It Was Good While It Lasted

The decision to give up coffee was kind of spontaneous.  Nearly two months have passed since I gave up my freshly brewed java.    Fresh coffee was a nice early morning treat and part of my morning ritual.

The decision to give up coffee was sudden and random.  One day I just noticed that I didn’t  feel like myself.  The feeling was more than the typical jitters from too much caffeine.  Aside from the increase in hot flashes,  I felt sick from it.  The taste changed too.  It was nasty.   That’s not supposed to happen. What the heck is going on?  Hormones I suppose.  Or maybe it’s my body’s way of telling me it’s time to give it up.

Anyways my current morning ritual now includes organic loose leaf green tea. And guess what?   It’s working well.  I actually feel better, more energized and I don’t get the dragging feeling after the caffeine boost. Yay!

So imagine my delight when I stumbled on a Green Tea Latte at Starbucks.


 🙂 Aaaaaaaah!  The heavenly gates opened up.   I tried the latte and loooooooved it!  Although I like the vibe of Starbucks, they’re too pricey for me.  This day was an exception because I was on the road and ran in to get some oatmeal.  I ended up with the oats and the green tea latte.  I substituted regular milk for coconut milk.

Fast forward to my third one.   😦

You know I had to know the nutritional content, so I went to the company’s website.

“Smooth and Creamy.” Yes.

“Lightly sweetened.” NOT!!

Check out the sugar content!!  Oh my gosh!  I was devastated then I realized the whopping 27 grams of sugar was for a Grande.  Uh oh. I’ve been drinking the Venti, which is even larger. Ugh!

The Venti is loaded with even more sugar!  36 grams!!  This is ridiculous.  Starbucks has to do better. They got that one off on me.  This is yet another example of why we have to stay diligent in researching all that we eat and drink.  250 Calories. 9 grams of saturated fat. 90 calories from fat.  When I read the label, I became sad and angry. Who would think green tea would have so much sugar?  Yup. They tricked me.  

Whelp.  It was good while it lasted.  I just can’t and don’t consume sugar like that. Speaking of sugar, if you’re trying to lose weight or maybe trying to reduce your sugar intake, check out the video, The Truth About Sugar that I recently watched. It may change the way you think about your favorite sugary snack.

I’ve got a lot going on these days.  When things settle down, I have tons of good stuff to share.  So hang in there with me.  If you like this post, please like, share and follow me.

Smooches!  🙂


Small Change Net Big Results

While browsing the frozen section of the grocery store for my son for real ice cream as opposed to my liking for natural homemade natural ice cream, I stumbled on, a blast from my past.  🙂

At age 23 Chunky Monkey was my prescribed best friend! Who doesn’t know about Ben & Jerry’s delicious, unorthodox, and addictive flavored ice cream!  I was pregnant with my daughter and was under doctor’s orders to gain weight, which was an enormous challenge for me.  My Obstetrician, Dr. Chong, told me that I was too skinny.  Dr. Chong wrapped his child-sized hand completely around my upper arm and pointed to my branch like boney limbs,

“You need to eat.!  You too skinny!”

Since supersized servings of collard greens weren’t doing the trick, I resorted to fudge sundaes during the daytime at work and Chunky Monkey ice cream at night.  :).  I still didn’t gain weight but continued on with my love for the fatty delectable dessert.

Until recently, when I saw my old treat in the freezer, I had forgotten all about it.  I was curious about the nutritional label and had to sneak a peek at the label.  Back then, I don’t think I noticed food labels. My girl Oprah says it best.  “When you know better, you do better.”  She’s right.

Twenty-nine years later, I finally read the jaw-dropping label. Hoooooly Moly!!

28 grams of sugar X  4  servings is 112 grams of sugar!!!!

300 calories per servings X  4 servings = 1,200 calories!!

300 grams of fat per servings X 4 servings – 112 grams of fat!!!

I’m dying thinking about this… mouth wide open…. thinking about how many times I ate a full pint and what the contents were doing to my body.  It makes me wanna barf.  Ugh!

Looking at me then, I appeared to be the epitome of health, and for the most part, I was healthy, or so I think.  However, my metabolism was high, my body processed the food quickly and at almost 5’9, I weighed 125-130 pounds.   Surely had I continued to eat Chunky Money at this pace with a few other bad food habits, I was on my way to being overweight and dealing with health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and more.

Back then, even though I overindulged in sugary treats like this, I also balanced out my diet with daily servings of fruits and vegetables.   A high metabolism and good genetics kept me slim and trim, and I did not have any health issues. But the fact is, my diet exceeded the daily recommendation for… well. Everything.

