You can eat more, slim down, get fit, and enjoy a whole new relationship with your body starting today and one step at a time.
Krista Riddley learned about health and nutrition first-hand — through personal experience and from the inside out — when she was living in Africa doing international relief and development work.
The Columbia University Masters graduate (international affairs was her field) worked for 10 years in West and Southern Africa (followed by another 10 in DC), doing advocacy work around human rights abuses, natural disasters, emergency response and other weighty issues. During her stint in Africa, she learned to love the foods of her heritage.
“Do you know the organization Oldways? They have food pyramids for different ethnic backgrounds. The one for African Americans — their African Heritage Diet Pyramid — is very different from the U.S. government food pyramid. It is based on our traditional foods, what our ancestors ate in Africa; things like yams, tubers, beans, grains and nuts.
“I loved the greens I found when I was living in Africa. Some, like potato greens, you don’t get here. But you can use collard greens. In Africa they tend to load the veggies with oils, like palm oil. You might just sauté them with onions and garlic. It’s very tasty. And they tend to serve this over rice. Peanut sauce is a good addition. To lighten the peanut sauce you can add eggplant and maybe squash and some broth. That was another African find that’s great over rice.”
Back to her main work in Africa. To keep herself from being overcome by the sadness, the pain and the conflict she was dealing with day to day, in her job, Riddley started working out.
As she got fitter and more into a training routine, she started competing in figure competitions, which is a type of body building “but not as big and bulky,” she says. More about muscle definition and symmetry than size.
A spin-off was that she learned a lot about what and how to eat “to get my body in a certain shape and to look a certain way.”
At some point, burned out in her work, “I decided to take a break. Since I’d been doing fitness work for myself, I decided to get a certificate in fitness training, another in health coaching and one in holistic nutrition.” These became her new line of work.
And meanwhile, the Silver Springs, Maryland health and fitness guru placed first in several figure competitions. The high point was winning overall first place in a Delaware Organization of Competitive Body Builders (OCB) event.
Now 50, Krista Riddley still works out, “but I haven’t done competitions for a few years. They take a lot of time.”
Instead, the health and wellness coach focuses on helping “successful, motivated, enlightened black women — sisters — to fulfill their life’s dreams by teaching them how to reclaim their bodies and reawaken their core self confidence.”
I asked Riddley, who gives regular tips on her Facebook page, to give Cuisine Noir readers some health, fitness and weight loss suggestions for the new year. Her hubby is a “crazy marathoner” whose goal was to run 50 marathons before he turned 50 and he’s run 48 at age 48. I mention this because while her focus is women, all that she suggests applies to men too.
Ten steps to a fitter, slimmer and healthier you:
1. First things first: Make sure you’re clear as to why you want to lose weight and get fit. Dig into the big WHY or you may end up petering out. For example, do you want to lose weight because your husband is complaining — or because you want to chase your kids around the playground or don’t want to get diabetes like your grandmother.
2. Easy equals effective: Once you know your goals and your values, take baby steps. Start by eating cleaner whole foods that don’t come in a box or package or that you add water to so that it turns into something. Eat food that has a mother or comes from the ground.
3. Eat breakfast: When you don’t, your body tends to crave sugar. Then you go for a pastry. A healthy breakfast? As for any meal, combine a protein (slows the digestion), a carb source and a little fat. Try a scrambled egg with a little spinach made with a little oil and some oatmeal. Or plain Greek yoghurt with your own fresh fruit added and some dry cereal or nuts for crunch.
4. Drink more water: People often think they are hungry when they are thirsty. A lot of us are chronically dehydrated. Your organs work with water. To make water more interesting, create fruit infusions. Cut up some fresh fruit — apple, orange, or lemon slices — and drop these in the water jug. Frozen fruit can work well too. Looks attractive and tastes great.
5. Don’t deprive yourself: Instead of removing things you love, add new — healthy things. If you haven’t been eating greens, add some. Try fruits you don’t usually eat. Slowly replace unhealthy foods with healthy foods. Healthier foods will fill you up and slowly but surely displace the unhealthy items.
6. The sugar demon: Look at labels and avoid ingredients that end in “ose” (as in high fructose), anything with a “tol” (as in Maltitol) or anything made into a “syrup,” even if it says brown rice syrup, because brown rice is healthy but not as a syrup. If you eat less boxed and packaged foods, you will already be eating less sugar. If you have five sodas a day, start off by replacing one with a fruit infusion — then reduce more.
7. Time tips: Try batch cooking. If you only keep good food in the fridge and kitchen you will only eat good food. On a Sunday, cook a big pot of soup or greens or several chicken breasts. It’s much easier to eat healthy if you have the right foods on hand. Google “healthy one-pot meals” and see what pops up for ideas.
8. Grain time: Whole grains are great for keeping you full through the day. My favorite is quinoa, which is in fact a seed but cooks like a grain and is high in protein. Some lovely things you can do with quinoa? Add black beans, corn, tomato and lemon for a quick and simple cold salad. Throw in some chicken you’ve cooked previously, add a side salad and you have a great meal.
Photo credit: Krista Riddley