Regarding Your Health: Undoing The Big Four

Baking ingredientsAs we approach the holiday season and the New Year, I thought I’d do a series of posts on the Big Four (sugar, bleached/white flour, refined/processed oils, and milk-based products, particularly those made from cow’s milk) and the importance of reducing  consumption. The Big Four are thought to be four of the worse food choices for our health and body.

This and upcoming posts will focus primarily on information gleaned from Dr. Raymond Francis’ book,  “Be Sick No More,” as well as my own research and observations for a book I’m currently writing.  What makes the Big Four such a health risk to so many people?  The answer lies primarily in the fact that the Big Four consists of ingredients that most Americans eat almost every day – not once a week or once a month – but almost every day. This is in addition to undergoing the manufacturing process, which strips away many natural nutrients and fiber, if any, that our cells need to be healthy. Then, the manufacturer may add some nutrients back in through, low quality vitamin supplementation.

Therefore, if eating four of the worse food choices every day is a habit/addiction, then we can further conclude that our bodies are addicted to ingredients and food products that are degrading our health, the health of our children, and other loved ones. This is a problem. It’s more than a problem; it’s a healthcare crisis.

It’s well documented that a large part of our immune system is in our gut.  Therefore, if we are consuming the Big Four on the regular, those anti-nutrient food products are going into our gut and wreaking havoc on our immune systems, the system that fights to protect us from sickness and disease. There’s no wonder why we’re seeing so many autoimmune illnesses crop up.

Daily consumption of the Big Four can leave the body constantly fighting to correct imbalances and issues that these products create due to over consumption and poor nutrient content. Through the cumulative impact of our bodies daily working to combat the side affects of the Big Four, our immune system can become compromised, leaving us more susceptible to sickness and disease.

Dr. Francis notes in his book that the Big Four “food failures” result from eating them “repeatedly, day by day, and meal by meal,” and if Americans would stop eating the Big Four, chronic diseases would drastically decline.

The food we eat today can’t compare to that of days gone by. Back in the day, the Big Four were big in natural nutrient content that was good to them and good for them. Our ancestors didn’t have the technology or desire to make flour pretty by bleaching it or sugar white as snow through the refining process and adding it to everything from breakfast cereals to ketchup to vegetables. Back then, people cooked real food and ate fruit, vegetables and meats they’d either raised themselves or knew the grower. That’s a rare occurrence in our society now.

Today, we rarely see or even know where our food comes from. Thus, we have little to no relationship with our food, and that makes for an unhealthy connection. And, we are seeing the consequences of unhealthy relationships with our food as healthcare costs rise, and Americans – young and mature –  become more sluggish, and plagued by headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a wide array of allergies, IBS and other gut/intestinal disturbances and autoimmune diseases.

In response to this growing problem, local farmers markets are becoming more prevalent as communities try to create healthy food connections for communities and families.

Instead of counting calories, maybe we should be counting our consumption of the Big Four (sugar, white flour, processed oils and animal milk-based products.  Over consumption of the Big Four may be one of the main reasons why many people not only find it difficult to lose weight, but also the reason why those extra pounds are there in the first place. If we are healthy and doing the things we need to do to stay that way in the future, no worries. However, if we are not then let’s stop making excuses and do something about it.

When we begin to count the number of grams of Big Four products consumed each day, I’m sure you’ll be surprised, as I was, at the numbers. See product packaging for the number of grams per serving of Big Four ingredients, and write down your consumption of these. Don’t try to track your consumption in your head. Our heads tend to overlook things, such as counts from oversize servings, so write it down. It will make you a believer and confirm your true consumption.

Although Dr. Francis in his book leans more toward completely eliminating the Big Four, that’s not my take on it, especially not for beginners. I believe that cutting back and minimizing our consumption of the Big Four is still a noble goal that will make implementing this change feasible for more people. In addition, it is better to get more people on the right track, who would otherwise remain far from it if they had to eliminate the Big Four completely and/or all at once. Lasting change takes time, and it will take time to revamp longtime eating habits. However, if you’re already chronically ill, try to eliminate the Big Four as quickly as you can.

Find healthier substitutes for the Big Four and mix and match them to create combinations that work best for you. Here are some suggestions:

  • Try other types of flours, such as almond, coconut, oat and/or rice flour.
  • Try nut or plant-based milks, such as almond, coconut and/or rice milk.
  • Try cold pressed or unrefined olive, coconut, walnut, sesame, grapeseed or avocado oil.
  • Try honey, unrefined/raw sugar, agave or Stevia, which is made from a plant, but limit not only how much you use but also how frequently. Too much sugar of any kind can be unhealthy so the quality and frequency of consumption is important. Sugar from fruit is ideal, as it contains fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar spikes.