Today I thank God for putting me on a path to a better place where I learned to make smarter choices about my health and well-being.

Too frequently though many people wait until a medical condition dictates a lifestyle change.  Particularly women.  Women of color.

In 2014, the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) reported the leading causes of death in ALL black females ALL ages were:

Heart disease – 23.2%

Cancer – 22.5%

Stroke – 6.2%

Diabetes – 4.6%

Chronic lower respiratory disease – 3.2%

Alzheimer’s disease – 3.1%

Unintentional injuries – 3.0%

Kidney disease – 2.0%

Septicemia – 2.3%

Hypertension – 1.9%

Heart disease (22.3%) and cancer (21.6%) remained at the top of the list for ALL females, ALL ages.

When you consider the fact that lifestyle behaviors can significantly reduce women’s risk factors for these illnesses it is disturbing.

If you have prediabetes, research shows that losing 5%-7% of your body weight and getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity like brisk walking can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

(CDC)

Why do women wait until a doctor tells them that a lifestyle change is in order?  If we learn to listen to our body, it usually sends signals by responding to the food we eat, the beverages we drink, and other behaviors. If you walk up a flight of stairs and you are out of breath, that means something.  When was the last time you had an annual check up?

Take a pledge to live a healthier lifestyle.  Even better, commit to a better lifestyle with a family member, a friend, or a colleague. Try a new recipe, join or start a walking club, take a yoga class, take a strength training class, or something else, just get busy moving.   Please!

Oh and… if you’re gonna get down with Ben & Jerry’s, remember portion control or better yet, try making your own healthy chocolate ice creamAvocado Ice Cream or a quick frozen strawberry yogurt. Making your own is healthier and more fun.

Making small changes in your life can net significant health benefits. Instead of attacking your health with major changes, start with minor changes like drinking more water and less juice or soda, reducing the amount of sugar you put in your coffee or substituting one high-fat food item with a lower fat food item. Take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators or do jumping jacks or pushups during commercials of your favorite TV show.  Over time, you will experience big gains. Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself because I won’t give up on you.

Grad school is slowing my posts, but I’m still here.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Smooches!  🙂

When Procrastination Is Good

If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living.
When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in
the field ofyour bliss, and they open the doors to you.  I say,
follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t
have opened for anyone else.

-Joseph Campbell

I assessed the pros and cons of my decision.  Before making the critical determination, I carefully scrutinized the advantages, the disadvantages, the expected and unexpected, and everything in between.  I made a choice, but emotionally my heart uttered that I was mistaken.

The tug of war between logic and emotion is a compelling and dynamic relationship.  Logic has its validity but so does emotion.  Sometimes I think feelings are underrated. Some research suggests that “individuals who experienced more intense feelings achieved higher decision-making performance.”  Hmm..

You’re probably wondering what I’m rambling about and where am I going with this.

Whelp, I’ll tell you exactly what this post is all about…  My chatter is about grad school.  To take the next class or not.

The last semester was no doubt the most challenging ever. Working full-time, caring for the home, partaking in our son’s activities, and being present in our marriage was laborious.

During the eight-week course, I second-guessed myself daily.  Self-sabotage!!   Did I belong in the class? Did I have what it took to pass the class?  Was I smart enough? Suffocating in doubt and uncertainty, I agonized but pushed through it.  The final exam was the breaking point.  I thought… no, I knew for certain that I’d bomb the course, but I did not. I received a 90 on my final and passed the course with a B-.  Whew!!

In the fall, I registered for the Spring 2017 semester but later realized that due to unexpected events, I should probably drop the course(s) until summer ’17.  I was trying to think realistically about handling a heavy workload.

I prolonged dropping the course until the final day of drop/add. Who’d believe that procrastination can be good?

On the final day to drop without a financial obligation, I logged in to my school’s site, pulled up the classes, placed an “X” in the boxes, and reached to set my pinky on the enter button and froze.

I couldn’t bring myself to finish the withdrawl and press the enter button.

Questioning myself again, I pondered, will this class be as challenging and time-consuming?  With new undertakings, will I have too much on my plate? I still could not bring myself to drop any of the classes.  I texted four people who are close to me.  Three of the four, including my husband responded.  Their feedback helped.

I have momentum and drive; it is not the time to ease off the gas and delay progress.

My hunger and thirst for this program make my heart flutter. Simply talking about the program sends goose bumps along my arms.

