Posted in Anxiety, Built Environment, Environmental Wellness, exercise, fitness, Mental Health, Physical Activity, Uncategorized, wellness

Blacktivate Lesson 005: Green Exercises for Black Women (Part 1 of 2)

Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. This week, I am going to talk about a close companion to physical health, Mental Health! This Part 1 post will be a very transparent look into my world and the labels that are now part of my life. If you are ready for Lesson 5, throw a fist in the air and say it with me, “It’s time to… BLACKTIVATE!”

Do you see that Chester Cheetah smile spread all across my face after winning the Kansas State University 3 Minute Thesis Competition? I’m sure you can’t miss it! I love this capture because it is an authentic representation of my genuine feelings of happiness and appreciation for being recognized for my research. But, there was a time in my life when that smile was inauthentic.

Have you ever gone to work knowing that you were dying on the inside? Have you ever come home and made a b-line to your bed so you could go to sleep and escape the concerns of the day? How about this: Have you ever worn a fake smile while lying to someone by saying you were okay? I answered yes to all three of those questions in 2008.

I was swimming in debt; I was popping Benadryl pills to escape my pain; I was telling lies to people-fake smiles and fake “I’m okay.” It was a horrible rollercoaster ride that I don’t remember buying a ticket for. It was time to get off this ride, but I didn’t know how. I was battling depression and wasn’t winning. Eventually, that ride came to an end and life seemed to be back to normal. Well, that was until the fall semester of 2018.

On September 27, 2018, I had an anxiety attack while meeting with my major professor of all people. I didn’t even know it was an attack until I went to the emergency room later that night. I just knew that this uncontrollable itching was totally abnormal. While lying on the emergency room table, with the ER doctor in one chair and my Epidemiology book in the other, I was told that my uncontrollable itching was symptomatic of an anxiety attack. After a few minutes of questions and answers, I was diagnosed with GAD-Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

GAD is yet another label. It was a label that I did not want to wear because it reminded me of the lack of control I had over the label from 10 years prior-Depression. The beautiful thing about this particular time was that age, wisdom, and an amazing network of sister friends were there to help me through it. Additionally, I fell back in love with walking and being in nature! Who knew that there were FREE restorative properties in the great outdoors?

Obviously, researchers knew about this and so did doctors. My ER doctor prescribed exercise and meditation as part of my healing process. (Sounds kinda funny now. I’m a group exercise specialist; I know this stuff!) The timing was great because it was fall and the leaves were changing and signaling to me that it is time to change, too. As to not bore you with too much more of the emotional backstory of depression and anxiety, I’m going to leave you with this research teaser quote that ties into next week’s discussion:

… there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that time spent in the presence of nature improves psychological health and well-being” [1]

Well Luvs, that is it for this week. Thank you for spending a little time with me and please tune in next Thursday as we continue the conversation about Green Exercises for Black Women. This research is super interesting and I can’t wait to share it with you because THIS is how we activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. You can’t do better until you know better!

High Fives, Hugs, and Hope!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

References

  1. Lawton, E., Brymer, E., Clough, P., & Denovan, A. (2017) The Relationship between Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers. Front, Psychol. 8: 1058. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01058
Posted in hypertension, Modifiable Risk Factors, Physical Activity

Blacktivate Lesson 004: How to Reduce the “Pressure.”





Your “High 5” Ways
to Reduce High Blood Pressure.

Hey Hey Ya! It’s your guuurrrllll, Chris Omni, the Health Hippie, back once again to activate the health and wellbeing of Black women. It’s time to Blacktivate, ya!

This week, I am going to continue our conversation about high blood pressure by providing a list of 5 ways to control and/or reduce your risks. Are you ready?

1: Your Body Was Made to Move!

The Surgeon General recommends achieving 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity every week [1]. That may seem like a lot, so let me break it down. If you engage in physical activity for 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, you will achieve your 150 minutes. Don’t be concerned if you can’t block off 30 minutes, you can break that down into three, 10-minute bouts of physical activity. Sounds a little more doable, huh? Just think of breakfast minutes, lunch minutes, and dinner minutes! You got this. Always remember to listen to your body!!

2: Watch That Sodium, Sistah Friend!

I promise, I couldn’t make this up if I tried! Did you know that there was a website entitled picklelicious? Yessssssssss! Lovin’ it!! I really do like pickles. Zesty are my favorite 🙂 Okay, where was I? Ohhh, that’s right, I was thinking about whether or not I was going to dig into scientific journals or give you facts from picklelicious.com. Pickles Win!

Pickles have one major drawback-sodium [2]. Now hear me when I say this, “pickles are not the only snacks that are high in sodium.” Take a trip to your cabinet and look at the food labels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that our sodium intake not aexceed 2,300 milligrams per day. If you already have high blood pressure,make that no more than 1500 milligrams per day.

3: Drink in Moderation Not For Elevation!

Let me be the FIRST to say, “I loooooooove wine.” Give me a glass of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, or anything dry and red and I’m in my happy place. However, I also know that excessive alcohol consumption will increase my risk of high blood pressure. The message here is to not get faded! No matter what your drink of choice is, learn to savor the experience and the taste not just the tilt.

You know I’m not about to move onto the next subject without discussing why.

Excess alcohol consumption is bad because of the sugar. Sadly, there is not a nutrition label on most bottles of wine and that leaves you unaware of how much you are truly consuming. There is a great article in the Washington Post that will break down some of the nutrition facts for you. [3] One last thing, keep in mind, wine isn’t the only food or beverage that has sugar. Be aware; check your labels.