Although changing longtime eating habits can prove challenging, cutting back on our intake of the Big Four is definitely achievable. With a little self-discipline and education to learn how to select healthier substitutions, and looking for these substitutions in store-bought items will be a game changer.

Remembering that the New Year is almost upon us and that change takes time, join me in changing the game in our health, so we can start the New Year feeling better, stronger and actually being healthier than ever before!

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Regarding Your Health, Part I

bible and candle -2890857_1920A large part of why this blog exists is to remind us that our value is derived from God our creator – who is truth, love and kindness, and in whose image and likeness we were created (Genesis 1:27).  This knowledge helps us to set aside the weight of negative labels and conceptions that seek to diminish our value and worth, and skew our perspective of ourselves and others.

If we maintain the perspective that God loves us, and our lives are important and valuable to Him (Luke 12:6-7), then we come to understand that we are worthy of what is good, best and right in every area of our lives, including our health.  It is God’s will for us to be in good health (3 John 1:2), the way we were created from the beginning. After God created us, He blessed us, and charged us to be “fruitful and multiply,” and I’m quite sure God’s intent was not for us to be fruitful and multiply chronic illness.

Yet, the flux of chronic illness in our world is quickly multiplying and becoming a hindrance to the longevity and quality of life of our society.  Thus, reclaiming our health  will need to involve a change of perspective, how we think about our health, as well as a coIMG_1446[1]mbination of methods to counteract/slow the progression of sickness and inflammation.

Exercise and good eating habits are a great start; however, neither works well in isolation, and both work best in conjunction with other healthy habits, such as maintaining a positive and peaceful state of mind, among others. 

It’s impossible to have a healthy body when any part of us is unhealthy.  Good health is more effective when approached through diverse pathways – the mind pathway (thoughts/emotions/knowledge), the body pathway (exercise/nutrition) and the spiritual pathway (biblical truth/God’s guidance).

However, I often find that we limit God and his truths to just certain aspects of life when it’s intended for the whole of our lives, to include everything that concerns us and the world we live in.  And quite often, we omit to place our health under the purview of God’s wisdom, guidance and love.sneakers and dumbbells-2465478__340Certainly, if God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and cares about our lives and the things that concern us, surely, God cares about our health and wellbeing.

So, please value your health and make it a priority.  In a world where the things that are worst for our health are flaunted before us constantly, made to be pleasing to the palate, and appear more affordable than their healthier alternatives, we’ll need to be diligent and proactive in our pursuit of optimal health. And in the process, learn to love ourselves and the God within us enough to more often resist what is not good for us and cling to those things that are best for our health.

Here’s to long life and health!

 

Additional reading:

Autoimmune Secrets

Sugar is Killing Our Children

Eating a Good Diet

A Nation at Risk

Understanding Disease

Anti-Cancer Diet

 

 

 

Father’s Day: The Beauty, Strength and Power of A Father

Genesis Chapter 2 recounts the power and influence of a father as we see how a single rib from Adam, the first earthly father, significantly impacted Adam and Eve’s lives as well as the lives of men and woman for generations to come.

The movement of a single rib from Adam to Eve had such a strong and magnetic impact that it fused their souls together like a super-glue bond, creating a bond more powerful than their combined differences.

The transfer of Adam’s rib and DNA to Eve’s body is in large part what causes a man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife (Gen. 2:24). However, I also believe this same cleaving process occurs between a father and his children and family.

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Son-in-law and eldest grandson

Hence, the spiritual and natural bond that’s created by a good father, similar to our spiritual connection to our Heavenly Father, will never lose its power to influence, correct and make whole. One word from a father, and a child will stand straight and walk right – not only in his father’s presence but also the mention of the father’s name can influence a child to course-correct quick, fast and in a hurry.

A father can have a strong influence on the course of his children and family, and leave an indelible imprint upon their souls.

Fatherhood is a big and rewarding responsibility entrusted to a man by God. And it’s a beautiful thing to see a father in action, following God’s lead and doing what he does for God, himself and his family.  Fatherhood is a divine and holy calling.

