I’m Lala Jackson, and I’m a chronic health author, speaker, and advocate. I’m a staunch and vocal advocate for health justice and intelligent approaches to health care policy and delivery, particularly as it concerns people living with chronic illness, and I love writing and speaking about all of the amazing things that bond the chronic illness community
Because I’ve lost 50 pounds so far, I get a lot of questions about my workout plan. Truthfully, I don’t have one. At all. I just go with what sounds fun at the time.
Because while nutrition has been 98% of the key for my body getting healthier, exercising – even if it’s as simple as an hour walk around my neighborhood – is the biggest factor in my mental health. I eat well mainly for my body, but I have to keep moving for my mind.
Not only does moving my body help boost endorphins and serotonin, keeping me calmer and able to better deal with stress (and helping my immune system deal with stessors too!), but reminding myself what my body can do reminds me that I’m a strong – physically and mentally.
I was a major athlete up until a persistent wrist injury took me out after my sophomore year in high school. I was gunning for the Junior Olympics US Rowing team and, in the summer before my injury finally made me have to give up the sport entirely, I spent 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week on the water.
Before rowing was basketball – I started playing on teams when I was 5 – and you couldn’t get me to stay inside when I was a kid. I was always out climbing something or playing tag.
I think that’s the aspect we tend to lose when we get older. Using and moving our bodies goes from something we get to do, something to play and have fun in, to something we have to do, have to schedule in.
The work outs I love most now are the fun ones. That’s what’s going to get me going. The ones I laugh through (look up Raneir Pollard’s Pop Sugar workouts on YouTube for a good exercise/ab workout from laughing duo), the ones where I get to marvel at what my body can do (like kickboxing, or the Nike Training Club app’s HIIT workouts), or the ones where I forget I’m working out because I’m just with friends having fun, like when we were out shooting hoops on Saturday taking advantage of the weather.
Channel your inner Amazon, Dora Milage or Beyonce at #beychella and warrior it up/take on the world/slay.
My earliest memories start around three or four. In one, I have climbed up a wooden fence, trying to balance my weight against the top while I reach out to feed a neighbor’s horse, that I have named Cow, a piece of my apple.
In another, I am wandering down the street back toward our mobile home, having just returned from the post office a half mile away. I had told my mom I was going and she had said yes, but when I asked to go to the post office to mail Mema some leaves I had burned holes into with a magnifying glass, she assumed I meant the “post office” that I had imagined in my bedroom. The leaves did not make it to my Mema; I had remembered a stamp but the address “Mema, Raleigh” was not specific enough.
In one of the most vivid young memories, I am on our home phone, sometime in the evening because I was in my soft, pink footie pajamas. I was about as high as the counter, my eyes just barely reaching to see its top. I was speaking to my dad – my biological dad whom I wouldn’t know I looked like were it not for pictures – and I was about to hang up the phone to go to bed.
My mom stood next to me and heard Rick say, “I love you.” I was about to say it back when she started motioning to me. “No, no. Hang up.” I was confused, and I remember being hit by a massive pang that I didn’t understand. My daddy was saying he loved me and I knew I wasn’t allowed to say it back.
I understand why now; my mom was trying to protect my already soft heart. But what stuck with me was that I wasn’t supposed to give my love. I didn’t interpret it as learning to protect myself; I interpreted it as the people who were supposed to love you, didn’t. And you weren’t supposed to love them either, even if you did. Even if that’s all that made sense to you.
When I was eight, I was going to an all-girls Episcopalian school in Honolulu. We wore starchy polyester uniforms with ties I never quite learned to tie. Our class instituted a secret buddy system; throughout the year, we were assigned another girl to do random acts of anonymous kindness for.
My secret buddy was Dayinta, a rail thin girl with dark brown skin from Indonesia. She wore round silver wire glasses and had a tendency to take the lead in class activities. For my weekly act of kindness, I decided to draw Dayinta a picture. It was of the grass, a tree, and the sun. I decided to write “I love you” in big letters across the drawing. We were supposed to love our friends. That’s what made sense to me. And I thought she’d be happy to know it.
When she grabbed my drawing from her cubby the next day, she looked horrified.
“OH. MY. GOSH. Someone in our class is gay!? Do you see this!? OH MY GOSH EWWWWWW. Someone LOOOOOOVES ME. EWWWWWWW”
I hadn’t the slightest idea what gay meant, but I could gather that it wasn’t good, that I had done something wrong, and that any love I had for someone whom I thought was my friend certainly wasn’t welcome. I never said a word, and hoped with every ounce of my being that she didn’t remember this when my identity was revealed at the end of the year.
