Marsha Ambrosius: “Far Away”

This video is so touching and in the same breath it is controversial. But the message is deep and meaningful. Kudos to Marsha Ambrosius for using her story and music as a vehicle to drive forward what needs to be heard.

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What could the summer bring?

As the craziness of this college semester comes to a close and the sparkle of  “down time” comes into view, I have nothing but ideas on ways to stay fit this summer. You see, it’s MUCH harder to get/stay in shape when you’re running around doing a million different things. And this doesn’t just apply to the college lifestyle, it can definitely apply to the working woman, stay-at-home moms and women doing various other things that keep them busy.

But there’s just something about the summer that inspires that extra push to get up a bit earlier and maybe even just stretch or take a jog.Just the thought of the wonderful weather and bright mornings summer will bring inspired me to create a “Summer Bucket List.” Now I don’t mean bucket list in the sense that I’ll die at the end of the summer (God forbid) but it means that if you live where I live, summer does come to an end at some point so the next three-four months of warmth are important to capitalize on!

I came up with about a list of twelve summer specific activities, here’s just a few of them:

  • Swimming: It is truly sad when you live in a coastal city, surrounded by beaches and with plenty of pools and lakes, to say that you haven’t gone swimming in years. And I honestly can’t even remember the last time I actually swam. I was probably in middle school. I’m in college now, eh, there’s the math. Although swimming is an intimidating spot for some, taking lessons and getting the hang of it can happen within a few short practice sessions. It’s also an incredibly toning activity. Your arms, legs, back and stomach all benefit. Cool water on a hot day? Yes please.
  • Early morning jogs: These can be the hard ones. Feeling the morning dew on your skin as you make your way through a few fresh aired jogging cycles can definitely be rewarding.  But waking up the crack of dawn when you don’t necessarily have to can be, can in itself be a challenge. Need to get over that lack of motivation? Plan your jogs ahead and try spreading out the days if it helps. Call it an even earlier night the night before and take a few minutes to stretch beforehand to ease your body into being active so early.
  • Attend some outdoor events: Music festivals, kite festivals, food festivals, you name it, I’m there. No better way to gain some healthy sun exposure while enjoying the company of nature, friends and whatever you’re favorite creative activities are.
  • Foreign-themed dance classes: A little random but why not. Belly dancing isn’t exactly family tradition but it’s a great way to move the body, experience new cultures and have fun. In most metropolitan areas various dance classes are open to the public for a small fee, but if you’re in a more remote area and can’t find anything close to you try popping in a good dance dvd and giving it a try for an hour or two!
  • Skateboarding: Yeah, that would be my reach goal. 🙂

Do you have any activities you’re itching to get into or back into this summer? Does summer inspire you to be more or less active? Feel free to share your thoughts!

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Earth Day 2011

I will readily admit that it took me quite a while to tighten up on  my “go-green” habits. In fact it took me seeing through various documentaries (Food Inc., Super Size Me) but I’m slowly getting there with recycling every solitary water bottle and such. But today is Earth Day across the globe and already businesses are eager to promote the cause. Starbucks is giving away free coffee for those who bring their own mugs and for those in the NYC area Earth Day New York is funding  virtual forests  that will be sprinkled across all of Times Square’s billboards throughout the day.

 Today is the 39th  since Earth Day firt began in 1970, sparking a movement and bringing forth environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

So what is Earth Day to you? If you’re not able to attend one of the local supportive events today there’s plenty of smaller things you can do to contribute to the cause:

  • Pick up the trash:  If you live in the city, you most likely walk by it everyday. Unfortunately in most urban settings littering is frequent, it may be gross but it wouldn’t hurt to grab a few pieces of trash and throwing them away. Your example may even spark someone else to start cleaning up the waste.
  • Start planting!: Planting tree’s and smaller plants are great for the environment. Plants promote clean air and the simple of taking care of the plant is bound to make you more aware of taking care of the environment as a whole.
  • Eat Local: Local food vendors often by their produce from local farms. This is a great way to promote sustainability, which means that the food growth process was healthy for the environment (didn’t involve the use of pesticides), the workers and the animals involved.

