I smoked cigarettes for about 10 years. I'd light up as soon as I left the gym.
Then I read an article about how the tobacco industry targeted black women in magazine advertising, selling images of success with menthol cigarettes. I, like 90 percent of African-American smokers, preferred mentholated cigarettes such as Kool or Newport, which are even more lethal than nonmenthol cigarettes. The article also illustrated how cigarette companies targeted the black community with sponsorship dollars for community and civic events (events now largely sponsored by pharmaceutical and fast-food restaurants).
That article enraged me so much that I vowed to never buy a pack of cigarettes again. That was a pledge I made to myself, and one I have never regretted.
When I decided to get serious about kicking the sugar habit, I began with prayer and meditation work. I asked God to kill my cravings for the white stuff and replace them with cravings for the right stuff. I recited the Alcoholics Anonymous "Serenity Prayer":
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Before eating or drinking anything, I consciously thought about whether it would honor my body. Thinking about food this way made the decisions easier. Cakes, cookies and candy: A no-brainer; none of these nonnutritious foods honored my body.
I also used creative visualization. Every time I was tempted to eat a sweet, I would imagine the sugar cruising thorough my bloodstream, wreaking havoc on my insulin and puffing up my fat cells like the Michelin Man. It was a compelling image for me.
My son was also a force behind my decision to quit my love affair with sugar. I know that sugar is just as deadly as cocaine and that, besides contributing to an expanded waistline, overconsumption can lead to disease, disability or worse.
In just three years, my son has taught me perhaps the most difficult part of parenting, which is to be and to do what I want him to be and to do. My own life experience has shown me that children do as their parents do.
Besides, I want to be here and in outstanding health for a long time. I intend to live way beyond 100 and bounce my grands and great-great-grands on my knee. I have studied the habits of centenarians all over the world, looking to unlock the secrets to living a long and healthy life.
Somewhere in my bulging files is a landmark study that was conducted by National Geographic Magazine that documented the habits of the world's healthiest and longest-living people. Loma Linda, Calif., is home to some of the longest-living Americans, who also happen to be Seventh-day Adventists. Sardinia, Italy, is home to the world's largest number of male centenarians. Okinawa, Japan, however, boasts the largest concentration of healthy centenarians.
Now, while there were at least 10 components to the National Geographic formula for longevity, I can tell you that none of the healthiest and longest-living people consume an additional 336 calories a day of sugar, as most Americans currently do.
I also remember that the researchers in that study established that while 25 percent of life expectancy is dictated by our genes, a whopping 75 percent is determined by our lifestyle or, to put it bluntly, by the decisions we make.
So that's how I did it, readers. These were my motivations. And, you probably have your own. My advice for kicking your sugar addiction or anything else that's eating you is to begin the journey by determining your compelling motivations.
Remember, you have to plant seeds where you want them to grow.
Body After Baby
Second to toned abs, many new moms are concerned about regaining a toned tush. Believe it or not, a better butt can be yours with this simple exercise: walking lunges. Walking lunges are one of my favorite exercises for strengthening and toning your quads (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), gluteals (butt) and calves.
The beauty is you can do them with just your body weight or you can bump up the intensity by adding additional resistance using bands, dumbbells or a medicine ball.
To begin, stand tall, with your shoulders back and down, abdominals engaged and feet together. With arms at your waist, take one giant step with your right foot, bending both knees, until your right knee is bent 90 degrees. Press yourself back up and step out with your left leg. Strive for 12-20 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
AARP and the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department will host the AARP Health and Wellness Power Lunch for people age 50 and over from noon-2 p.m. Monday at Love Park, 1500 Arch St. in Center City. The event will feature interactive fitness activities and free educational information on quality of life issues, plus community exhibitors, WDAS (105.3-FM) and free healthy snacks.
Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). Email her at email@example.com. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!