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My father in his 30s

I have been so blessed to have several good fathers and father figures in my family, and many other fathers whom I know, and many more whom I’ve never met who are filling big shoes in their role as fathers/father figures. And I’m thankful for my own father, who has been deceased for many years now, but who’s memory remains just as alive today as it ever did.

I encourage all fathers and father figures to stay the course, stick with God, follow his lead and keep doing what you’re doing to fulfill this most holy calling of fatherhood. God bless you all, and thank you for answering God’s call to fatherhood. Your leadership and example truly make a difference in the lives of your children and family, and our world.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Mother’s Day: Fully Embracing The Gift of Motherhood

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Mom in her late 40s. She’s now 89.

On Mother’s Day and everyday, enjoy and honor who you are, and where you are as a mom.  No need to mimic Mother Jones, Martha Stuart or any of the array of other talented and resourceful mom’s in the world.  Just be true to who you are and where you are in your life.

If at any point as a mom we feel we need to step up, we need only begin by making a quality decision to make a change, and still no need to be down on ourselves.  The change we desire may be as simple as a decision to simplify our life so we can think more clearly, or reduce the drama and stress that so easily drains our finances, time and energy and pull us away from our children, time with God and what’s really important.  So, whether there’s something we’d like to change or step up in as a mom, we can feel good about doing it because we see the need and not because we’re comparing ourselves to other mom’s.

At the end of the day, our relationship with God, our children, family and loved ones are the most important things in life.

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Mom (on left) in her early 60s with a cousin-friend.

As mom’s we have sufficient challenges without creating unnecessary internal conflict and problems for ourselves through comparisons and other self-defeating negative behaviors.  Whatever we want in life is as close as our next decision to change, seek help or to love ourselves unconditionally as God does.  No sickness or mistake – great or small, can separate us from the love of God, so there’s no need to sweat problems that we can do something about – with God’s help.

So, this Mother’s Day, give yourself the gift of self-love and total self-acceptance, as one made in the image of God, and to whom God has endowed with the gift of motherhood in whatever form it’s given. There are no perfect mothers because moms are a part of the fallible human race.  So, there may be mothers who seem perfect because we only know a part of their story. We’re all out here together working to be the best mom’s we can with the help of God.  So we need not accept self-defeating behavior from ourselves or others.

Embrace the gift of motherhood along with God’s grace and mercy to empower us to bring up and inspire God-fearing, loving and kind children who can make this world a better place just who they are and what they bring to it.

Motherhood is a gift and an honorable journey to be a part of.  And, no greater gift can a mom give than to give herself, her child/children and family than love, faith and knowledge of God.  From my perspective, that’s about as perfect as it gets. And, the same God who met my mom where she was years ago on a dirt road in her time of need, as a mother of seven children is the same God who will meet us where we are and love us unconditionally today as mothers!

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Happy Mothers’ Day!

The Heart of Mankind: An Indicator of Societal Wellness

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Proverbs 20:27 refers to our spirit as the “candle of the Lord” that searches the deepest parts of who we are. Those words remind me of the parts of ourselves that we may attempt to conceal from others, our underlying motives and thoughts, and truths we fail to acknowledge. Then, I wonder about the condition of the hearts of people who cause so much suffering in our society today, and in the past among my enslaved ancestors who struggled all their lives to access what God already had given them – freedom.

My great-great-grandmother was born into slavery. Her parents ran away from their slave master’s plantation, and lived in the forest, where my great-great-grandmother was born. When they were found by their slaveholder my great-great-grandmother was about nine years old. Her father was shot on site in front of her and her mother to make an example of him, so they would remember to never attempt to be free again. And from what I’ve been told, my great-great-grandmother never cried again from the time of her father’s murder until her death. At nine years old, I guess she had no more tears to shed, as she’d probably already endured the worst of the worst.

In some ways it feels a little uncomfortable that this scripture brings back thoughts of my great-great-grandmother’s sufferings. Maybe I reflect on her when I read this scripture because it leads me to wonder how much darkness had to exist in the minds and hearts of the slave owners, lawmakers and citizens of that time for them to support the cruelty and dehumanization of slavery – for so long. It was as if they snuffed out the candle of their conscience to prevent it from drawing attention to those areas of their hearts that needed change.

Back then, slavery was the new normal. It was legal, lucrative and well supported. And if the institution of slavery was any indication of the condition of the hearts of humanity at that time, it shows how depraved a society can become when its will overrides the will of God.

