Monday, March 25, 2013

Mo'Nique Told Me Love Spurred Her Weight Loss Journey

Comedian and Oscar award-winning actress Mo’Nique spoke of the moment she knew she needed to make a change in her health practices when her husband gave her a nudge about her weight gain a few years ago. “He said ‘That’s too much, baby. I want you for a lifetime. I love you so much that I can’t lie to you,” she remembered. “I had never felt that type of love before.”  - Personalizing the Wellness Revolution, Inside Spelman

That's what Mo'Nique told a packed chapel during a recent Spelman College convocation about the importance of wellness. But earlier that morning, during our interview, Mo'Nique shared that it was more than just love from her husband that spurred her into a more active and healthy lifestyle. 

"For a long time I was a child in my way of thinking. I thought that I could eat what I wanted, do what I wanted - and was reckless in the sense of abusing my body. That's when I was younger. I think that the journey I have to take now is that I have babies. I have a son 23, but I also have a son nine. And we have twins, seven. I want to meet their children. I want to be able to play with their children. I don't want to be a burden on my family due to self-neglect....I was fortunate to watch my grandmother play with my children. I want to be in the same position." - Video: Mo'Nique Gets Personal at Spelman's Wellness Revolution 

Having been on my own wellness journey over the past few years - and recently realizing that my path requires continuous adjustments to my fitness and nutrition practices - I was so appreciative of Mo'Nique's honesty. I've interviewed the actress numerous times about her entertainment projects, but this has been our most important conversation. Her reasons for wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle mirror mine: I have to stay active and around for my child. I want to continue enjoying life. Being healthy makes that easier. And, of course, I want to stay fine as wine.

So when things get challenging for you, find your inspiration where ever you can. And be open, because it may show up in places that you don't expect. Check out the link at the top of this post to the piece I wrote for Inside Spelman, the digital publication I edit at Spelman, for more wise words about wellness journeys, practices and mindsets from these brave and thoughtful women below. 

I was moved by the testimony of Danielle Winfrey (far left), a senior who told the powerful story of how Spelman’s wellness program has aided her in her transformation. More about her significant weight loss, and fitness and nutrition regimen on page six of Spelman's Philanthropy Report. Panelist Tracye McQuirter (third from right), a vegan and public health nutrition expert, recounted the emotion of Danielle meeting Mo'Nique on her blog By Any Greens Necessary

"Danielle told Mo’Nique how she was teased as a child for being a big girl and how much Mo’Nique meant to her growing up. And now, how Mo’Nique’s weight loss journey has helped inspire Danielle to become a Wellness Scholar at Spelman, run 5k marathons, and coach her Spelman sisters to exercise more." 

Hosted by Spelman President Beverly Daniel Tatum (far right), the convocation titled "The Best Advice I Ever Got: Conversations with Wise Women," was a part of the "Black Women and the Wellness Revolution" speaker series.  Also on the panel were noted psychologist and author Dr. Brenda Wade (second from left) and the amazing Deborah Szekely, the 91-year old co-founder of the modern health and fitness movement.

At the end of the convocation, Mo'Nique was swarmed by Spelman students, several of whom were so affected by Mo'Nique's story that they were overcome by emotion. It was a beautiful motivating moment. Look for those. Encouragement comes from everywhere - even inside you. 

If you're free this Wednesday evening, March 27 from 8-9 p.m., join the #SpelmanWellness tweet chat on Twitter for tips about nutrition. You'll be surprised how health practices for college students can work for you, too. And keep Enjoyceinglife! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why is it okay to blame and harass sexual assault victims?

I am so sick of sexual assault victims being blamed for being attacked. Who are these people? I'm livid. This is such a parenting issue about preventative measures, teaching your children (boys and girls, from a very early age) about appropriate behavior in interpersonal relationships and on social media, and what to do if you see it or encounter it. This seems so freaking common sense. 

Why is it okay to violate somebody? Anybody? Ever? And why would you ever blame those violated for the attack or for speaking up and reporting it when it happens? There is just no empathy or understanding, and totally misplaced priorities. Some conversations are NOT being had. I'm disturbed, sad, and pissed.

I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to hear your comments and feedback in this space. Thanks for your thoughts.

Background and more on Steubenville rape case via NPR.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Daughter Surrounded by the Beauty of Black Women's Brilliance

When I took this photo February 21, 2013, I didn't really realize its significance. As a matter of fact I was working in my communications capacity at Spelman College, trying to capture what I could tell was an important moment between academic and activist-oriented Black women. And my daughter, cute as she is, just eased her way into the picture. I even shooed her away.

But after a powerful evening of commentary and more from author, professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry - through which my first grader mostly slept - this photo haunted me so that I could not go back to sleep after waking at 4:30 the next morning.

All I kept thinking was: look at this child - my child - who barely has an inkling of the brilliance surrounding her. She just wanted to be in the photo. And here she is in the midst of what I saw as a moment of pride and engagement between the three Black women on the left who laid the foundation for the Black woman on the right.

From left to right: Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence is an associate professor of sociology with interests in criminology, law and violence against women. She also serves in a leadership role of Spelman's Social Justice Fellows Program; Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is president of Spelman and author of numerous books including "Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation;" and Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall is the founding director of Spelman's Women's Research and Resource Center and an adjunct professor at Emory's Institute for Women's Studies. She is the author of a number of texts about African American and women's studies, including the first anthology of Black women's literature, "Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature."

And then there is Melissa Harris Perry, who I'd been following since she was writing at her Kitchen Table blog and who I now watch most weekend mornings on her self-titled show on MSNBC. I don't always agree with her or even have an interest in every topic she addresses. But I enjoy her perspective and the disparate voices she regularly brings to the table. Plus I'm of a generation that remembers when images like hers - braids and all - were so very rare in the role of moderator and driver of important conversations.

There were so many interesting moments in her visit to Spelman, book-ended by Black History Month and Women's History Month. You can see some in the tweets I and others posted to Twitter during the event: "Melissa Harris Perry on Fire at Spelman College!"

Harris was much more forthright and fearless in her analysis of shame stereotypes, and Black women in America, the topics she addresses in her book, "Sister Citizen." There were no national cameras there to temper her sharp envelope-pushing wit. Listening to her I felt like I did when studying Paula Giddings' "When and Where I Enter: The Impact on Black Women on Race and Sex in America" as a student at Howard University. Or when Joan Morgan's "When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost" flipped my consciousness upside down in the nineties. I appreciate Harris Perry for her passion in her path - and I learn a lot from her, even when she rubs me the wrong way.

And I was so happy that my daughter was able to attend - even on a school night (this was educational, too) and that my friend could finagle a book signing for me when it was obvious that it was time for my daughter to go home.

I hope you'll have some special moments this Women's History Month. Keep Enjoyceinglife!

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