My health kick began as a solution to improving my life and happiness, but during my time on my own in Chicago, a new motivation came into play changing my realities on the fragility of our bodies forever. My father has always been a beef lover, especially when it comes to steak, burgers, and bacon. Bacon and eggs make up his breakfast at least every other morning.
One day he appeared strongly fatigued, not getting out of bed, acting incoherent. My brother Josh made a judgment call and phoned an ambulance. The doctors told him if he had waited any longer to make the call my dad may have fallen asleep and never woken up. He was slipping into a Diabetic coma. He was diagnosed with Type 2, news that stole his newfound happiness from retiring only four months earlier. The image of his drained body looking ten pounds thinner, leg dangling off the side of the hospital bed, is forever engraved in my head.
A little over two years have gone by that I’ve watched him struggle to accept the new boundaries his illness has caused. A constant craving for fast food is something he’s developed, “jokingly” asking me for it almost every time I see him. He still abides by the meat, bread, and cheese menu despite his illness, at least cutting back on the bread.
I unknowingly slip into the parent role when I feel he isn’t taking proper care of himself:
-“What did you have for lunch today?”
-“How many times have you eaten?”
-“Did you leave the house today?”
-“How can you be hungry again, you just ate two hours ago?”
Clearly it annoys him. “You sure sound a lot like your mother. Are you guys plotting together to tell me the same things?” Although it may sound like we nag, it is more to be a voice of reason because he has lost his. Diabetes has become his identifier, now his excuse for everything and why he doesn’t feel like doing it. He spends his days cooped inside, absorbing media bullshit day in-day out, swelling up with negativity of the big bad world outside. With everything he has gone through (Vietnam, growing up in the projects in the 50s, being a black man married to a white woman), he is letting Diabetes win.
Life became more real when almost an exact year later my mother had a cantaloupe sized tumor removed from her abdomen. There are no concrete answers to what caused it, but the experience only solidified the importance in taking care of my body, the vessel that will carry me the rest of my days. These events, as well as a new job I just began, reignited a commitment to change my lifestyle again.
Going from a job that kept me on my feet all day to an office position requiring me to sit for almost eight hours arose concern I would set back the progress I had made over the last few years. Determined not to let that happen, I jumped on the computer and did a bunch of reading about meal options and advice to keep in shape. I have made some substitutions and some new additions:
-Whole grain pitas for sandwiches instead of bread
-Protein bars instead of Nutri Grain bars
-Orange juice containing 50% less sugar than regular juice
-Spinach instead of iceberg lettuce
-Almond milk instead of 2% (still trying to get used to, and I’ll still have organic 2%)
-Corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas
-Green tea (still trying to calm down my Starbucks habit)
-Unsalted trail mixes (if I’m craving chocolate, I’ll get mixes with dark chocolate)
-Avocado (to replace mayo and because guacamole is amazing
I realize this is a vague list, and I am open to plenty of suggestions. Getting started and pulling the trigger to make lifestyle changes is the hardest part, but patience is key. My parents are a strong motivation, and I realize not everyone has that to push them, but just the knowledge that our young resilient bodies are on a time clock should ignite some desire.
Chocolate still gets to my weak spot, and beef, bread, and cheese still remain my favorite three ingredients in a meal, but I have found my stronger body and confidence to be much more rewarding. If there is one thing I have learned about health and our bodies, not everything is visible and things don’t develop because of one bad decision but because of many.
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