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.
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!
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.
So there’s my evidence, family. Thank you for motivating me.
(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
- Genetics only account for 2-3% of a person’s predisposition towards the diseases in this category,
- The other 97-98% of predisposition comes from environmental factors, of which diet is one, and
- 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.
I believe it is still being widely said and believed that Black and Latino people are more prone to diabetes than other ethnic groups. This would make us something of a Diabetes Diaspora, right? This suggests that God made some people with defects, inferior to others. I rebuke that notion of a Diabetes Diaspora. Obesity and diabetes are rampant in ALL diasporas in the United States in pandemic proportions. You would think that now that that this myth would be dispelled, but we know better than that, don’t we?
Last year, I made a Really Nourish video covering this topic with a very fascinating history finding that helps to explain how this Diabetes Diaspora myth came into existence.
If you haven’t already, you need to see this video. It SHATTERS the myth of the Diabetes Diaspora.
Next time you talk to your doctor, you can school them in an area they probably have no idea about. Many still believe that genetics plays a big role. The truth is it’s only a small factor. The largest factor is diet, and what you eat can activate or deactivate the genes in question in your body. Because, again, God does NOT make defects.
Honestly, in 2017, your doctor should be talking to you about major dietary changes to REVERSE diabetes or whatever lifestyle disease you were diagnosed with. If not, you might consider giving yourself the gift that keeps on giving this year: A primary care physician that has a clue!
Question: Is it biologically inferiority of Black and Latino people that cursed us with higher rates of diabetes in our communities? Or was it the systematic urban segregation of our communities? Watch Now:
Once I decided, in May 2015, to join the battle against sugar and the ills that it causes, I realized two things:
1️⃣ Dang, I consume a lot more sugar than I thought I did! And
2️⃣ I need to replace what I’m eliminating with something that is not only not poisonous, but that is healthy, tasty and satisfying.
So I started shopping in the bulk section of the supermarket to find snack ideas. Eventually, I ended up with a great weapon with which I have seen many victories, including losing 32 pounds, excellent blood test results, and even saving a few dollars that would have been spent fending off cravings as I go through normal days!
It’s a trail mix. Yes, a trail mix. But I caution you against just buying a pre-fab mix yourself because you don’t know how much sugar could be hiding in that.
The only sugar in the following recipe is in the raisins, and if you’ve been following The Really Nourish Movement posts and videos, you know that sugar in God’s perfect packaging is a much better option.
We mixed a big batch with the following ingredients (everything was labeled organic):
Thompson Seedless Raisins
Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds
Sprouted Sunflower Seeds
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
These bags go in my handbag and my daughter’s school lunch bag. When I’m RWC (running with children) they are the perfect go to when the “mommy I’m hungry” chorus begins. I highly recommend these for upper grade students that have a few minutes between classes to dig in their back packs for a healthy snack. This way, by the time they get to the cafeteria, they can make better choices because they’re not racked with hunger.
A healthy trail mix will keep you out of “Crack Donald’s” and away from the newsstands, corner delis and pizzerias when hunger hits during the workday. The key to this is that it is a healthy way to snack. So if you feel like munching at 10:30 in the morning, go right ahead! Then when it’s time for your lunch break, you won’t be “so hungry I can eat a horse”. It’s the deprivation from “breakfast” (which often consists of stuff that lacks nutrition and don’t satisfy) to lunch that causes us to make those poor, impulsive choices. Snacking on good stuff is ok. In fact, having several small meals all day long is actually a more natural nourishment pattern than the breakfast-lunch-dinner routine we’ve all been raised on.
The sugar pushers have their game tight. We need to arm ourselves wisely to win the battle for our bodies. Food revolutionaries, locked and loaded!
When my children ask mommy for “chips”,
mommy’s home made Krispy Kurly Kale Chips are definitely included in that category for them. The other alternative is our favorite Garden of Eatin’ Sprouted Blue Corn chips, so don’t worry friends, none of the real junk is passing their lips!
People’s main complaint about this leafy green nutrient powerhouse is that it is too coarse. Here’s a way that anyone can enjoy it even on their first try! We like the curly kale, green or purple, or a mix of the two will do nicely. Rinse and thoroughly dry with paper towels or in a salad spinner if necessary.
Here’s how we do it:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C
- Strip the hard stems out of the Kale and break them up into pieces on a sheet tray or a sizzle platter
- Drizzle liberally with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Sea Salt to taste
- Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The curly edges get nice and crisp (check by touch at 5 minute intervals to avoid overcooking), while the rest of the vegetable keeps its color and flavor very nicely.
- Cool and serve. They make a nice side for a wrap or sandwich. Kids love them!!
BUT because of their extremely *Low Glycemic Index, unlike their potato-based counterparts, they don’t cause weight gain and have you constantly craving more and more. Very satisfying indeed!!
*Glycemic Index, defined by the University of Sydney, the leading authority on this topic:
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.