The work is demanding and challenging, but that’s where the growth emerges.  Finally, I’ve become quite comfortable with the sentiment of feeling uncomfortable.  In strength training, you lift to failure; then you lift again.  It is only through the discomfort of breaking down (tearing) the muscles and feeling sore, along with proper nutrition that we become stronger and develop muscle growth.

On the other side of this struggle awaits unexplored ventures and unknown opportunities.

Because I procrastinated, I did NOT drop my spring classes!!  Hallelujah!!

This post is a friendly reminder for me and for you to stay encouraged in whatever it is we set out to do.  Self-doubt is normal but pushing through the doubt is the exception.  Many people succumb to fear and to doubt and give up on their dreams.  They spend their life wondering, what if?  Please don’t give up. Keep pushing and keep it moving. Failure means success and beats the what if’s any day.  I’m delighted that I procrastinate!  I know that I made the best decision as I continue to follow my bliss. 🙂

Here’s to a new semester, to new challenges,  and to new opportunities in 2017! By the way, if you like what you’ve read here, please subscribe to Lexa’s Journal. Thank you!

Happy New Year!

Smooches!

 

 

The Joy Of Vacationing With Kids

On a recent family vacation to the beautiful island Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I observed something, and it’s not the first time.  I see families from many cultures and from all over the world traveling on vacation with their children, including infants, but not as many black families traveling with their children.   Don’t get me wrong; I see them, but not as often.

Nope, I’m not judging anyone, I am only commenting on my observations, wondering why we don’t travel more with our children and am writing to encourage more to do so.

As a child, I was not privileged to family vacations.  My parents and other relatives went, but the kids stayed home.  For my parents, I believe the choice was mostly economic but also cultural in that kids don’t belong in grown folk affairs and vacations were considered grown folk affairs. They worked hard and earned the right to getaway to chill.

Remembering the longing to board an airplane and fly away with my parents greatly influenced my decision to travel with my children.

At age three, our 27-year-old daughter’s first flight was to San Diego, California.  Our 13-year-old has been flying since the age of five.

Traveling with children is a wonderful experience.  Watching their curious eyes light up in amazement and disbelief when they see an aged and dilapidated building that is a school in another country or the joy of meeting and playing with other children who do not speak the same language, but understands volleyball or a game of catch in the pool.

Taking them to different cities, states, and countries open their eyes to the world outside of their own.  We want our children to grow up and become adults who are open-minded and learn to appreciate and to respect what is different from their experience.

So much of the hatred in this world stems from ignorance, a lack of tolerance and understanding for others who look and sound different.

Over the past week, I watched my son go from clinging comfortably to my husband and me to shooting hoops, playing volleyball with kids from other countries and hanging out in the teen arcade. I love it!!
Playing catch with a kid from California.

Below he is enjoying a moon rocker ride with his dad.  Later he gets to drive it.  🙂


Quick family pic before heading to the pool.

Earlier in the week, we drank fresh coconut water directly from a coconut.  S0 after a morning horseback ride, my son decided to pluck his coconut from a tree.  My friend and I watched him diligently work at getting the coconut; refusing to ask for help, he was determined to get one.   He has always been independent and always wants to do things himself, so I knew he was not going to ask the guides for help.


Well…. It took him about 15 minutes to get his coconut!  Failure was not an option. The theme of all things is possible continues.  🙂

Our son has wanted to go horseback riding for awhile.  What better place to try it than on a beach in Punta Cana!

In the picture below, he is getting instructions on how to direct the horse.


A rare occasion where hubby is 100% relaxed… All it took was a trip to Punta Cana and a horseback ride on the beach!

Posing with a fellow loc wearing resort employee


Here he confidently serves the ball in a game of volleyball with fellow vacationers; most speak very little English, but they all are having fun and are enjoying the game.

Other fun activities that Tailor enjoyed including taking photos with exotic pets. I love these pictures!

tailor holding snakeTailor holding monkey2

Monkey on tailor headIguana on Tailor forearm


Posing for the camera at the end of ride…  🙂


After the ride, my son was ecstatic!


Driving the moon rocker (dune buggy) with his dad was one of the highlights of his trip.  I drove too, but in a separate vehicle.


After spending the day at the pool, we headed out for dinner.

Check him out below. Action shot jumping to catch a football.


Deep in thought. Love his locs!

Throughout the year, we are busy as heck.  School, football, basketball, track, tutoring, and more.  Like any family, we experience stress and work each other’s nerves.  Rushing from one activity to another, squeezing in doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, school projects, working overtime, birthdays, holidays, graduations and then some are enough to wear down the most upbeat and energized family.

