The Truth About Harmless Lies and Your Health

A typewriter with a page that reads “truth” and below the image it reads, “Lies and your health. Can and should small fibs be avoided?”

To tell the truth 100% of the time may seem possible at first glance. But what about those little lies that are common in daily life? Like the ones we tell to protect someone’s feelings, or not revealing the real reason we ran 5 minutes to work. My personal favorite is now a reel on Instagram: your precious kid hands you a drawing that you could not identify to save your life and with eyes a-gleaming, “Can you guess what it is?” Are you really going to dim the light in that child’s face? Hopefully, you can come up with something clever to dodge lying in these instances but how easy is it to just tell a small fib?

Now, it is a lot easier to rationalize those big lies are the ones that count. After all, so many of those are actual crimes! So, naturally, there have been studies and research about it. What personalities are most likely to lie, lie detectors and their accuracy, even examining the body language of honesty, have all been studied to some extent. The verdict? Lying could be interfering with your physical and mental health. A recent study suggests that honesty really is the best policy.

A “Science of Honesty” project at the University of Notre Dame asked people to give up telling major and minor lies for 10 weeks. At the conclusion of the experiment, the test subjects reported that they felt less tension and sadness when they refrained from lying. They also reported that they had fewer physical symptoms, such as headaches and sore throats.

Incorporating complete honesty into your life can be difficult. But the rewards are amazing. Try these strategies to make it easier to avoid those “inconsequential” lies.

Guidelines for Being More Honest in Everyday Life:

  1. Be realistic. It’s estimated that the average person tells 10 or more lies per week. Becoming more candid will require a good deal of effort. Give yourself credit each time you dare to be forthcoming instead of hiding behind a fib.

  2. Stop making excuses. Becoming more accountable is a great place to start. When you show up late for an appointment, just apologize for running late instead of pretending there was a traffic jam.

  3. Fulfill your promises. There will be less temptation to make up stories if you keep your word in the first place. Accept your limitations and take on only what you can handle.

  4. Ask directly. Direct approaches work better than manipulation. Invite a friend on a weekend getaway instead of trying to convince her that she looks tired and needs a break.

  5. Deal with conflicts. We sometimes keep quiet because it seems easier than dealing with conflict. Examine whether you’re accommodating others to be kind or if it would be better to work out your differences.

  6. Present yourself accurately. Take risks and open up to others. Express your true feelings. State your opinions even when they’re different than the majority.

  7. Think like a nurse. A Gallup poll found that nurses were especially straightforward. That makes sense considering that a person’s health is often at stake. Consider your impact on the world when you’re feeling inclined to sidestep the truth.

  8. Speak tactfully. Uncomfortable subjects and situations are easier to face when you choose your words carefully. It’s also helpful to select an appropriate time and place. Think about how you’d want someone to talk to you about a difficult topic and give them the same courtesy.

Guidelines for Being More Honest in Specific Situations:

  1. Evaluate your parenting. Your kids provide a lot of motivation for becoming a worthy role model. If you embrace honesty in your life, your children will follow suit. Help them develop solid communication skills and emotional intelligence. They’ll grow up to be more resilient and resourceful.

  2. Deepen your intimate relationships. The courage to be honest will strengthen your connection with your partner. You’ll feel accepted for who you are and give them the chance to experience the same joy.

  3. Be more honest at work. Find a line of work that allows you to operate according to your values. Figure out how to be honest with your boss and coworkers in a respectful way.
  • Engage in self-reflection. Set aside time on a regular basis to review how you’re doing by incorporating honesty into your life. Think in terms of progress rather than perfection.

Honesty is good for your mind and body. Telling lies and keeping track of them can be stressful. Truthfulness, combined with sensitivity, will strengthen your relationships and help you feel better about yourself.

Walk, Stroll, or Roll in the Park Day!

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com A white man in a wheelchair with outstretched arms enjoying a stroll while being pushed by a white woman outdoors.

A walk might seem like child’s play compared to running a marathon or competing in crossfit, but a walk can be a very healthy alternative if you lack the time or interest in exercising intensely. In fact, for most people, the maximum benefit from movement can be achieved in about 30 minutes 4 times a week.

Most humans were built for walking, and even people with challenged mobility can enjoy a smooth path with adaptative equipment.

If you are not able to get outdoors, there are many virtual walks available to enjoy and sitting by a window with air and sunshine can help replicate some of the mood boosting benefits of getting outdoors for a walk, stroll, or roll. Your overall health, brain, waistline, and mental health are all enhanced by walking of any kind!

Walk or roll your way to improved health:

  1. Control blood glucose levels. A 15-minute walk after a meal has been shown to lower blood sugar in those with glucose control issues. The risk of type-2 diabetes is lowered by 60% in those that walk daily regardless of size or weight.

  2. Enhance brain health. Walking has been shown to boost grades, memory, and creativity. Who knew you could get smarter, slimmer, and healthier from the simple act of taking a walk?

  3. Walking is a great opportunity to think and make decisions. A brisk walk takes you out of your home or office. A change in scenery can clear your mind and provide the mental space necessary to make a wise decision.

  4. Strengthen your heart. Even a modest pace is enough to keep your heart in good shape. Low Impact movement has been shown to lower levels of bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Walking is also good for your blood pressure. Walking reduces your risk of heart attacks and stroke. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes.
  • Control weight. A walk won’t undo the ravages of a triple bacon cheeseburger, but it does burn a few calories. More importantly, walking helps to keep your metabolism in shape. Excess calories are dealt with more effectively.

  • Walking is cheap and easy. Aside from a pair of shoes, and even shoes are optional, you don’t need anything to go for a walk. There’s no complex skill to learn or expensive equipment to purchase. Walking or similar adapted movement is an option for nearly anyone, regardless of age or current fitness level. It’s easy on your joints and carries a minimal risk of injury.

  • Lift your mood. If you’re feeling a little blue, a short walk can give a needed boost to your morale. Those that walk regularly report having a better mood than those that don’t.

  • Reduce stress. Take a stroll the next time you’re feeling stressed. Walking attacks stress in two ways. It can take your mind off your challenges. It also metabolizes the biochemical and neurotransmitters that create the physiological feelings and symptoms of stress.