We’ve come a long way as a society and nation, but we have not arrived. Slavery and injustice, in various forms and to a lesser extent, still exist. The names, players, rules and their broad appeal have changed, but the roots remain: greed – the love of money and it’s wares – and a mindset of supremacy.

The good thing is: slavery is now illegal! We’ve made some headway in civil rights, and that’s a good start for progressive change. So on behalf of my great-great-grandmother and all the ancestors who endured so much hardship, I’m thankful for “better.” I’m also thankful that God continues to illuminate the inner recesses of our hearts and nudge us to be who He created us to be, and who we pledge to be: “one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The Resurrection of Jesus: The Gift That Never Loses Its Power

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Jesus lives!

Worthy is the Lamb (Jesus) who was slain for us!  During the days after Jesus’ death on the cross, He was not simply laying in a dark, damp grave.  Jesus was alive in the Spirit, going to spiritual places where his human body was unable to go.  Jesus submitted his body to the grave in order to release His spirit to effectively descend to the lower regions of the earth and take back everything the enemy had taken from God’s people through the fall of Adam and Eve.

For many generations, God continued to protect humankind from harm by instituting the recurring practice of animal sacrifices to deal with the deadly consequences of sin that had long continued to separate God from His creation.  Then, God provided for our security through Jesus’ death and resurrection, ensuring our future and a life more abundant than any of our predecessors.

When Jesus’ body was laid to rest in the tomb, He had spiritual work to do on behalf of  humankind that would secure the wellbeing of our souls and allow us to live an empowered life in the here and now.  So, while Jesus may have been silent atop the ground, He was very active in the lower regions of the earth taking back the keys of death and hell from the enemy of our souls. And when He had accomplished this work, He rose from the dead with all power in His hands, having broken the curse and bondage of sin that had fallen upon all humankind as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve.

Therefore, once and for all, God provided a permanent sin solution and a way to ensure that we always had access to Him.  God gave us the ultimate gift and sacrifice of Jesus, his beloved Son.  Jesus was divine, and only a divine sacrifice would be able to provide a permanent solution to the spiritual problem of sin.  So the sacrificial gift of Jesus as a means to secure our future and access to life more abundantly in relationship with God, makes us some of the most blessed creatures on the planet!  We only need accept God’s precious gift with the love and thoughtfulness in which it was given.

God’s plan for Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was an act of sheer love and genius. The Bible is filled with passages that express the depth of God’s love for us, one of which is John 3:16.  God’s love for us was, and remains, so strong that He gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in Him can have access to eternal life with Him in the afterlife, and live in communion with Him daily through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is applicable to us right here, right now, so that we are complete in Him and never alone, even if we emotionally feel like it at times.

Freedom from the bondage of sin, death and separation from God is available to everyone – no matter our ability or disability, whether deaf or hearing, speechless or speaking, rich or poor.  God is accessible to us directly as result of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.  Thank God for Jesus!

Happy Resurrection Day!

 

Black Panther, The Movie

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Nakia and Okoye flank T’Challa in Black Panther. Marvel/Disney

Recently, I went to view the movie Black Panther with friends after hearing so much about it, and the movie lived up to all the hype.  Black Panther was amazing – thrilling, adventurous and engaging!  Themes of  rivalry, betrayal, leadership, and loyalty were all intertwined with pure technological and creative genius.  It was also filled with good lessons about life and being true to what’s true for you.

The Black Panther, King T’Challa, takes the throne after his father’s death; settling into his role as king, he soon discovers a family secret that his father had kept from everyone except for his trusted aide.  At the same time, young King T’Challa struggles to keep his country safe by both hoarding its most precious and valuable resource, Vibranium, which in the wrong hands could be disasterous.  The Black Panther also was preventing immigrants from entering the country, exhausting its resources and negatively impacting their way of life, as he assumed would happen if he opened their borders.

We see the king becoming the man and leader that he needs to be for himself, his family and his country.  Along the way, we can see how the secret problem that his father left behind at his death (a child born outside the country to T’Challa’s uncle) becomes both one of the Black Panther’s and his country’s worse nightmares, and serves as a catalyst for change that helps the Blank Panther and his staff identify the lines of demarcation within themselves and within others close to them. The tares within the kingdom become more identifiable and pits the king and his staff against people they care for and once trusted.  This becomes a good thing because it brings clarity to all concerned about what they need to do and what is right for them and their country.  A battle ensues that will help the country free itself from its arch-enemy – the abandoned, wicked son of T’Challa’s uncle – to become a greater and more socially responsible country.

