How to Be Healthier


October 2016, Disney Store, NYC

Read Freedom from Emotional Eating by Barb Raveling:

Hi All,

Hope you guys are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend!!! I’m off from work on Monday for the first time since February, so that’s exciting. I only have four more weeks left at my after-school job and I’m looking forward to moving on to the new job full-time job in July.

In the meantime, like so many Americans, I have struggled to eat healthy and exercise pretty much my entire adulthood. Growing up, I ate more balanced meals, but still had a huge love for sweets. I was never overweight as a child, teen or young adult. However, I think that may have been attributed to a high metabolism and the fact that I drink quite a bit of water and don’t like soda. So in terms of calories, I think drinking water may be some of the reason that I am not currently 300 pounds.

As a child, I never played sports, rarely played outside, or exercised much, except for physical education classes. My parents were never very active and I am fortunate that I have never been fat, but currently, I am closer than I have been in my life. My eating habits have never been very good. I recently discovered that I don’t even like real vegetables, since I grew up on canned vegetables. Spinach, mixed greens, tomatoes and romaine lettuce are great, but broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets, and carrots are an acquired taste. In other words, yuck!! Eating and working out seem self-exclamatory, but making changes, especially dramatic ones is very difficult. Now, I empathize more with overweight and obese people because living a healthy lifestyle is not as cut and dry as people make it out to be.

I started skipping breakfast in college and never ate breakfast again, except for the three years that I lived with my parents post college. One thing about living with my parents was that I had three meals a day within reasonable hours. Dinner time with my parents was between 3pm and 5pm, which is super early for most families. I ate dinner and dessert and didn’t eat again until breakfast the next day. After leaving home, eating became an epic fail. Many days, I skip breakfast, sometimes skip lunch, and binge at dinner. Particularly, on days when depression is hitting hard, I don’t eat all day, until like 7pm or 8pm. I just don’t feel hungry until later in the day.

From 2010 until 2018, I have bounced between the same twenty pound range, 140 pounds to 160 pounds. December 2018 was the first time that I went past the 160 mark and I have bounced back and forth from 156 pounds to 165 pounds since then. At least, I’m somewhat maintaining to some extent. Now that I am strength training, I learned that the number on the scale is not as important as my bust, hip, and waist measurements. I have never been skinny. I just would like to be healthy and that hasn’t really happened yet. 

My roommate wants to be a personal trainer and applied for her certification, so she is using me as her guinea pig. She is super healthy and works out all the time. I have been working out for about 5 weeks now.

In 2016, I worked out with a trainer at Planet Fitness for about a year before moving to NYC and realized that I enjoy working out, especially strength training. I was more fit than I had ever been, but my diet was still not ideal. My diet has had its’ ups and down. I can eat healthy for awhile and go right back to poor eating habits. I have prayed about it many times and get frustrated with myself about it because I just can’t seem to get it together.

I know I use food as a comfort because I’m dealing with being alone most of the time. I’m an only child and I have always been alone, this is nothing new. So why is it affecting me more as a adult? I’m not sure, I think it is human nature to long for companionship. There is a part of me that loves being alone, but it can be daunting at times. I don’t long for a romantic relationship necessarily, but intimate friendships. Friendships have been more challenging as an adult than when I was younger. Food has been a reliable friend in a way, an unhealthy friend, but a friend nonetheless. Drugs, alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes never appealed to me, so I guess food has been my go to.

Most of us don’t know how to eat healthy. When your schedule is busy and you are on the go all the time, especially in New York, you grab what you can and you don’t plan or cook your meals. Cooking is not something I enjoy or love. I have learned more from my two roommates about cooking in the last couple months than I ever knew beforehand. Both of my roommates love to cook and are exceptional cooks.

I’m a performer and I know that my body is a part of the total package, but I think I have gotten complacent with my eating habits because I haven’t had significant consequences for my poor food choices. But I’m getting older and entering your thirties means that the weight is not going to be as easy to drop as it was when you were in your twenties. I don’t want to end up diabetic, so I really have to do something now before I do irreversible damage.

Besides, most of my relatives have only made it to their sixties or seventies. My grandfather is eighty-two, but he is one of the few to make it that far. Most of my family members have died from heart related problems. I have a great aunt with  muscular sclerosis and dementia, but she is the only blood relative that I know in our family to have an issue unrelated to the heart. In other words, I need to overcome my issues with food as soon as possible or I may only have about thirty more years left at best.

Steps to A Healthier You

Begin keeping a food diary!  You can write it out by hand, use fitness pal online, or type it daily in a Microsoft Word document. I chose the latter. Go back over the diary for the week. Acknowledge what you did well and see where you need to make improvements. The diary has given me insight into my eating habits. I usually don’t eat enough or I binge, and rarely have I had a solid 1200 calorie day since I started working out five weeks ago. I’m usually over 1,200 calories or under 1,200 calories. If you want to lose weight, you need to consume between 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day until you reach your goal weight. Then, you can increase to 2,000 calories a day.

Counting calories is super important, however, you also need to look for the grams of fat, protein, and sugar. Nutritionist Kim Lynn suggests looking for single digit grams of fat, single digit grams of sugar, and double digit grams of protein when reading the nutrition labels on foods. Numbers are essential. If you do not collect the data, then you just consume calories, sugar, and fat without thinking about it and this leads to significant weight gain.

Ask yourself why you are eating? Are you hungry, bored, sad, or lonely? Most times boredom, depression, and loneliness can cause overeating. Quarantine has increased boredom and depression for people, so food has become a crutch for many of us during this time. Food is for nourishment and to keep us going during the day, but not to fill holes of emptiness or deal with stress or emotions. Journal, workout, read books, or watch movies or television shows to calm your stress or get out your frustrations and feelings. Acknowledge your feelings instead of stuffing them down with food or other substances.

As a Christian, I’ve been thinking about how we are only given one body and I have been treating my body like a trash can. God helps those who help themselves and you can’t treat your body with disrespect and expect it to keep going with no issues. Eventually bad habits will catch up with you and it is better to deal with this now before it becomes a serious medical problem later.

The food diary and working out are the first steps to getting my body to a healthy weight. Does this mean that I have everything together? No, I don’t. I am struggling daily with my diet. I am visiting Memphis on June 20th, so from now until June 20th, I plan to keep working out 5 days a week and only cook my meals from home. This will reset my body. I want to come out of this quarantine a physically healthier person and an emotionally healthier person as well. Keep taking care of yourselves!!

Have a good day!

Dominique Duarte

What do you do to maintain your health? What are your fitness goals? Comment below