  • Increase your lifespan. The number of years you can expect to gain from 2.5 hours of walking each week is at least 3-4. Not bad for results from an activity that most people find enjoyable.

Spring is here! Imagine how much you could strengthen your health with a resolution to walk for 30 minutes at least four times each week. Let go of your belief that you need to sweat and strain at the gym to be healthy. Exercise can be more comfortable than that and should be enjoyed in order to become a daily habit!

Bring in Spring Like a Boss!

Pink Tulips in bloom in a field. Caption reads “What will you spring forward towards?”

Spring is officially here! I, like others, are feeling this spring a little more deeply and with greater excitement. This year, there is the promise of mingling and socializing more after surviving a pandemic. It is not totally over, but it seems like this Omicron has been declining without another deadly variant on its heels. I am grateful to be able to figuratively and literally breathe and enjoy the respite!

When you think of spring cleaning, you may have an image in your mind of family members gathering around with brooms, mops, storage containers, and trash bags. That’s because spring is a good time to make your home and workspaces sparkling clean and clutter free. It goes right along with the breeziness of the season and nature’s timing of making room for what is to come.

In places that are driven by development and technology, there can be a disconnect from the rhythm of nature. Buildings, schedules, and practices make some seasonal alignment less necessary. Food storage, transportation of goods, access to foods and places, highly mobile work practices, and year-round productivity are a few reasons why we may not pay attention to the seasons as much. In other places, however, strong and deep connection to the cycles of nature are the only way of life and Mother Nature reigns supreme as she dictates the pace and schedule of everyday living.

Both ways are valuable. Although I am excited about the possibilities of spring, I find myself in some ways reluctant to just give up the slower pace of living that I enjoyed as a result of the pandemic. I am speaking from a place of some privilege in that I was able to shelter-in-place safely, work from home, and still have access to the conveniences of urban life. My family is emerging untouched by illness and loss and for that I am more than grateful. So, I don’t make the comment that I enjoyed it lightly–I am acutely aware that is not the case for others. The forced change of pace was enlightening.

I shifted from working for the non-profit sector to full-time entrepreneurship and as I struggle and work to make that a successful endeavor, I have learned that my needs and abilities are in a constant ebb and flow. This spring, I am deeply feeling the need to purge and release in many areas of my life this spring.

This spring, I am tackling five major areas that will help support my goals and well-being overall.

  • Consciously practicing Gentle Nutrition. There are some habits I need to stop and there are some I would like to add to support on-going improvement in my wellness overall.
  • Leveling Up my Physical Self-care. I do self-care, but it is almost all directed towards my mental health only. I would like to have some more comprehensive self-care tools in my tool-kit. If you looking to move a little more, check this out!
  • Controlling Chaos and Clutter of all kinds. Look out–bout to take Marie Kondo to whole new level!
  • Cleansing and Expanding My Thoughts. When you open yourself to new situations and ideas, you’ll bring a new freshness and more opportunities into your life. It might feel safe to stay closed off, but eventually you’ll feel that things have become stale.
  • Clean up Relationships Across all Dimensions. I know I have been a little lax in many of my relationships socially and professionally. I am going to use this spring to reconnect and release those where we are not in service to each other!

I am going to run a mini-series on these five areas over on Instagram! Follow along here! Also, I offer a Spring Cleaning Coaching Program to those who want more guidance and personalized coaching to set themselves up for awesome success for the second half of the year! Contact me here if interested in using a coach to fast-track your clarity and growth!

Self-esteem and Acceptance for a More Satisfied Life

Black and white photo of Black woman in leotard smiling and moving around.

This week in March, there are some quirky and fun days of observance this week. There is a day for “everything that you think is wrong” (March 15), “everything that you think is right” (March 16), “absolutely incredible kid” (March 17), “awkward moments day” (March 18), and “let’s laugh day” (March 19).

I enjoy these lighthearted days and try to use them as a way to connect my holistic coaching business to our lives. Improving your well-being is improving your life. And life does not happen in some neat and tidy vacuum; it’s filled with days, moments, and choices.

As I was brainstorming, mind-mapping, and jotting notes about these days and what I thought I could share about them, I noticed that a common thread was self-esteem. Everything you think is wrong is a day to reflect on the imperfections of all of us. This makes us each unique and is one thing that we all have in common in with others. That is followed by a day to realize that those imperfections are okay and so many other things are right or can go right for you. Boosting the self-esteem of a special kid is a no-brainer! On to a day to make sure those awkward or embarrassing moments do not sting too badly, self-esteem is needed. And a day for laughing–well you should be able to laugh at yourself and that definitely takes self-esteem!

Acceptance is Key

When you accept yourself with all of your flaws and unique talents, the world seems to become a more accommodating place. You’ll find that some of the causes of your stress disappear and you can gain more joy on a daily basis.

Accepting yourself completely entails courage, wisdom and compassion. If you’re plagued by negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, shame, anger, envy, or guilt, these may be signs of low self-esteem. To counter this, you can learn radical self-acceptance.

If you find yourself equating your worth with your achievements, love life or social status, what happens if these are someday diminished? After all, these are temporary conditions. Life has its ups and downs. Practicing self-acceptance will help prevent your self-worth from hinging on your current situation.

How Low Self-Esteem Can Hinder Self-Acceptance

If you have low self-esteem, you can get mired in refusal to accept your own uniqueness and capability for transformation. You may be a perfectionist, and when things don’t go well, you often tell yourself that you’re not good enough. It becomes a vicious cycle of negative self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, what can you do to turn this around?

Suppose you start to appreciate the world around you. Then you’re aware of your place. You realize that just as others are important to your well-being, your existence supports others, too. Since appreciation is a prerequisite for self-esteem, you’re now well on your way to self-acceptance.

How to Develop Self-Acceptance

To develop self-acceptance, you must believe in your intrinsic worth and uniqueness. There’s no one else in the world quite like you and you’re constantly changing and developing. Your value cannot be measured by how others perceive you.

You’re also aware of the fallibility of human nature. No one is perfect. Even enlightened souls such as Christ and The Buddha had to struggle to achieve their goals. Likewise, you must also work to improve yourself. Let this be your joy.

