By Arian Moore, Enliven Department Editor
The rates of obesity in the African American community continue to rise despite the low-fat craze and other changes made to food options. Mitzi White, featured speaker at the Faith & Fitness Magazine 2015 Redefined Conference in New Orleans, provides a beautiful personal testimony of how she made a life change through strength she found in Jesus Christ.
One of the major issues is access to food and the ability for people of all socio-economic backgrounds to have the option of fresh, healthy food. There is also the issue of fast foods being more available than healthy foods. Lucan et. al (2010) explains that “African Americans tend to have diets that promote obesity, morbidity, and premature mortality, are low in fruits and vegetables, and are high in processed and fast foods” (para 2). The article further explains that the convenience of fast foods serves as a barrier to the consumption of vegetable and fruits. In a recent interview with Mitzi White, participant of Season 5's Extreme Weight Loss, we spoke about this issue of affordability and access.
"Food deserts...sadly in most lower income areas there are more fast foods and corner conveniences stores than there are grocery stores" Mitzi said. "However there are also typically nearby shopping plazas that have a Family Dollar, General Dollar, and Dollar Tree if there aren't nearby grocery stores. People may overlook them, but you can often find frozen vegetables and fruits, canned goods and in some of the stores, dairy products, frozen fish/meat and sometimes fresh vegetables and fruits as well. Farmers markets are also an inexpensive way to include fresh fruits and vegetables at minimal cost and I also recommend investing in a Costco or Sam's club card with a friend(s) or family and buying in bulk; which will save money by sharing the expense, food and possibly "a ride" should transportation be an issue!"
Mitzi, who has recently lost 114 lbs describes her weight loss journey saying, "I've made several attempts over the years to release weight, through diet programs, diet fads, exercise, personal trainers, gyms, you name it, I've probably tried practically everything or at least contemplated it and in some cases was successful, but the results were short lived. My latest attempt was "God ordained and direct" and finally the attempt that has garnered the greatest life changing success for a total mind, body, spirit transformation!
Extreme Weight Loss was one of many vessels/resources that God utilized to aid in my weight release, healing and literally saved my life."
Mitzi explains that her Christian faith plays a major part in living a healthy lifestyle. "While I didn't think before that my "weight" was a major deal to God I totally understand now and see through scripture that he speaks directly and intentionally to our eating habits and our temples," Mitzi explains. Before last year I never equated "Faith and Fitness", but they truly go hand and hand!"
Her motivational scriptures include:
Isaiah 55: 1-2 Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink-even if you have no money! Take your choice of wine or milk-it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others I myself should become disqualified.”
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
She and I even discussed the fact that exercise for some may seem expensive. Most people equate working out with having a gym membership, but there are affordable and even no cost avenues of exercise. "Dollar stores and retail stores such as Target and Ross carry exercise equipment such as resistance bands, exercise mats, hand weights, exercise balls as low as $1.00 - $10.00 depending on the level of quality," Mitzi says. "Some items can be purchased in sets for even greater savings and don't forget to check out Ebay too. I'm big fan of using stairs in office buildings, parks, church parking lots, space in a small bedroom or living room area of my house when a gym is unavailable. My favorite is the great outdoors! It's FREE, the options are endless and God is present at every turn!"
Living healthy is simply about making a choice to do something different. Maybe you can't buy all organic but you can clean your fruits and veggies with water and vinegar. Maybe you can't get to a gym facility, but you can start walking everyday, even if its for ten minutes. Mitzi made a choice and that choice has caused her to be free from diabetes medication. Diabetes runs rampant in the African American community yet for many, with exercise and dietary changes, diabetes can be controlled and for some eradicated. "After 2 months at bootcamp (Extreme Weight Loss) I was no longer diabetic, my high blood pressure and cholesterol were in normal range, I was no longer experiencing gout or acid reflux and the psoriasis on my legs were healing and clearing," Mitzi said.
Mitzi will speak more about her journey at the Redefined: Faith and Fitness Conference but the issues we discussed are so important. No access should not be a hindrance to healthy living. Church communities can help by creating gardens in their green spaces. This allows the church to meet a need in their communities by offering fresh, affordable food. Another option is to have fresh food provided in food pantries.
The idea is that we become more aware of what we are eating and use food to fuel us rather than to satisfy our emotional inadequacies. "I am consciously aware of what I eat now for fuel or pleasure!", Mitzi said. " I'm big label reader at the store, on my phone app and I even look up nutrition facts for restaurants before going out so I have an idea of best options verses just going with what sounds good to my tummy in the moment!
I'm far from perfect and I still eat some of my favorites such as pizza, but not every day!
Prior to my journey I was like many people that thought that if I didn't' eat much then surely I'll lose weight! I was the type of person who never ate breakfast, rarely ate lunch or even moved from my desk at work and didn't snack throughout the day, BUT I would be famished at the end of the day and would eat late, eat heavy (typically restaurant or fast/convenient foods) and then go straight to bed and start over again with the same the next day! Now I understand that your body needs fuel frequently to keep the metabolism roaring and I truly understand the difference between "feeding hunger pangs" verses "feeding emotions"!" (Click here for Mitzi's favorite recipe).
- Be # 1! Make YOU a priority! "put your own oxygen mask on first before attempting to assist others"...you can't fully help or serve others if you yourself are struggling to breathe.
- Transparency and vulnerability are key! Don't allow your "fear" of judgment to hold you back from asking for help! People genuinely want to help, so don't let fear, excuses or YOU stop YOU!
- Rewind, Pause, Play...it's important to look at where you have been and come from and anything that may have occurred in your past that you may be holding on to and allowing to weigh you down. Release and forgive those situations, people and yourself. Be present in the moment of where you are, however keep moving FORWARD to reach the goals you desire for living YOUR BEST life! Letting go, Letting GOD, Forgiving and Surrendering are the keys to Transformation!
- Integrity is paramount...making promises and keeping them to yourself is a MUST
- "Falling isn't failing"...along the way of your journey there are going to be some stumbles, falls and challenges, but what's most important is that you "get up", don't allow yourself to stay down!
- Surround yourself with people who are like minded and have your best interest in mind and that will help pick you up and support you even when you don't think you can...you can and will, so KEEP MOVING FORWARD! You are worth it!
- It's NEVER too late...as long as you have breath in your body you can "choose" LIFE! Make a change to reclaim yours!
1. What can I do in my local community to help those that may not have access to healthy food?
2. What opportunities are their at my church for programs that address these issues?
3. How can I commit to making health a priority?
4. How can I reclaim my health?