Decompressing as a family is a perfect remedy.  Everyone can relax. Our vacations involve very little “scheduled” time.  We pretty much wing it and take it one day at a time.  We all needed this trip.  While taking a break from the moon rocker excursion, we rested at the shore of an empty beach.

beach

I took my son by the hand, walked him to the edge of the water where warm turquoise colored water splashed our bare feet.  I instructed him to clear his head, listen to the ocean, and to look out as far as he could see.

I explained that we are a blessed family and should give thanks for all that we have and for our amazing experiences.  I went on to tell him that some children and adults will never see the natural beauty we were witnessing, and he should savor the moment.  I also told him to use the vacation as motivation to continue to do his best in school and in all that he does.

“When you get tired and and feel like you can’t go on, think about our wonderful vacation and work harder so that you can continue to reap the benefits of hard work.”

I explained how the process works for me, and it is just another way to stay motivated.  I asked him if he understood what I was saying and he did.

We’re back home and feeling very relaxed.  In two weeks, I will be back to work, and he starts 8th grade.  Our entire family is already talking about next year’s trip.  We’ll print his favorite pictures from the trip in poster size and hang on his wall; they will serve as great reminders for all of us to continue to work hard throughout the year.  🙂

🙂

Sharing Is Caring

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.
— Cesar Chavez

Sunday I hosted the first of a year long series of Sharing is Caring Wellness Workshops. The topic, Food Prep 101 is often linked with bodybuilding, but anyone can benefit from the model.

workshop Me speaking

Thirteen enthusiastic and eager family, friends, current and former colleagues attended. Today I am bursting with gratitude. The feedback is nourishment to my heart and to my soul. The responses confirm, what I already know:

People really do care about their health and well-being.    

Life often gets in the way and, like a drifting swimmer being pulled by a strong current, swimming back to the shore seems futile. Fatigue sets in and the determined and hard-wearing current wins.  

Careers, spouses, partners, children, aging parents, and extended family can constantly pull and tug at us. If we live void of mindfulness,  we slowly drift with the current into a world saturated with stress, sadness, depression, failed relationship, and life altering healthy issues. Daily life turns into simply trying to stay afloat. 

I understand the struggle–Have been there done that. But I have also learned from my experiences, which is why I willingly share my knowledge with others.

My entire life, I have had a passion for fitness; always eager to know more and to do more and always willing to indulge in something new.

When I reflect on my life, I find it remarkable of how plunging into each new activity has moved me and stretched me to new and unimaginable directions. I realize (now), but I did not in the past, that each adventure served a specific purpose and has widened my perspective.  

Somedays I feel like a tree branch. There’s lots of budding going on and I am growing. I am focused and think I know what direction I am going; however, each new endeavor surprises me with a curveball. I go with the flow of the energy and am often surprised at the path and the amazing results. 

Awe man. I’ve gotten off track a bit, but my point is don’t be afraid of trying something new. Just do it.  

When I was a high strung 20 something years old,  I NEVER imagined myself as Manager of Training & Development at a gaming hall.  I NEVER imagined myself working in a high school influencing teenagers to do better.

Even ten years ago, I NEVER saw myself walking on stage in stilettos and competing in body building competitions.  NEVER did I suspect I would host a series of wellness workshops!  Oh my.  The surprises are endless!! 

If I can come from a plastics factory worker father, who grew up in the islands, with no high school diploma or GED, and from a hot-tempered, quick to whoop some ass mother, with 12 siblings growing up dirt poor in a shack in the deep woods of Weymouth, with no electricity or running water, and the only expectation of me was to not have a baby, to get my high school diploma, get a job, and not ask for shit, and become who I am today, then any damn thing is possible!

For Gods sake, please venture outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

Anyways, back to my workshop. 🙂

It was delightful!

To comfortably accommodate everyone, my husband and daughter helped me to rearrange the basement. Thank you peeps!!

workshop set up

My daughter checking lighting.

I never want to force my lifestyle on anyone, so for the first session, I invited only people who have ever sought fitness related advice from me.  

My objective was simple: to give each of them at least one piece of information that would help them to make a positive change in their lifestyle.  

They arrived with bright smiles and eager to learn.  

The group had different lifestyles. Married with kids. Single with NO kids. Single with kids. Divorced. Working two jobs and going to school. They shared one common thread. A desire to live better. Beautiful! 

I covered the basics of food prep, answered questions, and welcomed suggestions for future sessions.

Workshop participants

My talented daughter videoed the session for me. Thanks Shaina!!