When you make a mistake, refrain from judging yourself. Resist labeling yourself as a failure or a bad person because of past errors. You wouldn’t label your child a failure or a loser because he failed a test. Be compassionate with yourself too.

Accept Your Mistakes and Move On

When you review your mistakes, you may feel remorse and disappointment, but these are healthy reactions. They’ll help you to change your behavior to something you like better.

Remorse and disappointment are different from self-condemnation, which can lead to depression, guilt and shame. These unhealthy emotions may cause you to give up or avoid facing your mistakes. Instead, look toward what you can do to change your actions next time.

Raise the Self-Esteem Bar

Keep reading so you’ll learn the following:

  • How raising your self-esteem can help establish your independence
  • How raising your self-esteem can help ensure you retain your independence
  • How to raise your self-esteem – basic practices to get you started

Raising Self-Esteem Boosts Your Confidence

The major way that raising self-esteem can make you independent is by boosting your confidence. The more confident you are, the more independent you’re going to want to be. It will inspire you to not only insist on your independence but demand you get it.

As you boost your self-esteem and you become more confident, you’ll find that you have more of a command over your independence.

Raising Self-Esteem Establishes What You Deserve

With higher self-esteem, you’ll find that you have a better understanding of what it is that you deserve. You’ll find yourself settling less and less and truly going after what it is you want in life. You won’t let others control you, treat you poorly, or take advantage you.

Understanding what it is you deserve in life will help you become more independent. You deserve to make your own decisions, live your life how you want to, and enjoy your independence. When you have higher self-esteem and a better understanding of what you deserve, you don’t settle for anything less.

Having Higher Self-Esteem and More Confidence Helps You Retain Your Independence

When you have higher self-esteem and the influx of confidence that comes along with that, you demand that you retain your independence. You don’t stand for people taking control over what you want, what you do, or any part of your life. You demand the independence you worked so hard to gain.

Being independent means more than paying your own bills; it is about minimizing outside influence. Working to raise your self-esteem helps to not only affirm your independence but also ensure that it doesn’t go anywhere and no one infringes upon yours.

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Now that you know what raising your self-esteem can do for you, it’s time to put the work in to actually raise it. The following are great starter practices to turn into a routine that will boost your self-esteem in no time:

Affirming Your Worth

Throughout your day, give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Tell yourself what you’re worth, who you are, and what you deserve. Remind yourself that you are strong, incredible, and valuable. You’re a unique person with great, unique things to offer this world; remind yourself that regularly.

Refusing to Settle

You deserve nothing but the best in life. You don’t deserve to be treated worse, have less, or be in any way lesser. You must absolutely refuse to settle for anything less than you deserve if you ever hope to affect a change in your self-esteem, confidence, and independence.

Sticking to Your Guns

You have to stick with these efforts and routines for a longer period of time if you ever hope to accomplish your goals in raising your self-esteem and claiming your independence once and for all. Don’t let yourself back-petal. Maintain the progress you’ve made and continue pushing forward.

Raising your self-esteem can most certainly help you boost your confidence, claim your independence, and retain it. Through the efforts made to improve your self-esteem, you will see a vast improvement in your quality of life and mental health. So, what are you waiting for? Get started today.

Try the Daily Top 4

This week, I will be sharing a few tips to go along with the observance day! Follow along on Instagram here and try to put them into practice!

  • Tuesday, March 15: Affirmations for Self-Acceptance
  • Wednesday, March 16: Practical Tips to Boost Self-Esteem
  • Thursday, March 17: Kid-approved Confidence Builders
  • Friday, March 18: Level-up your Self-talk
  • Saturday, March 19: Affirmations for More Laughs

Jumpstart to Mindful Eating

Smiling Asian woman with bowl of food.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a type of awareness you have during the moment of eating your food. Similar to other forms of mindfulness, you enter a place of non-judgment, and instead appreciate the current moment, from what you are eating and whether you are enjoying it, to details like the taste and temperature of your food.

Is it the Same as Mindfulness?

Mindful eating is a type of mindfulness that uses the same principles. The main difference is that it is a specific task you perform where you are mindful, as opposed to more general mindfulness throughout the day. But as a definition, yes, mindful eating is using mindfulness tools and techniques.

Why Mindful Eating is so Beneficial

You are going to benefit in many different ways by becoming more mindful.

Heal your relationship with food – If you tend to feel guilty or try to control your food, you might not have a great relationship with food. Mindful eating is going to ease these stresses and help you allow all food and understand that it is not something o fear.

Learn to eat slower – Eating slower helps you focus more on your food and how it makes you feel, gives you time to notice when you are feeling full, and helps a lot with your digestion.

Have a better understanding of hunger and fullness – You will also start noticing your own body’s cues when it comes to when you are truly hungry or emotionally hungry, and when your body is full.

Know what food satisfies you and makes you feel good – Beyond neutralizing all food and putting a stop to the food labels, mindful eating also helps you figure out what foods your body does and doesn’t like. For some people, they discover a lactose intolerance they didn’t know they had, others just prefer certain foods at specific times of the day.

What Mindful Eating Isn’t

Mindful eating is not meant to be a way to restrict food, diet, or intentionally lose weight. You are not trying to be mindful in order to eat as little as possible. While you might end up losing weight naturally from mindful eating, when it becomes your intention, it gets in the way of the other benefits of being more mindful when you eat.

Easy Ways to Get Started

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by making the switch to becoming a mindful eater, here are a few things you can start with.

Choose One Meal or Time of the Day to Practice

This is often the first thing people do when they begin mindful eating. Don’t try to be mindful during every meal right off the bat, or you will feel overwhelmed and be more likely to give up on it. It is really hard to change multiple habits all at once. Start small with a meal or snack when you tend to be alone.

This might be your afternoon snack that you eat on the drive home to pick up your kids, or your breakfast if you eat early in the morning. Take that time to shut off distractions and just focus on the experience of eating.

Turn Off All Distractions and Sit Quietly with Your Meal

During that one meal or snack a day, remove all distractions. Turn your phone upside down and on silent, turn the TV off, don’t open your laptop. Let this be a time to just enjoy your food, savor it, and really be delighted in the fact that you got to eat something you truly enjoy eating.

