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 Uncategorized

Blacktivate Lesson 003: The Pressure. (A two-part series)

Did you know that hypertension is just another way of saying high blood pressure? Seems like basic knowledge to some, but to those who don’t know, this blog might shed a little light on the situation. High blood pressure is when the pressure of your blood against the arterial wall is high enough to cause damage to the artery itself or the organs. Wowwwzer, that is way to technical for where I want to go with this week’s blog. Let me break it down-Pickle Style!

Imagine trying to open your favorite jar of pickles. I don’t know about ya, but I love the Zesty kind. Yummmmmm! I digress; imagine trying to remove the lid from the jar but you just don’t have enough strength. But, you remember a few old school remedies: 1) tapping the bottom of the jar, 2) running the jar under some warm water, or 3) swirling it around in the air. After selecting your remedy of choice, the lid magically loosens and you get to enjoy your pickles. So what really happened in those few seconds of magic? Physics.

If you opted for old school remedy one, hitting the bottom of the jar, what occurred was the loosening of the contents and the piling of the contents on the lid. Just like that you heard a pop and all the internal pressure was released allowing you access to your pickles. This piling analogy is similar to the pressure of your blood against your arterial wall.

Time for a brief education pause:

Arteries are the blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the tissues of the body. They are pretty important!

Fortunately, you will not hear an actual pop if your blood pressure gets too high. The most obvious reason why you won’t is because you are not a jar of pickles. (If I was a jar of pickles, I’d certainly be Zesty!) All joking aside, the more concerning reason why you won’t hear a pop is because high blood pressure is a “symptomless silent killer” [1].

To root all of this information in the foundation of Blacktivate, it is important to know that high blood pressure can contribute to stroke and diabetes. Sadly, these are three of the major chronic diseases that disproportionately impact the Black community. Black people are 60% more likely to be diabetic, 40% more likely to die from heart disease, and 30% more likely to die from a stroke.

Having high blood pressure is not a death sentence, but if it goes uncontrolled can ultimately become the death of you. You don’t want that. Your friends and family don’t want that. And, I certainly don’t want that either. If you see yourself in the gold, orange, or red zones [2], it is truly time to activate your health and wellbeing. Stay tuned for Part Two when I provide helpful tips to help lower your blood pressure and start that activation process.

Until next time, be well!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

References:

  1. What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure? American Heart Association. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure
  2. Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. American Heart Association. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings  \
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.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blacktivate Lesson 001: Physical Activity and Aging

How many times have we, as Black women, heard the saying, “Black don’t crack?” I am 44-years old and people still think that my 23-year old daughter is my sister. “Thank you, I’ll take that!!!” Second question, how many of us have heard that exercise is the fountain of youth? I’m sure quite a few of us have heard that, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough to get us to engage in physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overall, 27.5% of adults age 50 and greater reported no physical activity outside of work. Since I’m six years shy of this big nickel circle, I’m really interested in physical activity and aging. (Truth be told, I even started taking a Centrum Silver.) But, seriously, this statistic only increases with age, gender, and race. With this knowledge, it is time to bring this topic to the forefront and start educating my sisters. If you are ready for the journey, keep reading.

In that same research article, provided by the CDC, they reported that inactivity prevalence was significantly higher among women than men and among Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks compared to that of non-Hispanic Whites. Furthermore, Black women rank lowest among race and sex demographic groups to achieve recommended levels of physical activity (Joseph et al., 2015). Stay with me now…I’m curious. Could it be that we, as Black women, are relying on the fact that due to our melanin that movement really doesn’t matter?

Black women, just in case you haven’t heard it from anyone else, I’m here to tell you that, “MOVEMENT MATTERS!” I, your sister in health, have nearly 20 years of experience in health promotion and I have seen it work wonders in the lives of my clients and students. Most importantly, my Mama’s oncologist told me before she died, that her faith and her fitness enabled her to fight for 26 years! Yes indeedy, movement matters my melanin mamas!

Now, here is where I’m going to step on a few toes. As a former personal trainer and group exercise instructor, I can confidently say, “Move for the purity of movement!” I know that physical activity will lower your risk of certain chronic diseases. I know that physical activity will help to lower your weight. But, when you engage in physical activity for the sole purpose of achieving an “end” rather than enjoying the “journey” to that end, you miss the point.

Black women, we are a beautiful people with a beautiful story. And, we are fortunate to have won the genetic lottery where we don’t actually look our age. Since we are already winners, let’s win with wellness. Are YOU with me? If so, let’s activate our health and wellbeing. It’s time to…

Blacktivate!

Chris “The Health Hippie” Omni

Reference:

Joseph, RP, Ainsworth, BE, Keller, C., Dodgson, JE. Barriers to physical activity among African American women: An integrative review of the literature. Women Health. 2015; 1-21.