I was reminded that my love wasn’t welcome. That it needed to be kept secret, no matter its good intentions. And that – perhaps most importantly, it wasn’t safe.
It’s odd how our full natures are already present in our littlest selves. I was as loving a kid as I am grown, only now I never know quite whether that love will be welcomed or allowed, so I’ve learned to hold it very close. I shut down my heart until I just can’t, and even then it’s a battle to try to keep it closed off.
It becomes exhausting for me to have to be so protective of it and on the rare occasion when I let it flow and then I’m met with the same “don’t” or the same “ewwwww” (in more adults words) it is crushing.
As much as I know that people certainly aren’t trying to be cruel, I don’t think they always understand just how tender my heart is. How much it takes for me to feel safe enough to love. How much I can’t help how deep that love goes; how much it is a part of who I am at my core. How much I try to keep any love that makes others uncomfortable under wraps. And how much it hurts when it’s shown to me why I should’ve kept it secret once it showed up.
At my core I know it is not a weakness. I know that how hard I love is one of my greatest strengths; it is what allows me to be so fierce, so protective of my people. It is what ensures that the people who do accept my love never feel any lack of it. That they always feel secure knowing a warrior has their back.
But it is also hard for it to not feel like a weakness when it is not seen as a gift. When it is not cherished. When it is not reflected. When it cannot be received.
Two foods used to reduce me to tears when I was trying to cut them from my diet – bread and Diet Coke. I had such an emotional attachment to both that took me a LONG time to unravel myself from.
It’s easier for me to tackle something if I understand why it’s happening, so better understanding the gut-mind connection was CRUCIAL for me while going through this process.
Serotonin – which helps create feelings of contentment and well-being – is created in two places in the body, your brain and your gut.
It means that what you eat has an affect on the balance of serotonin in your body. Anything that affects the balance of your gut health – in this case gluten, which I learned through tests and experience my body cannot process, and sugar alcohols in the Diet Coke, which are horrible for any body to process – affects your emotional state.
Further research from Caltech also showed that the greater gut microbiome has an affect on all sorts of neurotransmitters, so when the gut flora is out of balance, altered behavior was exhibited.
It’s one of the reasons changing our diet can be so damn difficult, even when the changes are good for us. The things we’re eating directly affect how our brain can process emotions and stressors.
So when our body cannot process certain foods, it’s no wonder our whole system goes out of wack, not only physically but mentally. It’s why I keep stressing how kind we need to be to ourselves through these nutrition changes – they are harder (and far more important) than we recognize and give ourselves credit for.
Keep going, but pat yourself on the back for charging ahead. You got this.
Unpopular opinion time – I think having type 1 diabetes is a package deal with at least a low-grade eating disorder.
Even if most of the time we can have a healthy relationship with food, there are always the intense times when all the counting we did just didn’t add up and everything goes wrong. I know many of us have had the thought of “type 1 diabetes would be easy if I just didn’t have to eat.”
I’ve certainly had days when, after a week-long blood sugar roller coaster, I just gave up. It’d be water for the day because I could (usually) count on that to not affect my blood sugar, which I just couldn’t deal with anymore, but then after 20 hours of no food I snapped and ordered phad thai because fuck it.
Or, with a major low blood sugar that had me to the point I was shaking on the kitchen floor and could barely see, I would shove 4 sandwiches, a half-jar of nutella, and 6 packs of fruit gummies into my mouth before I felt like I wasn’t going to die.
From whenever we’re diagnosed, many of us as kids although more and more adults are being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes every day (and 85% of people living with T1D are adults who were diagnosed at various ages), we’re given a potentially lethal medicine to balance against the food we eat every day.
And that’s a lot. It’s a constant game of counting, measuring, guestimating, and hoping we did it right. It puts this automatic tension between us and food.
So while I’m thankful for the tools – my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor – that make this all a bit easier, and most of the time I can see the good in all of this, I think it’s worth patting ourselves on the back for how intense this all can be, and how much we’re processing and carrying in every single moment.
There doesn’t have to always be a positive spin on all of this. Sometimes it’s good to be able to say, “nope, this is bullshit” and keep it movin’.
The best advice I’ve gotten about eating for health was from Kris Carr, who said something along the lines of:
Instead of trying to cut out “bad” food, focus on eating nutritious food more often; over time the good will crowd out the not so good.