They indulged in light healthy snacks and a new wholesome and nutritious dish that I blogged about last month. [insert link].

Positive energy filled the cozy space and I could not have been happier.

A section of our basement is dedicated to hubby’s Man Cave.  All of the women were forbidden by hubby from entering the cave.  

What’s a woman to do?? 

Break the rules!!!! Fist pump!!

man cave

Although some people left already, there were enough women left to make our point.

Crash the cave with a group photo! Ohm gosh!! The perfect ending to a productive, educational, and rewarding afternoon. Nothing but laughter…..

What’s next?

Rest and figuring out a topic for March’s meeting.  

Last weekend was non-stop.  My son’s tutoring- an hour away, an informative two-hour meditation class, preparing for the workshop, my own food prep and organizing myself for my first graduate class in a M.A. in Wellness and Lifestyle Management program. Whew!  

We know that knowledge is power, but even more empowering and rewarding is caring enough to “include the aspirations and needs of others.” 

Happy Day to you!  🙂

 

 

 

Liquidate For A Better Life

STOP!

Slowly inhale through your nose… hold it… now slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat two or three times. I am instructing you to do so because so many of you- I mean “us” are or at some point, have been caught up in the race of living. We begin our day by getting out of bed feeling fatigued. Immediately, our minds begin to race with all the “to do’s” of the day and before we’ve even brushed our teeth, we’re sighing with trepidation. This is ridiculous! We cannot be everything to everyone in our household. Understand that the world will not stop revolving if every item does not get checked off on your “to do” list is important.

My children are 13 years apart; the lapse of 13 years has taught me well and I’d like to pass on a few words of wisdom on to you. I will admit that I was once guilty of the cardinal sin of putting everybody before me. Notice that I said, “was,” but no more! When my daughter was little, I thought that EVERYTHING HAD TO BE PERFECT. Her clothes, including her undershirts, were perfectly starched and ironed.  Every one of her gazillion hair barrets matched her extensive wardrobe. When she began eating regular food, I wouldn’t dare feed her pre-packed baby food. No! My baby had to have freshly steamed vegetables, puréed in the food processor.

I had to look put together all the time and never left the house without makeup, ironed clothes, etc… I went well above and beyond to grocery shop, cook a well balanced meal for my family, clean the house, take care of ALL my hubby’s needs, maintain a decent GPA, while attending school, blah…blah…blah…blah… and the list goes on! I KNOW that you get what I’m saying.  Like I said, it’s ridiculous! If you’re doing this STOP IT RIGHT NOW! If you’re not, good for you, you’ve got more sense than I had.

My point here is simply that we must establish and maintain balance in our lives. We cannot steadily juggle multiple items 365 days a year and not expect things to come crashing down. In just the past two months, I’ve had several serious conversations with a few women and so many women are stressed out and cannot see an end to the rat race. I am not saying that we should not take our responsibilities as moms, wives, and so forth seriously; I am simply saying that we should seek balance and not loose ourselves in the process. With all that you do, figure out what is really important, as well as, what you do for yourself, and start liquidating. Ha! Ha! That’s what I like to call it liquidating. So what if the kids eat a decent cereal for dinner; if it’s good enough to start their day with, then it’s good enough to end their day. Stop saying yes to things that you don’t have time for; and stop accommodating people that you don’t like. Eject the baggage from your life and you will feel better. Trust me, I’ve done it and it feels good.

Countless studies report that stress can have irreversible affects on our body. So, if you don’t take time to nurture your own physical, mental, and spiritual well being, you will be of no use to anyone in your family. Below are several websites that I encourage you to check out. The “Strike It Healthy” website and program was developed by a former colleague and friend. Dr. Therese Pasqualoni, she provides excellent advice and resources, supported by facts that can help you physically get back on track.

The second website was highly recommended by a dear family member who takes great pride in educating herself about her nutrition and her overall health. The last website is More magazine. I’ve been reading this wonderful magazine for several years now. I call it the magazine for real women that touch on the issues and challenges that we face in life. The magazine also has incredible inspiring stories that will inspire to pursue your dreams.

Commit to yourself to make overall healthier choices about your life. You will find that you will become happier, more productive, and will overall improve the quality of your life. Include yourself on your “to do” list. Lastly, please share any ideas or tips that you have which helps you to maintain a healthier lifestyle; I’m always looking for new ideas. “Think forward!”

Websites

http://www.strikeithealthy.com/index.htm

http://www2.healthyimmunity.com/

http://www.more.com