Black Panther was a winner for me for several reasons.  First, the movie in many ways was true to life in that it reveals the internal struggle we all face when confronted with conflicting choices concerning our values, beliefs and those we love.  And more importantly, the movie showed how different characters faced such conflicts, and aligned head and heart with their truth and what was right for them.

These hard choices could be seen when the king’s lead bodyguard General Okoye had to (a) decide between her duty to protect and serve king and country, regardless of who the reigning king was, or abondon her duty to the throne based on her dislike for the wicked cousin who had overthrown the Black Panther, and (b) choose to fight for what’s right and true in her heart, even if it means losing the man she loves in the process, or holding on to him and against her own conscience rejecting her truth, when she comes face-to-face with her lover in a battle to reclaim the throne for T’Challa.

Then, there was a similar situation with Nakia, the ex-girlfriend that the Black Panther, King T’Challa, still loved.  Nakia had to decide to go back to her life elsewhere so she could be true to her passion for helping the less fortunate or staying with King T’Challa and walking away from her ministry to the needy, since she and King T’Challa had differing opinions about allowing these immigrants into the country.  And, King T’Challa  himself struggled to let go of old ways and processes that did not add value to his personal life, his country or its international relations, and their ability to affect positive change.

Second, the movie shows that positive change is possible when we commit to truth and doing what is right and good for ourselves and others.  Thus, the Black Panther was able to make right some wrongs in his thinking and in previous poor decisions made by his deceased father that had left the country in turmoil.  Whereas before, he primarily focused on potential problems – the danger of the Vibranium in the hands of others, the negative impact of immigration and helping the needy, and separation from the woman he loved in order for her to fulfill her purpose.  King T’Challa went no further than those negative thoughts, and concluded that things had to remain the same to avoid safety issues.  Eventually, however, he began to focus on potential solutions more than problems, and found that allowing things to remain the same was not an option that would yield the results he wanted.

Thus, Black Panther shows us that at our point of need and/or pain, we have the greatest potential for positive change, if we’re willing to take one positive action at a time. 

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T’Challa/Black, Nakia and General Okoye on a mission to find a thief.  (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Third, the movie was “real” as some would say, meaning it was an honest depiction of human behavior, especially in the Black community.  In one particularly “real” scene, General Okoye went on a mission with the Black Panther, Nakia and Shuri, his technology savvy sister, to locate a thief who had stolen and planned to sell one of his country’s Vibranium artifacts.  On this mission, they had to dress the part in order to fit into their surroundings. (Keep in mind that the General Okoye is strong, fearless, no-nonsense and bald!) So on this mission, General Okoye wore a red dress, high-heel shoes and a long, flowing wig –  all of which was out of character for her and cramped her style.  When the three of them located the thief they were looking for in a club, a fight ensued, and General Okoye, who was an excellent warrior, pulled the wig off her head and tossed it! I assume ditching the wig helped her to not only fight more effectively but feel more like the warrior that she was.  How true that is to life. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve seem my mom pull off her wig in public, if she was tired and especially if she got hot!  And, in church on Sunday, one of the female ministers at church, who shall remain nameless, got excited while speaking to the congregation and alluded to pulling off her wig if she got too much more excited about praising God! Of course laughter erupted all over the church.

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Shuri, Nakia, General Okoye and Queen Ramonda 

Lastly, the movie was great because it instilled a sense of pride in one’s self and your lineage, and that’s something that the Black community, especially needs.  This pride is not so we can go out and try to take over anything or move to Africa, as some naysayers have suggested.  Most Black people do not want to go back to Africa.  We were never there!  So, all we can do is go visit.  I’m sure many of our ancestors from a time gone by were in Africa; but those of us here now, were never there so there’s nothing in Africa for us to go back to.  The pride I’m referring to is soul affirming.  Everyone needs a little affirmation and feel-good support sometimes, especially when you are a part of a population of people who have for generations been made to feel disempowered, less-than, useless for nothing more than hard labor, low-wage jobs, producing offspring, and making money to build wealth for others.  It takes a different kind of person to understand and/or empathize with where Blacks and other populations who have experienced generations of such prejudice, abuse, inhumanity and other hardships imposed upon them by the society and/or country that literally was built on the backs of their suffering.  This kind of empathy is not a skill that all people can lay claim to or grasp the genrational impact that lives on; nonetheless we all should aspire to cultivate it.

The Black Panther was an all-around great movie.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I encourage you to do so.