Friday, June 09, 2006

The Million Pound Mission

If weight loss and living a healthier lifestyle is a challenge for you - join the club. Literally. The Fat club that is, because Chicago has earned the dubious honor of being the nation's fattest city, according to Men's Fitness magazine.

The city often has ranked near the top of the fattest list - it was No. 5 last year. But it catapulted to the highest spot in 2006 because it has the "survey's worst workout environment" according to Men's Fitness editor Neal Boulton. The article also cited Chicagoans' love of television and lack of exercise as a contributing factor.

And for African Americans specifically, the consequences of being in poor health are even more detrimental.

So to combat the rising statistics of obesity and health issues, The Chicago Defender has issued a hefty challenge to all of Chicagoland to take back their power and get fit by losing a million pounds in one year.

This health and fitness initiative entitled The Million Pound Challenge is designed to encourage Chicago’s African Americans to lose weight and increase physical fitness through developing healthy diet and exercise habits. They, along with UniCare will do this by hosting a number of citywide workout days, health seminars, free cooking classes and town hall meetings.

It's been one week since the kick off and I decided to take today's column to evaluate where I'm at now and where I realistically want to be in a year. The last part is easier to answer. Obviously, I want to be at my best, as I'm sure most of us do. But being in my thirties, with a hectic schedule and two toddler boys makes that more of a challenge than it ever has been before. Add in that I don't like exercise or healthy foods, and the challenge of being healthy seems insurmountable. So as to where I'm at now – quite frankly, it's probably in the worst shape of my life.

And because of that - I'm publicly taking the challenge. Not only to better the quality of my life but to hopefully encourage others to do the same. For the next year, I'll be dedicating one column a month to talk about ways to get on track, stay there and probably end up sharing way more about my own personal struggles with weight loss than I ever have before. But it's a good thing because today I am claiming success for us all.

Eating well is one of the most important things you can do to fight cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Physical activity can also reduce your risk of chronic disease, aid in balance and coordination, help you lose weight - even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem. When you consider the benefits, we really have no choice but to get better at being both.

So start today by eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, incorporating more whole grains in your diet, selecting healthier fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, reducing your meal portions and moving at least three times a week. Also, monitor your progress to see what works for you and what doesn't by writing your food intake and exercise achievements in a journal.

I will be keeping an online where I will share helpful tips from nutritionists and personal trainers from across Chicago. Also for more information or to register for the Million Pound Challenge, visit or call (312) 225-2400 ext. 111.

It's time to make Chicago the fittest city in the nation and we have a year to do it!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Is Sisterhood A Dying Art?

Why can't black women get along? This is a question that always seems to spark a heated debate but yields no real answers. These days, the phrases "she's just a hater" or "she brings too much drama" get thrown around as often as "good morning". "Hating" seems to have turned into some sort of sport and fortunately I didn't get the memo. We can be the most hateful, mean spirited witches in the world to each other and most times it's for no reason at all. We don't speak to each other in the street and if you dare smile or say hello in passing, some will reciprocate but others give you looks like you've just stolen their last dollar or slept with their man. We work overtime to tear each other down, downplay their dreams, and dogging their man when we should be each other's greatest support system. Who else understands that uniqueness and peculiarities of being a woman than another woman?

Let me say this, I'm sure women in different ethnic groups have the same problems but I notice the drama more so in the African American community than others.

And that concerns me. But what concerns me more is if we as adult women can't get along, then how are we going to teach our daughters, nieces, goddaughters, etc. the importance of the female bond. What kind of legacy are we leaving?

Sisterhood, self-knowledge, self-development and self-esteem - the four empowerment principles of Sisterhood Agenda, Inc. - were the elements that founder and executive director Angela D. Coleman saw lacking in young sisters when she started the organization in 1994. Not surprisingly, Coleman sited lack of self-esteem as the primary at the root of the many challenges that black women face. She went on to say that we as a sacred sisterhood needed to tackle our lack of self-esteem sooner rather than later because the consequences of letting it fester are too far reaching to comprehend.

So now that we know, what do we do about it?

I think most of us would agree that we don't always feel as confident about our appearance or capabilities as we should. But instead of taking responsibility to work on ourselves we turn our frustrations and anger into a ball and viscously hurl it at another woman. Bottom line, women need to stretch beyond their insecurities and issues and just get our existence together. The only way to overcome is to embrace our whole selves, including our faults and issues. We've got to develop a well of self-love and respect otherwise, the drama will continue and life's too short to entertain such pointless negativity.

When a woman loves and respects herself, she becomes unstoppable. When we combine forces with another woman of the same mentality, we would have more women owned businesses, healthier children, more stable marriages - all which will translate into a better world.

So smile when you pass each other in the street. If you don't - you could be passing up an opportunity not only to make yourself feel better but to also set a positive precedent for generations to come!