Celebrating Earth Day doesn’t have to mean a huge effort if enough of us play our small parts, even if it means taking a day off from what we already knew wasn’t good for us, or the earth, anyway.

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Why is violence still an option?

As I was heading home after a particularly long workshift the other night around 10pm or so, I opted to take the bus instead of the train in hopes that it would get me home quicker. And from the moment I sat down in my seat I knew this ride had the potential to be “one of those.”

What do I mean by “one of those”? I mean the type of bus ride where you’re either: A. Mentally begging God to let the bus hurry up and get you where you need to go or B. Figuring out what to do should something serious happen. So that’s why when a particularly loud group of girls and guys, all around my age (early twenties), made their way past my seat and to the back of the bus, I immediately turned my iPod up to drown out the sound.

No more than a mere fifteen minutes into the ride does it happen. A regular argument turns into a loud one. And a loud argument escalates into dangerously bordering a brawl. By this point my musics on mute and I’m eyeing the stop bell. To shorten the story (and from what I had to no choice but to hear) a young man in the group called a girl a b****, she then threw a tyrant because apparently they’d been friends and challenged the man to fight her. Then everything went to the level I’m sure everyone on the bus hoped it wouldn’t, serious violence. Now, I may be college educated and a fairly “well-rounded” girl, but I’m also street-smart, so when the terms “hammer”, “heat” and “4-5” start to pop up like fireworks, I know what time it is. Thankfully, before anything could really happen other people on the bus began to speak up. Two older men interfered and in essence asked the girl to calm down.

 But I wondered and still wonder now, why is violence even still an option???

This scenario isn’t something unusual to me, although it should be. I live in a neighborhood where unfortunately things like this happen way too often. But it’s not my neighborhood I’m ashamed of, it’s the attitude of violence that’s plagued the people living here.

Some of you may be reading this and wondering how it relates to the theme of this blog. To you I ask this: In a society where our communities, and especially our young people suffer from the consequences of gun violence, how can we as individuals really claim ourselves to be healthy? Being healthy goes beyond physical fitness and nutritious eating habits. It’s also a mental and spiritual thing. When I have to watch the 10 o’clock news and see that there’s been a murder massacre a few blocks away from where I sleep, I’m not healthy. Or when I have to be told that one of my closest friends, and next door neighbor has been shot fatally in the head, I’m not healthy. Seeing the mothers or even children of young men and women mourn their loved ones over and over, is not healthy for any of us.

When we as a community don’t feel safe on our bus rides home, walking to the store, or allowing our kids to play outside our own homes, we are not healthy and we must do what we can to change that.

Not everyone may relate to this post because the truth is not everyone lives surrounded by violence. But many people do. When that girl got off the bus the other night still riled up and angry I felt fearful for her. I felt fearful for the young man who continued to argue with her, for the man who stood up to try to pacify the situation, for the bus driver and even for the people who wouldn’t even turn around to watch, more focused on trying to get home. Because when an attitude of violence takes over, you never know who will “catch it” the worst.

If you’re someone reading this who still believes that the idea of health and wellness is only an individual thing I urge you to look outside yourself. Volunteer in your community, or even outside your community. Help educate our youth on the positive ways there exist to live. And realize that in pouring out good things into those around you, you’re already enriching yourself in an invaluable way, you are a change-agent.

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Vitamin of the week: Vitamin E

(Photo credit: Diseaseproof.com)

Vitamin E, like all other Vitamins in the little Vitamin alphabet, is an important form of vitamin and antioxidant.

What does Vitamin E do?

While mainly promoting healthy blood circulation and cell communication, Vitamin E also aids in proper blood clotting and assists your body in healing wounds quicker.  It also helps your body in maintaining healthy nerves, decreasing premenstrual symptoms and it promotes healthy hair and skin.