It might be a hard transition at first if you are used to always eating while watching something or listening to a podcast, but you get used to it in time. This is also why we recommend you start with just one meal or snack a day, then gradually doing it more often.

Pay Attention to All Your Senses During Your Meal

Before and during your meal, start activating and focusing on each sense. Again, you might want to start with just one sense at a time, then begin focusing on others when you feel ready for it. Or during each meal, go through each sense, including sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.

When you use your senses, you ground yourself and allow yourself to enjoy the moment and not think about much else. Even without distractions, minds tend to wander. It’s ok if that happens, as long as you keep coming back to your food and try to really pay attention to how your body feels and what about the food you are loving. You can also keep a journal nearby to jot down anything you notice during your meal.

Enjoy the Process

When I first started, I entered into it just like a diet; I had all or nothing thinking involving mindful eating–which defeated the whole purpose! But I kept at it, with one meal a day until I could do it two meals a day. I learned to be patient with myself. And although I am not able to stipulate mindful eating at the family meals, the practice helped me savor and enjoy those meals in a different way!

Developing a practice of mindful eating may not come easily or quickly. Schedules are jam-packed and it may take a while to find the time to just eat. Keep at it! Try to remove the rules of eating and of mindful eating and take it one meal or snack at a time. Keep steady and before you know it, eating more mindfully will feel natural!

How My Honduran Spouse Helped Me Honor My Blackness

You know, I never really thought my Blackness. I mean, it is one thing that is with me wherever I go. It is immutable. I have always been proud of my cultural heritage as far as I knew it. Most of my cultural identity was largely influenced by family traditions and our oral history. At some point you realize that part of being Black is to not to know things about your ancestors. That mystery has fueled my curiosity and dives into the family lines and the African diaspora as a whole. I thought that I was as connected to my culture as I could be. Little did I know how marrying a Latino would prove me wrong.

My husband and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in April and it only occurred to me now how our cultural differences really impact me personally. Ha! I thought I would write about him as a part of our anniversary celebrations, but this is really about me!

Being Honduran

When we met, he didn’t really speak English. My Spanish was better than his English and even it was pretty basic (like present tense and limited past and future tenses so making plans was tricky). We met in an Afro-Caribbean after-hours night club. Naturally. Dancing is my language. Not that I am an exceptional dancer in any way, but I have rhythm and musicality; it’s joyful and I can argue that it did the trick! The same goes for him, although he certainly thinks he leans towards the exceptional!

Obviously, enough was said and understood. We married the next year and we welcomed our youngest daughter as we both had one when married. Together, we intentionally tackled each culture clash as a way to communicate, share, and learn. Thank goodness. It has been good times and tough times, but we have been happy. The other day, while making plans to celebrate our anniversary, I asked him if he remembered how his friends felt when we got married. He laughed and said there were quite a few that did not think we would make it two years because I wasn’t from Honduras. Back then I immediately thought they were crazy to feel that way. Like, I am American. That is an asset in and of itself. I am the catch here. This time, I laughed too. Because it was funny to me that I had ever thought I was a catch simply because I was American.

Being American

I thought that me being an American was what every non-American in this country wanted to be. Needless to say, that just isn’t the case for everyone. If I know 50 of my husband’s Honduran friends here in the US who have become coupled since we did, there are only two that I can think of whose partner is American. And one is truly a Honduran-American. I did not even know she could speak English for at least three years. Assimilation is not the ultimate goal. AT ALL. In a word, he is proud of his culture and being married to me has not dented his cultural identity at all.

Over the years, I have researched and learned more about my cultural heritage but more about what it means to me. Assimilation is such a big concept for Black people like me–those are American and have been for generations but still have yet to realize the full experience of that American-ness. For me, he modeled how to live a full, meaningful life with a cultural identity that is not the dominant culture.

Now, I am American and proud as anyone. But it has become increasingly difficult to reconcile how Blacks are treated in this country-our native land. It has prompted me to really embrace those cultural traditions and connections. It has provided a way for me to expand my family and friends and lovingly protects those shared experiences that make being Black so special to me.

Creating and Maintaining Cultural Connections

Here are the four things that I did and still do to create and strengthen my cultural identity! They are things that my husband has always done and I can see why!

  1. Socialize with those who share and/or respect your culture. This is self-explanatory and really important for sharing and expressing yourself. If you are of different cultures, this allows you to explain or ask questions in a way that will foster understanding and build affinity without judgment.
  2. Practice cultural rituals. These can be centered on faith practices or can be fun. Right off the top of my head, I think of “Soul Train” style dance lines at reunions or family gatherings as a fun ritual in Black culture. One thing that my mom always did was burn our hair when cleaning the combs and brushes. Everyone in my family does it. I was surprised to learn how many other families, especially those with hoodoo or conjuring traditions. Even my husband, who is of the African diaspora as well, could recall the women in his family doing this.
  3. Eat your cultural foods. We can most likely agree that food can be foundational to our relationships. We gather because of feed, with food, and around food. We can connect to and through those special recipes passed down several generations or enjoy those foods in restaurants that celebrate our culture and share it with all people. I love learning about the foodways of my culture and ancestors.
  4. Stay tapped into through literature and music. The internet reigns supreme! There are so many resources that are now at our fingertips. My husband starts his day every day with news from Honduras. I have followed his lead by staying connected with magazines, books, and of course music of the culture-past and present. I am not a big TV watcher but documentaries are always being made and thanks to my husband, I have watched Afro-Latin programs from around the world. I have truly marveled at the influence of the African diaspora across the globe.

Being Together

Standing firm in our individuality and our cultures has contributed to our being together. It is funny. We have not lost ourselves in our marriage, which honestly has kept us from likely being bored or worse, becoming resentful. Ten years in, we are still learning nuances of ourselves and each other and while sometimes there are a few sparks (I cannot help being more hot-tempered than him) they lose heat quickly and we both seek out common ground. I have given up holding him to my American sense of punctuality. He has stopped describing things with vague words like a few in English because it doesn’t mean the same contextually in Spanish.

