Devotional page, CLICK HERE.

farmer's market, food, Healthy, non-gmo, nourishment, Public Assistance, shopping

An Edible Caste System: Change is Upon Us (Part 2)

Before I begin part 2, I want to ask you, my WordPress family, if you would please join the Really Nourish mailing list.  I would like to keep you up-to-date with the next endeavors in a more personal way, including my efforts to assist the Commonwealth of Dominica, where Hurricane Maria first made landfall, my upcoming book, and more.

Please click here to opt in.  Thank you, and I look forward to taking you along on this journey!


That Food Desert Life

Traveling long distances to have access to better nutrition is unfair.  It is what characterizes a food desert.  You are supposed to be able to access nutrition (not just “stuff you can eat”, but actual food with the nutritional value God put in it unadulterated by copious processing and chemical intervention) close to home.  That’s your birthright.  Even after Eden, no one had to really travel for days to get food on a regular basis.  You could grow it right there at your feet, outside your front and/or back tent flap, as it were.   So this Food Desert thing is a problem, and it plays out as a problem for the proletariat – working class folk who, like I just indicated, do work indeed, but because of the crazy

Really Nourish Delicata Squash
This local, organic Delicata Squash was only 81 cents! Judah was very pleased 🙂

dynamics of the American economy, still need help feeding their family.  We are not supposed to have this problem at all!  Even the money you have to put in the gas tank or spend on public transportation to travel to a more affluent area to shop in a better supermarket makes a difference in such households.  On top of the cost of transportation that you can count is the cost of the time it takes to make this journey.  That is a more difficult cost to count for some.  For me, it was somewhere between $105-$140, because I was blessed to be working from home and I made $35/hour, it took me at least an hour each way to travel plus time to search diligently for the sales and selecting in season, organic produce so I could get the most nutrition for the dollars I had available.  And the only dollars I had available were on that little white card.

Now, what if you could use your SNAP card to get your groceries online, free delivery?  This thought crossed my mind numerous times.  I even called Fresh Direct once to ask, and they said regrettably, no, we cannot take that form of payment.  Yet. In 2014.

It’s a New Day

I did say change is upon us, right?   In an era when our president is the least sympathetic to those of us who have to be careful with every dollar and are affected by small changes in income and benefit amounts, what change?

This time last year, in September 2016, a quiet but hugely significant victory was fresh.  The push to allow SNAP recipients to use their benefit card to order food online was a success, championed by Gunnar Lovelace, founder of online non-gmo and organic wholesale club Thrive Market, and backed by more than 310,000 signers on a petition, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) and a handful of celebrities, fellow retailers and non-profit organizations.

The USDA launched the pilot program this year in several states with Amazon, Fresh Direct, Hy-Vee, Safeway and a selection of other grocers.  I’m not sure how much they are publicizing it but if you live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Iowa and have not heard anything, you should go find out immediately how you can take advantage of this breakthrough opportunity to be released from the bonds of food desert life.  Conspicuously, Thrive Market was not included in the pilot program, but a small crack in the dam has happened, and the hood gon’ eat like Park Avenue now.

Benefits with Benefits

Farmer's Market Carrots
We got these with Health Bucks at the St. George Greenmarket in Staten Island, NY

Past SNAP advances that have actually attempted to focus on nutrition include Health Bucks and farmers markets and allowing the purchase of seedlings for food plants with your benefit card.  These kinds of changes, coupled with more awareness among the general population about the links between food and health, will make a greater impact on the healthcare crisis we have on our hands than any other technology, new medications, or medical procedures.

With success in the pilot, more states and more retail options will continue to open up, and Thrive will take its rightful place among the available options for SNAP benefit recipients.  Coupled with their commitment to giving a free membership to a low income family for every paid membership, they will be a part of leveling the playing field of nutrition access, and the edible caste system will be chopped and screwed.

Click Here to read Gunnar Lovelace’s blog post from September 2016 about this triumph

Click Here for an update in The Daily Caller on the launch of the pilot program

Click Here if you still aren’t thriving and you’re ready to start.  You get a 30 day free trial, 25% off your first and free shipping!