Where its found:

You can find a healthy daily dose of Vitamin E in: vegetable oil and margarine, Nuts, Avocado, Egg yolk, Liver, Wheat germ, Whole grain, Olives, Spinach (alongside other greens) and even Blueberries.

Not getting enough Vitamin E is another culprit for developing anemia and neuromuscular problems. Luckily, because of the body’s ability to easily absorb Vitamin E from dietary fat, it’s a rare occurrence to have a Vitamin E deficiency.

Quick Tip: An easy way to make sure you’re getting your Vitamin E? Try grabbing a bag of almonds, sunflower seeds or mixed nuts from your local grocery or even drugstore for often less than 3 bucks!

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Natural Delights

For the past three years I can say one of my toughest challenges has been finding and keeping a balance between school/work and having time to properly take care of myself. That means proper sleep, good eating habits, skin care and hair care regimens and also just having time to myself with friends and family.

 The beginning of the semester is usually fine: I have time to dance, do yoga, get some writing done, hang out with friends…everythings all good. And then around the third or fourth week of classes I start looking like a deer in headlights with raccoon eyes. No joke I get delirious often with trying to keep up with a hectic schedule and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But it all comes with the territory of reaching a goal. Anyway, I wanted to share two absolutely amazing natural hair care products (and household ingredients) that have helped me combat the stress placed on my hair over the past three months.

Numero Uno: Virgin (or Extra Virgin) Olive Oil:

My mother has always been committed to using  natural products  and this is one she recommended to me when I was in high school that I never really took advantage of and as usual, she was right. This product literally for me, worked overnight. Olive Oil has  been used for centuries by ancient civilizations to help with hair care. Specifically I use this on my eyebrows to help condition them and keep them growing.

Olive Oil is rich in Vitamins, A, B, D and K. It also contains a good amount of iron when consumed. For conditioned and thicker brows the process is simple: All you need is one cutip dipped in olive oil and to dab it lightly on your brows before bed. I wouldn’t recommend doing it every night but 2-3 times a week should be sufficient.

Numero Dos: Virgin Coconut Oil

Now the way I found out about this one is a bit silly, but I actually read about it in a love story. It was an Indian themed love novel I read  in September that piqued my curiosity about this remedy. The main character used it as a way to keep her hair growing and her scalp conditioned. I tested it out for a week or two and it works well. At first I wasn’t very fond of it because it actually made my hair grow a little too fast, but that’s the point right? Just remember to keep this one in a luke-warm environment, it’s best used while it’s still a bit solid.

I’ve become a fim believer in the importance of giving your hair (and skin) the healthiest treatment possible. (Quality> Quantity!) Both products are edible and can be found at your local grocery store for under ten dollars. For any other hardworking divas out there, here’s another way to keep your hustle up and keep your hair healthy too! 🙂

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Who cares what he says! JHud Keeps Going Strong

(Photo via Essence Magazine)

If you’ve seen the cover of Essence Magazine as of March or have been anywhere near the gossip sites and blogs you know DreamGirl, Oscar winner and superstar Ms.Jennifer Hudson has been looking pretty Va-Va-Voom! with her new svelte figure and has got the “divatude” to go right along with it. “JHud” made an appearance in late march (March 25th) on The Tonight Show and explained her recent loss of a whopping a 80 pounds through Weight Watchers whom she’s been the spokesperson for since April 2010. And the woman literally looks like a whole new person.

 Before performing her new song “Where You At” from her sophomore  studio album, Jennifer joked with Jay Leno that her fiance David Otunga (think ‘I love New York‘) was still “adjusting” the weight loss saying:

 “He’s just not into change that much…He fusses with me like, ‘Why do you have to get all dressed up to go out and why can’t you just go out like you used to.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m a walking billboard now honey!”
JHud went on to tell Leno that after the birth of her son David Jr., she decided to make healthier lifestyle choices and also told The Today Show that the decision had nothing to do with feeling uncomfortable about her size but rather she wanted to be a better role model. Now who could be mad at that?

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Let’s remember this…

This week I saw one of thee most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, and she was almost completely bald.