Thankfully, love and respect are languages we are both able to understand and it is used liberally in our home!

Soul Food February

Photo of a plate of soul food: beef tips and gravy, white rice, green beans, with the words Soul Food is Healthy

This month where Black History is observed, learned, taught, and made (Erin Johnson!) is also a time where the cultural markers are fondly discussed. For me, there are so many things that add so much to this month (and all year) but none so near and dear to me and my business as soul food.

In my holistic coaching practice, relationships with food are often a center focus. And no wonder: food provides more than just fuel and nourishment for the body. Food is wonderfully delicious; it is a focal point for gatherings and memory-making events. It soothes our minds, bodies, and, of course, souls.

Which brings me to soul food–that comforting, rich, food of my culture and upbringing. These cultural foods have brought laughter, joy, and healing to me and my kin for as long as I can remember. I am aware that most think of southern soul food as unhealthy “slave food”. This is in no small part to the effects of diet culture; it’s demonization of certain foods and practices that do not uphold white body supremacy (more on this later). It has purported that soul food is unhealthy and sadly, quite a lot of people have believed the hype! But to those of us who know, soul food is so much more than fried foods and sugared-up side dishes. It is a food that sustains, fortifies, and nourishes.

Foods of the African diaspora have influenced cuisine the world over. Africans brought grains like sorghum and millet, cooking styles like stews and simmered greens, and an affinity for plant-based diets that used animals as sides and not the features of meals. What has happened, however, is partly the loss of dietary diversity and partly the negative, colonized thoughts about soul food that have resulted in loss of recipes, families wanting to ditch the foods that remind of enslavement, poverty, and wrongly blamed for the bad health of Black people.

The foods of my childhood, family, and culture included so much more. My mother and father often told stories of dishes of fresh veggies from family gardens, seasoned with herbs and love. Both of my parents were from large families and one thing that was common was the small amounts of meat they ate, due to price or availability. As I grew up with my sister, my father maintained a substantial garden and we had some pigs and chickens. I daresay we grew up more on a modified SAD diet but thanks to my parents we had veggies year-round. Both of my parents enjoyed growing food, raising animals, and other self-sufficiency practices. Today, these skills and passions have served me well once I returned to them!

Soul foods, as I feel about any cultural foods, should be a part of a balanced diet. Those cultural practices that have served our predecessors should be honored, preserved, and if possible, practiced. I garden, can veggies, and enjoy my cultural foods like greens, cornbread, succotash, and yams. While preparation of these foods can vary widely and affect the nutrition, they cannot receive the blame for the diseases that affect Black people at a disproportionate rate. Other factors including but not limited to the environment, systemic effects of racism (stress, subpar care, physiological effects), and behavioral patterns all affect one’s health and well-being.

There is a current movement of activists and advocates to decolonize spaces and concepts that have prohibited the free and sovereign of peoples; where colonial views and practices have settlers have occupied land, dictate social, political, and economic systems, and exploit people and their resources in the support of the colonists’ viewpoint and benefit. So this February, I challenge you to decolonize your plate–enjoy yours or the cultural foods of others. Become aware of your thoughts and opinions of the foods you have demonized and consider why and where the influence for those thoughts have originated.

As for me and my house, we will enjoy chicken and gravy, simmered greens (with hot sauce), beans and rice, and drink red luscious brews like sorrel or jamaica (depending on where you are from!) Embracing our cultural foods is one way that we eat free and live free every day. For truly, soul food is good for the mind, body, and soul.

Add Activism to Your Life

Do Your Beliefs and Actions Align?

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks taught the world a valuable lesson: we can fight for our beliefs by not tolerating everyday acts of injustice and oppression. If you look into her life, like those of other Civil Rights Leaders then and now, then you may understand the motivations and frustrations that prompted her civil disobedience. To summarize, but please research for yourself if you need to, she believed that the segregation policies, Jim Crow Laws, and dehumanization of Blacks was unjust so she put that belief into action by peacefully protesting the laws that supported that treatment.

Today, February 4, is Rosa Parks Day, an observance to honor her integrity, assertiveness, and activism throughout her lifetime. It is a good time to check in with yourself and commit to practicing the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash. Rosa Parks at a podium.

What Do Your Actions Say About You?

The world is unjust. This is a plain fact. Somewhere, there is some kind of marginalization, exploitation, or blatant denial of rights. And everyone is taking action. You are either actively trying to make a difference through your thoughts and actions or you are choosing to uphold the injustice through silent approval. That is the hard truth. And, the thing is, that we all have this opportunity multiple times daily to decide how to act in accordance with our own beliefs.

Being an activist is not easy at times. It can be tiring, disappointing, and open you up to criticism and insult from those who oppose your perspective. Moving past the fear of these worries will be necessary at some point to help bring about the change you desire.

This day also falls within the greater observation of Black History Month. During this month, I am committing to sharing the justice issues where I exert my professional and personal beliefs and act most frequently! I hope that you take some time to align your actions with your beliefs for the greater good of all!

4 Tips for Standing Up for Your Beliefs

Here are my top four tips for ramping your activism and standing up for what you believe in:

  1. Align your values and your causes. We all believe in something. Alignment with your values will keep you motivated to keep acting in tough times and also help bolster your courage to act and speak out. This will serve as the foundation for your platform as well. You know the adage: if you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything!
  2. Do your research. Do it. For yourself. You should not allow others to tell what about the issues. For me, I always research policy and practices, as well as the stance of the opposing viewpoint. Old habits from debate have served me well! Things can change quickly, and honestly, I do not want to look or sound unknowledgeable.
  3. Engage in conversations and share info about the issues. Be careful when sharing online or in public forums, even those who are “invisible” on the net can have trolls (and they can be mean so be prepared). Also, keep an open mind and an attitude of learning!
  4. Step up and find ways to act. There are organizations, affinity groups, and non-profits that you can join with like-minded individuals. Often, it is easier (and safer) to act in groups and there is strength in numbers!

I hope that this day and the spirit of Rosa Parks can bolster your resolve to act and stand up for yourself or others!