4: Smoke Ribs Not Cigarettes… (make that corn on the cob for vegetarians!)

As a non-smoker, it seems simple enough to say, “Just STOP!” But, as a former employee wellness coordinator and wellness coach, I have worked with people who have struggled with this very subject. Please know that this blog isn’t about telling you what you should or should not do; I just want to help activate your health and wellbeing by boosting your knowledge about physical activity, chronic diseases, and various risk factors. One last nugget of information: Every time you smoke you are causing a temporary increase in your blood pressure [4]. Okay, I’ll move on…

5: Worry Less Live More

Nothing immediately activates “The Pressure” as much as stress. Writing about stress is even stressful, but providing stress management techniques is helpful. Enjoy this visual from Harvard University [5]. It truly speaks to what I would have personally recommended. “Unplug” and “Slow Down” are my go-to speeds!

Well Luvs, that is it for this week. Thank you for spending a little time with me and please tune in next Thursday (bring a friend) as I continue my mission of improving Black women’s health-related quality of life by activating their health and wellbeing.

High Fives, Hugs, and Hope!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

References

  1. HHS Releases Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition (2018) US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/11/12/hhs-releases-physical-activity-guidelines-americans-2nd-edition.html
  2. https://picklelicious.com/4-facts-about-pickles-and-weight-loss/
  3. Lehmann, C. (2014). Watching Your Sugar Intake? Toast to Dry Wine. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/watching-your-sugar-intake-toast-to-dry-wine/2014/04/22/b0ebf500-ba73-11e3-a397-6debf9e66e65_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8d1e25ba2e47
  4. Smoking, High Blood Pressure and Your Health (2016). American Heart Association. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/smoking-high-blood-pressure-and-your-health
  5. Seven Ways to Reduce Stress and Keep Blood Pressure Down. Harvard University Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/7-ways-to-keep-stress-and-blood-pressure-down
Posted in BMI, Body Mass Index, Physical Activity

Blacktivate Lesson 002: The BS that is BMI!

Let me go ahead and lead with this…the BMI, Body Mass Index, is a culturally-biased, inaccurate bulls*#!% scale! Ahhhhhhhhh, yes, that feels so good to get off my chest. It was developed in the 1830’s and we all know that body shapes have changed significantly since then. If we have changed, why hasn’t the scale? Okay, okay, okay, I’ll temporarily get off my soap box in order to give you the real and the research to support my assertion.

A 2010 study [1], Accuracy of Current Body Mass Index Obesity Classification for White, Black and Hispanic Reproductive-age Women,” conducted by Drs. Rahman and Berenson, concluded that “the National Institutes of Health should use race/ethnic specific BMI cutoff values to more accurately identify obesity in this population than the existing classification system.” Yes, you saw those two critical words: MORE ACCURATELY!

You already know that I completely cosign with the findings of Dr. Rahman and Dr. Berenson. However, as my professor pointed out during one of my rants about the cultural insensitivity of the BMI, if we didn’t use the BMI, what would we use? It is easy and efficient, I admit that. A person can quickly calculate their height and weight (click here to check your BMI) and immediately know their body mass index. But, just because it’s easy, does that mean that we must keep using it?

Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to her question….yet! I’m working on something revolutionary called the B2MI scale. You’ll hear more about my scale in about five years. Until the time of my big reveal, all I can do is educate you, my readers, about the falsehoods and feelings of inadequacy associated with this BS scale.

I know you can’t tell much by a picture, but humor me and take a quick look at the above picture on the right. That’s me. I was in the best shape of my life when this picture was taken. I was teaching several classes per week and my body was loving the results. But, according to the scale, as a 5’6″ Black woman coming in at 150 pounds, my BMI was 24.21. This means that I was less than one point away from being classified as overweight! Yes, LESS THAN ONE FLIPPIN’ POINT!

This is my field and I know that the BMI scale is flawed, but not everyone knows that. Furthermore, if you only looked at my numbers on a piece paper you might dismiss me before even giving me a chance. A chance to join the military. A chance to join the fire department. A chance to compete in a pageant. A chance for anything that considers a persons’ ability based upon their weight! Plain and simple, especially as it relates to my Black sisters, it just does not make sense to have a universal cutoff value to categorize people as “normal,” “overweight,” “obese,” or even “morbidly obese” [2,3].

So, as you prepare to wrap up this week’s Blacktivate lesson, I encourage you to view the BMI as a non-factor. It does NOT tell your story! It does NOT reflect your efforts! It didn’t have YOU in mind when it was created and it sho nuff doesn’t have YOU in mind now! YOU, my Luvs, are uniquely and wonderfully made! Never forget it and never let any scale, BMI or the kind that you stand on, strip you of this truth. Engage in your daily physical activity for the pureness of movement and all the other health benefits will eventually come. Simply put, let your joy be in your JOurneY.

Until next week, continue to activate your health and wellbeing. Continue to Blacktivate!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

References:

  1. Rahman, Mahbubur and Abbey B Berenson.(2010) “Accuracy of current body mass index obesity classification for white, black, and Hispanic reproductive-age women”  Obstetrics and gynecology. 115(5): 982-8.
  2. Razak F, Anand SS, Shannon H, Vuksan V, Davis B, Jacobs R, Teo KK, McQueen M, Yusuf S. (2007) “Defining obesity cut points in a multiethnic population.” Circulation. 115(16):2111-8.
  3. Evans EM, Rowe DA, Racette SB, Ross KM, McAuley E (2006) “Is the current BMI obesity classification appropriate for black and white postmenopausal women?” Int J Obes (Lond). 30(5):837-43.