This woman shaved her head down to the bare minimum and still managed to be one of the more radiant women in the room with her highlighted features and warm smile. With all the recent back and forth disputes about natural and relaxed hair, seeing that woman in all her hairless glory, reminded me of this sentiment. Personally, I’d been recently obsessed with my almost forced hair transformation. After over highlighting I’ve had to chop it all down to a bob. :(. I think this could make any woman sad. But then I was reminded, there’s more to the woman than the hair and I just wanted to remind anyone too caught up in what’s really not as important than what lies internally anyway:

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The Written Challenge

Who knew a homework assignment could inspire? Recently for my Human Health and Disease Class we were required to answer a series of simple questions every night on what we’ve eaten for the day, how much we’ve exercised and how much sleep we’ve gotten for the past night. Now, as college students you can probably predict the results weren’t very stable. And they weren’t; as a collective our sleeping habits we’re spotty. Our eating habits weren’t as healthy as they could  should be and more prevalent: we barely exercise.

Now granted this is only one class, in the middle of one city, in one state. BUT it’s not uncommon to see this pattern amongst college students. It’s no secret that college students face an abundance of health challenges. From our hectic schedules, to the party culture that’s enhanced, to just the normalcy of a college student sitting up at 1am studying and eating God-knows-what. Right? So anyway, this assignment made me realize a lot about my classmates and myself. By recording our habits isn’t that the best way to identify and change them? And let me note here: out of the seven days we were to record, I only worked out once. Yup. Just once. And as a young woman who’s in the fight to overcome bad eating and exercising habits-this is a complete fail. So I propose a challenge to you, the readers and to myself. Why not continue to keep a daily journal entry on our daily health routine? What better way to track and stay on top of them? I’m doing it. Yay for kicking bad habits! Are you with me or what?

Here are some sample questions:

1. How many servings of vegetables did you have today?

2. How many servings of fruits did you have today?

3.How many servings of protein rich foods did you eat today?

4. How many salty snacks did you eat today? (ex. chips, crackers etc.)

5. How many sugary snacks/desserts did you eat today?

6.How many multivitamins did you take today?

7. How many hours did you exercise today?

8. In the last 24 hours how many hours of sleep have you gotten?

Have you ever kept a health journal before? Was it successful? Are there any questions you would add-on to this list? Make it known!

(Photo via:workitmom.com)

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Nutrient Spotlight: Good Ole’ Iron

A deficiency in any nutrient or mineral has its consequences, but an iron deficiency can cost you quite a bit. Having a sufficient amount of Iron in your diet is essential to maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle. It’s especially important for those always-on-the-move-women. Not getting enough Iron more than likely leads to feeling weak, sluggish and  a decreased immunity. Not having enough Iron basically means not getting the proper amount of energy and can lead to anemia. No bueno. 

 And according to what the National Institutes of Health says on Iron:  “Almost two-thirds of iron in the body is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. Smaller amounts of iron are found in myoglobin, a protein that helps supply oxygen to muscle, and in enzymes that assist biochemical reactions. Iron is also found in proteins that store iron for future needs and that transport iron in blood. Iron stores are regulated by intestinal iron absorption [1,8].”

Recommended Daily Iron Consumption

Age (years) Males (mg/day) Females (mg/day)
7-12 months 11 11
1 – 3 7 7
4 – 8 10 10
9 – 13 8 8
14 – 18 11 15
19 – 50 8 18
51+ years 8 8(Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.)

So what’s the quickest and easiest way to make sure Iron-deficiency doesn’t happen to you?

Why eating the right foods of course!

Remember Popeye the Sailor Man and all that “I-eat-me-spinach” stuff? Well he definitely had a point, spinach is a great way to consume iron, as well as another dark leaf green, collards. It can also be found in foods such as: red meat, egg yolks, dried fruit (prunes, raisins), turkey or chicken, liver, artichokes, Iron-enriched cereals and grains, mollusks (oysters, clams, scallops) and beans.

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