At the tender age of nine, you see the world through the eyes of a child, never imagining that it is possible to lose your only parent, the one on whom you depend for everything — even precious life itself, to a dreaded disease. My mother, Larvenia Brock, who got pregnant with me, her only child, when she was 44 years old, was diagnosed with metastatic stomach cancer the same year I was born. The day I lost her to that deadly disease changed my life forever. It was that experience — of losing her — that taught me the importance of prevention and that inspired me to take better care of myself and to help countless others do the same.
Larvenia had an independent, entrepreneurial spirit — she owned a successful cab company in Washington, D. C., which she ran during the week, and she operated a thriving juke joint on the weekends. But she couldn’t translate her business smarts into smart health choices. Though in her younger days, she was a shapely bombshell with an hourglass figure, she didn’t lose her pregnancy weight after my birth, and she remained heavy throughout my childhood. Worse yet, healthy eating wasn’t on her radar. To be sure, my mother’s diet needed a makeover. You see, Larvenia never met a steak she didn’t like; she ate chitlin’s on holidays and downed pigs’ feet, fried chicken, greens cooked with fatback, and whiskey on weekends at the juke joint.
Though vegetables were plentiful in our house, they were usually cooked with lard or fatback and either deep-fried or slow-cooked until the nutrients were leached out. That diet finally caught up with my mother, and she became very sick. The overweight powerhouse I had known for my first nine years ended up confined to her bed, a tiny shrunken shell of her former self. During her final days she was unable to keep down even a forkful of watermelon, her favorite summer fruit. Her best friend, Rosetta Lewis, who became my guardian, would send me off for it, saying, “Run to the store as fast as your little legs will carry you.” I did, thinking if I could just make it to Safeway, get my mom’s watermelon, and race back without delay, I could somehow stop the bandit that was robbing me of my precious mother. I was wrong. Even the love and undying dedication of a 9-year old could not stop the inevitable. Finally, my mother died and the devastation of the blow crippled my spirit.
In the years since my mother’s death, I’ve learned a lot about diet and disease prevention: Abandoning the brown and beige meat and potatoes American style of eating and adopting a meal plan of colorful fruits and vegetables with small amounts of whole grains and lean protein can save your life. Chemical compounds — like phytochemicals and antioxidants — found in dark, leafy greens and brightly colored fruits and vegetables protect the body against the harmful effects of free radicals, and can thereby reduce the incidence of cancer and heart disease.
Had my mother known better, perhaps she might have lived to see more of what I would do with my life. To be sure, I feel her presence with each milestone, and I know she smiles upon each opportunity I seize to make life better for the countless others whom I serve.
Welcome to my blog home! Here you will find news you can use, inspirational and motivational messages to help get you through life’s challenges— because let’s face it…they will come— and more. I hope to answer your nutrition & diet, health, fitness, and life questions. I hope you will share your stories with our community of what works best for you because we’re all in this together. For those unfamiliar with me or my story here’s a morsel…
I hosted a health and fitness show (the first ever national show of it’s kind for African American women) on Black Entertainment Television, BET. As a nutritionist (with a Ph.D., no less) you would think I knew what to eat and how to manage life without making the mistakes of those whom I was supposed to help. Well suffice to say that even the pros are falliable and are by no means untouchable when it comes to keeping the pounds at bay. I had been hosting Heart and Soul on BET for 2 seasons and expected to deliver helpful nutrition and fitness information to my TV audience. But as I sat there week after week, more than 30 pounds overweight, I knew that I couldn’t deliver an authentic message if I didn’t look the part myself. Certainly, not convincingly to say the least. One day while shopping with a freind (did I mention that I love to shop), I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered aloud, “who the hell is that following me back there?” To my great dissapointment, my butt filled the mirror and I hadn’t paid attention to the process of how all the extra weight had got there. I knew I had to make a permanent change in my life or suffer the consequences of perhaps those that had come before me— like my biological mother who arguably died prematurely of stomach cancer (more on that and how I dealt with it in future blogs), or uncles, aunts, and grandparents who suffered from high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and other forms of cancer (see my family medical tree in Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets To Livin’ Healthy, Bantam). So change I did. Here’s how I started the process of loosing 3 dress sizes…
cut my portions in half (whatever you’re eating today start eating half of the portions you consumed yesterday and the days before)
left food on my plate (no matter what your mother says, you can’t hurt the starving children in Africa by doing this but you can do something really good for yourself for a change)
started designing my meals by filling my plate with three-quarters of colorful vegetables and some fruit, 3 to 4 oz. of lean protein (lean meat, fish, chicken, and sometimes even tofu), and the remaining quarter of the plate with a half cup of whole grains (brown rice, whole grain pasta, or quinoa (sounds like keen-wa)
I got my butt off the couch and got movin’! I began walking my cocker spaniel, Destinye, each morning at 6 am for at least a half-hour, which progressed to an hour-long workout.
I filled up on water at every opportunity
Was it easy to do? Hell no! It was hard to make a permanent life change. But if you do anything consistently for 21 days it becomes a habit. Today my daily routine is very different and far more interesting. It was 8 years ago that I made that life-altering change. But I’m happy to report that my life is better, richer, and more fullfilling as a result. We lost Destinye, my beloved cocker spaniel, to a brain tumor 3 years ago but I owe it all to her that I still walk and do something to get moving about 4-5 days a week. This time my walks are with Simba– a new love (our 3 year old black cocker who came to us at 4 months just as Destinye made her transition).
So what will you do to change your life? The ball is in your court. Will you pick it up or stare at it for a few more years, wishing, hoping that something will change? I’ll be here for you but it’s your move now. Write back to share your story of how you have or would like to change in order to get your shape back, your life back and your peace of mind.