Weight-Neutral Wellness Coach in a Thin-Obsessed Culture

Woman with Tape measure around torso. Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

Today, I would like to share my thoughts about being a weight-neutral wellness coach in a thin-obsessed culture.

Without taking us through a historical review of culturally acceptable body image trends over the last couple centuries, suffice it to say that at one time a more voluptuous figure was en vogue. The rounded bellies and ample curves of the models of the Renaissance artists were the thing, dare I say, typical bodies of folks. Fast forward to about the 1920’s (the Cigarette Diet–look it up!) when things like appetite suppressants and smaller frames of the urbanized upper class (think Zelda Fitzgerald and the flapper look) became fashionable and an entire industry based on losing weight started to become popular. Health was not the reason–no one could say smoking instead of eating was healthy–it was purely for aesthetics. Read that again: the desire for smaller bodies was not based on health.

Several diet trends later, in the 1950s, some doctors and insurance companies started using the BMI as a standard to help with insurance underwriting. And just like that health was now tied to a (very arbitrary and inaccurate) size. And like all things in the Western World, the standards were based on and set by white men so there is a decidedly Eurocentric/colonial influence here. More on that another time…

Now in the past 60 years or so, dieting and health have been inextricably linked and learned about simultaneously, both implicitly and explicitly. Only in about the last 25 years have reputable, sound studies been conducted enough to determine one thing: size is not an accurate determinant for health status. This is hard to swallow for a lot. We are so conditioned to fight this “war on obesity”; we are taught that being in a larger body is quite literally a death sentence of sorts- (hello, fat shaming and weight stigma!)-with preventable diseases like diabetes (type 2), hypertension, and heart disease looming to attack at any time. But alas, science has not borne this out–not even a little bit.

What science has learned is that weight, exercise, willpower, and diet is about 1/4 of the health equation. The other 3/4 is comprised of things like environment, genetics, stress, trauma, income, access to nutrition and healthcare, education, stress, sleep and job status to name a few factors. Diet culture, however, places a moral judgement on bodies based on size and then equates that body size to the moral turpitude of the person. The current healthcare system is set up to support this culture because they are two sides of the same coin. Instead of addressing the systemic issues like income disparities, access to food, access to healthcare, or education, a person is simply made to feel bad for not being able to bootstrap their way out of bad health.

So, why be a health coach? I am a holistic wellness coach and in my biz I address many dimensions of wellness that are traditionally ignored for the number on the scale. I work a whole-person across all areas that are out of balance. I do it without taking weight or measuring waist circumference or calculating BMI. I do measure heart rates, blood pressure as well as any lab work (like A1C) to determine progress and improved health. These are numbers that matter.

At this point in history, there is tremendous momentum being gained for professionals like me. As people become weary of the yo-yo dieting, weight gain, and the increasing evidence that diets (restricting what or when you eat) do not work in the long-run, AND are seeing larger bodies as capable, beautiful, and worthy of respect, the tides are a-changing. Right now, in the diet industry’s banner month (January), people are reaching out to ask questions and learn more. Most of the people I talk to have been on at least 3 different diets. If they worked, they would only need one.

Top 3 FAQs

Let’s take a quick look at the top three questions (misconceptions or myths) about being a HAES-aligned/weight-neutral wellness coach. Please comment with any other questions you may have!

  1. Does HAES (Health at Every Size) or weight-neutral mean you never want to lose weight or shouldn’t lose weight? (Sometimes phrased as how can I focus on eating and exercising without focusing on weight loss?) This by far is the most common question I get. NOT AT ALL. HAES is not anti-weight loss. It just means that I am not going to promote weight loss for the sake of weight loss as a health-promoting strategy, which only perpetuates weight stigma. To put it another way, I coach on behavior changes and there are other acceptable outcomes that are not about weight loss. If a person wanted to lose 20 lbs., I would dig a little deeper as to why and then we would work on the behaviors that improve health. For example, a client states they have low energy and feels like losing 20 lbs. would boost their energy. After reviewing their eating habits, a pattern of low consumption of nutrient-dense foods emerges and they eat only once a day. I would suggest eating more nutrient-dense foods and definitely more often. This may result in the weight-loss (a neutral occurrence), but it is not focus or strategy because for some this may result in weight gain (a neutral occurrence).
  2. Does HAES-aligned mean you believe that you can be healthy at every size? Health At Every Size is not the same as being healthy at every size. There are large healthy bodies and there are thin unhealthy bodies. Health is not a SIZE. What it means for me and my approach is that I believe that anyone, regardless of size, can practice or develop behaviors that will improve their health. I believe that wellness is a journey and while no one “owes” health to anyone else, you can improve it with behaviors that have a positive effect on health. I believe that regardless, all people are deserving of respect and that includes autonomy to live how they wish (without harming others).
  3. How does the HAES Framework help with body image? This is a process. There is no switch that I, or any other coach can flip to impart a positive body image. What I feel, and have seen, is that when working within a framework that validates the worthiness of all bodies, it decreases the influence of thin-obsessed voices and shifts you to a place of acceptance of your body and of others. It is usually the value/beauty/acceptance of others first, and then yourself. HAES-aligned professionals include more than just wellness/health coaches. When people are no longer stigmatized for weight, then the worldview changes.

As a wellness professional in a culture that stigmatizes larger bodies and equates thinness with health, it is tough to hear the push for weight loss or witness diet culture co-opting terms like “intuitive” (intuitive fasting? Come on, Gwenyth Paltrow) or fat liberation and changing it to body positivity (so thin folks were no longer excluded but left the hard work to fat liberators). It is tough because as a $90 billion a year industry the pockets are deep and influence is widespread. And it is a little sad to see how damaging the diet culture is to self-esteem, mental health, and to health overall. I know from experience of battling binge eating as a way to control my body–to force my body to conform in one way I thought it could. I could not change being Black, so I struggled with weight for years. After getting help and reconnecting with my body and unlearning diet culture, I am at a lower weight that I had been before (although still thick). I am much happier and I live unafraid of foods, or a number on a scale. That is the kind of radical living I want to help other women find!