Too many of us focus on cutting out the not so good stuff we eat; that leads to a feeling of depriving ourselves of the things we like. It feels like we’re punishing ourselves, so OF COURSE we don’t stick to the good habits.
Instead, focus on adding more healthy, nutritious foods into your diet. Make sure you start every day with something with protein that is nutritionally packed – for me it’s Isagenix vegan shakes, but you can do all kinds of smoothies, overnight oatmeal, chia seed “pudding” with fruit, quiches, etc. (more info later this month on how to learn what food approach – vegan, Paleo, whatever else – works for you).
Starting your day with a punch of vitamins and healthy protein fuels your muscles and brain (more info on how protein supports brain health later this month too), giving you energy and programming your brain and taste buds to crave more healthy foods throughout the day.
Over time, making these conscious, healthy choices will become habit. The more you eat them, the more you’ll crave them. In a month, you’ll look back and realize that your food choices have slowly changed.
It’s about rewarding your body with nutrients and fuel, not restricting yourself. It’s a mindset shift, but a vital one to your long-term progress.
In my first full-time job out of college, I sat next to my department’s “snack fridge” that we filled with diet coke, string cheese, and peppermint patties. I had Subway for lunch almost every day. Healthy, right? Low carb snacks and tuna/veggie sandwiches?
Meanwhile my gut was SCREAMING at me because of all of the processed bread, dairy, and sugar alcohols.
In my next few jobs, I developed a chai latte and bagel with cream cheese morning habit, then wouldn’t be able to focus and would absolutely crash by 2pm every day. I had to learn, through a LOT of error, that this “fuel” was anything but.
These days, I’m in the office about 2-3 days a week (I work from home the rest of the week – I’m really lucky to work for JDRF – they understand my immune system’s need to rest).
On the days when I am in office, I REALLY concentrate on proper fuel that supports my gut, and therefore my brain (post coming soon on how important gut health is for your mental health) – if I have coffee, it’s usually black with maybe a splash of plant-based “milk” (hemp, almond, coconut).
I focus on protein for my meals and snacks because carbs make my blood sugar rise, which makes me sleepy. I don’t have anything heavy for lunch or I’ll hit that mid-afternoon slump. And whenever I can, I do a massive nutrition infusion around mid-day/early-afternoon – a salad, spinach-based “juice”, etc.
I try not to bog down my stomach with too much to process, too much heaviness, or sugar/sugar-alcohols that will wipe out good gut flora.
I’ve also really noticed that if I don’t have enough water throughout the day, my body and mind starts to slow down too – your body needs a constant supply of water to keep processing and trucking along.
If you’re tired throughout the day (which does tend to lead to not sleeping at night, annoyingly enough), I would bet that nutrition is your culprit.
The most bullshit piece of advice I’ve ever gotten around nutrition was “it’s just a simple matter of calories in, calories out!” It was my OBGYN in 2012, and I had gained about 15 lbs while on the Depo-Provera birth control shot.
Knowing less than I do now about what affects my body, I took what she said and went with it. I started eating 1500 calories a day – STRICTLY – and really upping the intensity of my workouts. And I gained 10 more lbs.
I’ve since learned that a bajillion things affect my weight, and the large majority of them are not a “simple” calories in, calories out. Stress and hormones are two really big things, as is the quality of food we eat – 1500 calories worth of packaged, “low-fat, low-calorie!” food will kill you, promise. But perhaps the most significant and hardest to fix? Alignment.
I’m gonna get a bit woo-woo here, bear with me.
I gained the most weight in my life after I had left college, been turned down from my dream next step, the Peace Corps (through a fluke in my medical review), and begrudgingly accepted a path in life I just did not want. I shut down. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t doing what I felt called to do, and – while I was going through all the motions of health, my heart just wasn’t in it.
And my body knew it. I wasn’t taking care of my heart and my soul, so how could my body feel like I was taking care of it?
Eventually getting rid of the 50 pounds I had gained during that time took a lot of effort around figuring out what foods my body wasn’t working well with and honing in on autoimmune health and anti-inflammatory methods. But what was TRULY key was getting back into alignment with who I was meant to be.
I struggle a lot still – I think I’m usually fairly transparent about that. But I know that I’m still heading in the right direction when my body is responding as such. When my mind, spirit, heart, and body are working together is when I’m at my mentally and physically healthiest – it’s all connected.
You can’t take care of one part of you – especially just the surface – and think that the rest of you is going to be okay.
“How do I want to feel?” VS. “What do I have a craving for?”