Here’s my personal story about SNAP, food desert life, and Thrive Market. Please share yours in the comments.

eating, food, Healthy, nourishment, shopping

An Edible Caste System: Change is Upon Us (Part 1)

When my son was just born and my daughter was around 4 years old, I had WIC.  I am a second generation New York City WIC recipient.  In the interview, I happily declined the offer of baby formula, because I was breastfeeding successfully.  What I did get was the opportunity to exchange checks for a variety of groceries.  What I didn’t get was a choice in exactly what groceries those were.

I learned a lot about benefit programs during that time.  It was abundantly clear that there are other entities, powerful and wealthy ones, that also benefit from my benefit.  To name a few, Post, General Mills and Kellogg’s, because I was allowed to get their cereals and theirs alone, as well as the Dairy Farmers of America, who no doubt were able to sell millions of gallons of milk and pounds of cheese through WIC.  The problem? While I was able to get copious amounts of these items, I was only given $6 a week towards fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.  That was my only opportunity to buy anything that wasn’t a product or byproduct of GMO corn and soy, and the only time I could buy anything organic.  A pound of organic strawberries was $5.99.

Then there was the time that I figured out that I could get organic peanut butter.  See, they hadn’t gotten around to striking deals with guys like Jif yet, I guess, so they only specified what size of peanut butter you could get.  Because there were no other restrictions, I strode happily into PathMark with my WIC checks in my purse and grabbed the organic peanut butter in the correct size off the shelf.  The cashier looked puzzled, asked a manager, and in the end I got it because there was no notation on the check forbidding it.  Clearly, big brother was watching, because the next set of checks I got had (no organic) printed next to peanut butter on every one.  Wow.  So because I was poor, I had to eat the poisons and feed them to my child as well.  Is it possible that the chemical companies also have a stake in the WIC program?

Thankfully there are no such restrictions on what is now known as SNAP.  You can buy anything edible with that benefit, but for me, it wasn’t about backing cupboards with calories, it was about getting the best possible quality of food I could afford.  The problem was not about the benefit in this case, it was about access.  Until my son was 2, the only supermarket in walking distance from my home was Western Beef.  Here are there stats:

Organic Produce: 0

Organic Baby Cereal: 0

Organic Anything: 0

So at first I would take a 40 minute bus ride to a nicer neighborhood (read less people of color, more white people, no housing projects or even apartment buildings, most fellow shoppers drove there in their own vehicle)  to shop at ShopRite.  I would spend $5.00 round trip getting there, then another $5.00 organizing to have the groceries delivered to my home later that day.  Still, the organic produce selection at the time was minimal, but I was able to get the organic baby cereal and a lot of other organic foods in the aisles.  No organic or grass-fed meats were available there (I wasn’t vegan yet).

Soon, KeyFood opened, but to my chagrin, I discovered that their organic selection was only slightly better than at “The Beef”.  Then I figured out that I could get to WholeFoods in TriBeCa without spending money on transportation.  I mapped it once, it’s a 14 mile trip.  It involved a 10 minute walk from my home to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, hopefully arriving in time to walk right on a ferry that is boarding, then on  arrival in Manhattan, boarding a free Downtown Manhattan loop bus that would drop me right outside the supermarket.  It could take anywhere from 1- 1 1/2 hours one way, depending on the ferry schedule, bus stop waiting and traffic.   (“Wrote a poem about it, like to hear it?  Here it go!”)

The downside: they could not deliver my groceries, so I had to make frequent trips and carry heavy loads, sometimes with both children in tow.  I continued to do it, even after I got off of the benefit programs, because it was worth it to me to really nourish myself and my family, which soon grew again by one when my dad came to live with me for a time.

One day it dawned on me: if I lived closer to this supermarket, that would be so nice.  If only I could afford a swank apartment in shiny Battery Park City… but indeed I could not.  The edible caste system at work, ladies and gentlemen: those who have plenty get more nutrients closer to home, and those who don’t either have to make long journeys to the wealthier neighborhoods and look for in season organics and sales in at a high quality, high priced grocer, or just stay malnourished.

The good news is that prayers have been answered and change is upon us.  The edible caste system is about to be shattered, and food deserts are about to be flooded with better food.  How, you ask?  Be sure to read part two when I post it…

In the meantime, please share your food desert confessions in the comments section.  I would love to know how fellow parents are handling this problem and getting cleaner, more nourishing food for the families in spite of financial and geographic obstacles.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

3 John 1:2 NIV