Tricks for Habits that Stick

Hand of woman writing on a notepad that says goals. Photo by Marko Klaric on Pexels.com

It’s a New Year and a New You – How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Do you struggle to keep your New Year’s resolutions? More than likely, the excitement of starting a new year wanes and you find yourself back into your old routines. This is exactly how the brain is supposed to work; it inevitably takes the easiest route (the old habit).

If you are truly motivated to change, you can be the exception to this rule. The trick is to turn your optimism for the New Year into ritualized actions. Once you start a routine, it becomes easier to follow through. You have to keep up the routine until it becomes the pattern that your brain will make with little effort.

Whether you’re making multiple resolutions or wanting to work towards one bigger goal, be sure to pick something that’s achievable within the years’ time frame.

Set Achievable and Clear Goals

Strive for making your goals achievable so you don’t set yourself up for future failure. For example, let’s say your goal is to lose weight. Determine where you stand currently, and then give yourself a goal that can be achieved following the 1-2 pounds per week guideline.

You’ll also benefit from making clear goals. Rather than saying that you want to be thinner, say how many pounds you’d like to lose. Then define the “how” as well. Are you going to follow a specific diet? How are you going to cut calories? Are you going to start a moderate exercise routine? How often?

With a clear, achievable goal and a set plan of tasks you know you can complete, you virtually guarantee your success! You know exactly what you want and how you’re going to get there. All you need to do now is take action.

Take Action

Taking action is usually where people tend to run into some trouble. It’s easy to get pumped up about an idea, but when it comes down to executing your plan, you might be tempted to fall short.

In this situation, you only need to muster up the energy to start. Tell yourself that you’re going to stick to your new plan for one week and then evaluate how it went. On the other hand, if you take everything in all at once, you’ll be less likely to begin in the first place. If it looks overwhelming, just focus on the short term.

Pro Tip: Try to break down the new habit into behaviors. Identify any building blocks and master each one at a time. For example, if you want to walk 30 minutes in the evening, start to dress for the walk (shoes, etc.) as soon as you get home. That way, you are always ready. Then, set an alarm for the time to go for the walk. You are dressed to go! Then, head out the door! Even if you are ready to jump in from day one, creating a ritual around the other behaviors increases your likelihood of success and can improve the speed at which it becomes a thing you do!

Form a Routine

The reason you want to take baby steps at first is because once you form a new routine, it’s actually easy to hold yourself to it. Some say that it takes as little as two weeks to get a new routine engrained in your brain, while other experts say it takes longer.

In my experience, it depends on the complexity of the habit and how successfully you build the behavior into your daily rituals. Think about something you without fail, like brush your teeth in the morning. This has been ingrained into your mind as an integral part of your day from early on. When you were learning, there were lots of rewards such as new toothbrushes, parental praise, and maybe even kudos from the dentist with a trip to the treasure box (those were coveted when I was a kid!) Soon, it was something you just did–without much thought. Even when you are running late, you will get in a few swipes with the toothbrush!

Reward Yourself

Reward yourself often for your excellent efforts because you deserve it for working hard to change yourself for the better. You don’t need to wait until the end of the year to treat yourself.

Break up your goals into smaller pieces and every time you achieve a milestone, give yourself something that you enjoy. It could be an item you’ve been wanting or maybe a night out on the town.

Rewarding yourself for a job well done motivates you to keep going!

Do It Again!

After your first successful year of bettering yourself through New Year’s resolutions, you can then repeat the process and work on another aspect of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be a perfectly happy and healthy person because of your awareness, perseverance, and hard work!

A Life’s Vision Needs Massive Action

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

Take Stock to Start Your Year on The Right Foot

“Slow down!” “Wait a minute!” These are phrases I use with my nine-year-old often. Today, I want to use them with you, too. Too often we charge in when it would be better to assess where we are first. It can be painful to look back to see our mistakes and shortcomings. And yet, it’s the best way to determine what we need to do to make significant changes in our lives. Before you prepare to start the new year with loads of new resolutions and goals, take some time to reassess your life in these different areas.

For this reason, I have found that I prefer to set my annual goals, or resolutions (it is not a dirty word), a couple of weeks into the new year. After the little one is back in school and our schedule is back on track and I have had time to clean and declutter after rounds of visitors, late night gatherings, and holiday laziness!

The following are some things I like to consider alone and then again with my husband before setting any goals:

Obligations—Ever wish you had more time for what was genuinely important to you? Now’s the time to make that change. And the first step is by looking at all the things you’ve taken on that no longer feel important. Consider each committee, sponsorship, extended family and friend obligations that no longer feel fun. If they feel like a burden, it’s time to unload them. That may feel challenging. After all, no one wants to let others down. But this is your life, and it’s time to choose you instead of others’ wants.

Finances—If you wish you had more money but can’t or don’t want to work more to get it, take a careful look at your finances. Quite often, little wants turn into needs. Scan through last year’s bank statements and make a note of any recurring payments. You may wince when you see how much you’ve spent on unnecessary things throughout the year. Having occasional treats for you and your family is okay. But if “shopping therapy” has become a burden, now’s the time to fix it. Make a list of all the ways you could cut back without feeling deprived. For example, could you eat out two nights a week instead of four? Is it essential that you shop for clothes every month? How much could you save if you took your lunch to work three days a week instead of getting take-out? Do you find it fun to have four bazillion TV channels? These are just a few ways you can trim expenses, so you can save for things that matter to you instead.

Dreams and Goals—Many people site not enough time or not enough money as the reason why they stay in dead-end jobs, don’t pursue their passions, or make real changes in their lives. If that was you and you’ve taken our advice and reevaluated your obligations and finances, those excuses should no longer be holding you back. So, what do you want really? To go back to school and start a new career? Turn your side-hustle or hobby into a business? Purchase and cook homemade, whole foods that support your health and wellness? By choosing to make those two changes in your life, you’ve now opened up a whole new world for yourself. Grab it, and don’t look back!

Clarify, Prioritize, and Focus

Visualizing what you really want in life can be one of the most powerful ways to manifest your dreams. A vision board can be a simple and yet truly powerful tool in visualization.

Vision boards are also known as goal maps, goal boards and treasure maps, and the concepts behind them have been used for generations. Still, they’re gathering renewed interest as people realize how powerful they can be in bringing dreams to life. My life and goal accomplishment has really differed from times I used boards and times I did. I need the physical board for focus and reining in my wanderlust tendencies!