I was craving McDonald’s all evening yesterday. I wanted a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets with honey mustard, an apple pie, and a chocolate sundae. For 4 hours straight.
The ONLY thing that kept me from walking the ONE block from my house to Micky D’s was reminding myself how I was going to feel afterward – bloated, dragging for a few days, feeling foggy and lethargic, probably with a headache and – if I gave into french fries, which, let’s be real I was going to give into french fries – with a hell of a lot of joint pain (I can’t do most nightshades without a fast train to pain city).
Sometimes I don’t feel all of those things at once or with the same intensity, but I certainly always feel not-quite-right for a few days after fast food.
Learning to ask myself “how do I want to feel?” rather than “what do I have a craving for?” has been KEY in leading me toward better food choices over the years.
Sometimes I forget just how gross my body feels, just how down I start feeling mentally, as a result of a meal my body doesn’t process well. I’ve learned that gluten and grains make me feel bloated and depressed, dairy gives me acne and rashes, and most nightshades – white potatoes, tomatoes, etc. – give me joint pain and muscle aches.
I absolutely forget how bad it is sometimes, or sometimes I just figure satisfying the craving or just eating what I feel like eating, damn it, will be worth the aftermath, but I always regret it.
Maybe eating certain foods doesn’t have the same immediate negative result for you and you’re just trying to watch what you consume, but I can bet that there are absolutely certain foods you eat that help you feel good afterward, and certain foods you eat that put you into not such a great place.
Framing eating as rewarding your body and helping it feel its best helps make the whole process feel more positive, rather than feeling like you’re restricting yourself from satisfying a craving.
How you feel from what you eat is your body trying to tell you something.
In case you missed it, a movie called Black Panther came out last week and it is uh… kind of a big deal.
I saw the movie in New York on opening night, surrounded by excited fellow movie-goers adorned in kente cloth and other African prints. So what was it like for me, as a white woman, watching Black Panther?
Literally no one cares, nor should. Go read these awesome and insightful posts by writers of color! I’ve included both celebratory pieces and critiques. (Almost all contain spoilers, fair warning.)
If you don’t already follow Luvvie on social media and read ALLLLL of her work, you’re missing out. She’s hilarious, insightful, and you need her in your life. A Nigerian powerhouse of a writer, Luvvie goes into every aspect of the movie using her wit and on-point observation skills. The art direction, the deeper pieces of story lines. It’s all here. And you’ll laugh. Hard.
Damon Young, one half of the genius behind VerySmartBrothas.com, celebrates the absolute genius of a character Shuri, the young scientist powerhouse that is the source of Wakandan technological advances. And isn’t here for anyone’s shit. Another great from Damon – “We Need to Start Barking at White People Who Speak Out of Turn”
From AfroPunk, this piece highlights one of the many amazing aspects of Black Panther – it’s equality in genders, and expression of a fact that has saved this planet over and over again – trust black women.
Briana Lawrence, a freelance writer, published author, and the creator of “magnifiqueNOIR” – a magical girl book series starring black girls with superpowers and fantastic hair, discusses the lack of queer representation in Black Panther and how, as a queer woman, it made her feel.
Chris is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Philosophy at Yale University. He is the author of The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time. This piece ruffled some feathers, but Chris makes a really excellent point about how Black Panther devalues black American men.
In this video, Danielle interviews the cast about the importance of black superheroes, and the utter importance of seeing someone who looks like you on screen (something that we white people have gotten to enjoy for a reeeeeeeeeeally long time).
Benjamin Dixon is the Editor in Chief of Progressive Army, a website that aims to provide an uncensored and unfiltered platform to progressive citizen journalists and elevates the voices of the poor, people of color, and marginalized communities. In this piece, he goes into his take on how moments in the movie spoke – well and poorly – to black communities.
Typically in movies that have predominantly white casts – read: 99.999999999999999% of movies ever made – characters of color are used to advance the plots of the white main characters. Black Panther flipped the script – the characters in this cast are each complex, full people. Something white audiences have gotten to enjoy about the characters who look like them since forever and always.
Jamil Smith is a journalist and editor. Most recently Smith was senior national correspondent for MTV News. Previously he served as senior editor at The New Republic. In this piece for Time, Jamil writes, “If you are reading this and you are white, seeing people who look like you in mass media probably isn’t something you think about often.” The piece goes into just how important he has found Black Panther to be.
Have another amazing article by a writer of color? Drop the link below!
Read Full Article
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.