Use these basic guidelines to create this tool for yourself:

  1. A vision board begins with a foundation. This may be a poster board, foam board, tri-fold board, or cork board. Use what works best for you. Choose a foundation that speaks to you, one that you feel you can easily and effectively build upon.
  2. A vision board includes imagery. You can clip pictures out of books, magazines, or the newspaper. If you prefer, you can draw the images yourself. What matters here is that images are present, because your vision board needs to be visual in nature. Seeing pictures of your priorities, dreams, and goals will help you focus on them.
  • Allow yourself to experiment with different mediums while creating the images for your vision board. Find photographs, sketches, clip art and other images; then draw any subjects for which you couldn’t find an appropriate piece of art.
  1. A vision board includes writing. Writing isn’t mandatory, but it can play a role in identifying the key pieces of information. You want to make sure that you can look at your vision board at any point in the future and know exactly what you intended by each picture, word or thought included on it.

Your goal map is limited only by the extent of your personal creativity. It may be simple and strategic or it may be a highly detailed work of art. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what best suits your needs.

The general elements in an effective and motivating vision board are:

  1. Visual. Your subconscious tends to work in terms of images and pictures, and so your vision board should be as visual as you can possibly make it. Supplement the images with phrases and words as needed.
  2. Emotional. Every image on your goal map should evoke some type of positive emotional response out of you. Seeing it should fuel your motivation to achieve your dreams.
  3. Strategic. This tool should be placed strategically in a location where you receive maximum exposure to it. Seeing your vision board as often as possible will help you stay focused on your goals and dreams.
  4. Personal. Your vision board needs to emit positive energy. If you think that you’ll be criticized or forced to justify yourself for your vision board, then keep it in a private location so nobody else can bother it or you.

Beyond these basic guidelines, let this tool be whatever you want to make of it. Ultimately, it’s yours to design, develop and utilize as you see fit. You can add to it and change it over time as your goals and focuses change.

If you are interested in joining in my virtual vision board workshop on Thursday, January 13 at 1pm CST, email me here and I will get you ready to roll!

Here’s to your best year yet!

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Good Sleep Habits Support Good Health

Black woman with curly hair asleep.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com. Black woman with curly hair asleep.

January is here and there is no better time to start building in better habits! There are only a couple of areas that are more impactful on your overall wellness than sleep!

We’ve all suffered through days of headache, fatigue and irritability after a bad night’s sleep for whatever reason. Sure, you can make up for it with a power nap or by sleeping it off the following night. But when insufficient sleep becomes the norm and you’re not getting anywhere from 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep each night, doctors warn that only a few weeks can pass before physical, emotional, and mental long-term, chronic illnesses start to take hold because of your unhealthy sleeping patterns.

The science behind this is that during sleep, our bodies secrete several hormones associated with body functions including, but not limited to, appetite control, metabolism and glucose conversion. When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, an imbalance of these hormones – and others – occurs.

When you wake up, do you immediately look forward to going back to bed? When the alarm goes off does it seem as though you just closed your eyes? It’s time to get a good night sleep! After all, it’s amazing what a restful night’s sleep can do for your body.

Battling chronic exhaustion will either force you to find ways to get more rest or it’ll bring on ill health. Naturally, you’ll want to develop an effective sleep routine before your body forces you to rest!

Try some of these sleep tips so you can get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling energized:

  • Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Keep your bedroom neat and quiet so you feel calm upon entering. Your bedroom needs to be a getaway from the stress of the day. When a TV is on, even if you aren’t watching it, the light output feels almost as great as the sun. This confuses your body and makes it hard to “shut down” even after you’ve turned off the screen.
  • If you have a TV or a home office in your bedroom, it will interfere with your ability to go to sleep. Move the television out of the bedroom or at the very least, try placing a sheet over it so you’re not tempted to watch it before bed.
  • Keep your room dark. Your body is designed to sleep when it’s dark. If you’re not used to this, try it for a while anyway. Children are used to sleeping with a light on but you’ll soon realize that it’s a huge distraction in getting to sleep. Pull the curtains closed, turn off all the lights, shut your door, then sleep like you’re hibernating!
  • Many stores sell “blackout” curtains that block out the sunlight so the room remains dark. Consider using these curtains to fully darken the room. I swear by mine as I have noticed a huge difference in how long I stay asleep and the sleep is much deeper!
  • Exercise during the day. Exercising during the day releases stress hormones to help you feel more relaxed. Most forms of exercise will pep you up and give you more energy immediately afterwards so make sure you exercise well ahead of bedtime.
  • The energy you receive from daytime exercise will give you more restful nights because your body will be less stressed and more relaxed. You’ll be giving your body a total makeover!
  • Even though yoga is considered relaxing, it may keep you awake if done in the evening hours. Plan your exercise routine either in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Make yourself a bedtime routine. This doesn’t only work with kids. If you get in the habit of going to bed at a certain time, your body will expect to be sleeping. Some recommend milk right before bed, as it contains the sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan.
  • Create a bedtime routine that involves things that make you tired, such as soft music, a warm shower, light reading material, or journaling.
  • Television stimulates the mind too much, which can cause difficulty sleeping. Try recording your favorite nighttime TV shows to watch the next day, rather than staying up late.
  • Leave daytime stress outside. In order to rest, you’ll want to put aside things that keep your mind whirling. By keeping a calendar of things to do the next day, you can put your mind to rest.
  • Make sure you’ve dealt with all the questions that keep you awake – what bills need to be paid, what time the doctor appointment is, and so on, before you lay down. This frees you up for sleep.

Once you’ve learned to rest well at night, you’ll experience a huge improvement in your quality of life. No more yawning through the mornings and the groggy, grumpy you will be replaced with an energetic person ready to take on life.

So, what are you waiting for? The new year is here, the weather is made for snuggling, and the nights are longer. It is a perfect time to start a relaxing bedtime routine tonight and wake up feeling refreshed tomorrow!

You can also listen to this as a podcast on Spotify here or check out a video on YouTube here!