Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bronx Faith-Based Leaders Provide Inspiration for Healthy Living

June was Men’s Health Month. When I think about my own health and other men in their early 20s, I think about how I gained 30 pounds in college. It’s not completely abnormal for college students to gain weight – lots of my friends gained the “freshman 15” – but 30 pounds is a whole different story. When I started my position at Bronx Health REACH in 2011 as a Community HealthCorps member, I had a plan to lose the weight and start eating healthier, but the sudden change in my schedule from being in school to having a full time job made it tough to change my eating habits. For me to take on the herculean task of losing 30 pounds I needed greater inspiration. Fortunately, I found it in our faith-based leaders at Bronx Health REACH.

As the Coordinator of Bronx Health REACH’s Faith Based Outreach Initiative (FBOI) and Health Disparities Workgroup (HDWG), I work with faith leaders to implement health programs at their churches and identify solutions to racial and ethnic health disparities in New York City (NYC). In these initiatives, there is so much energy and passion among our partners around improving the health and well being of Bronx citizens. I’ve seen churches host weekly diabetes workshops for congregates with diabetes. I participated in discussions with youth ministries about violence and alcohol in their communities.  I facilitated partnerships with a variety of health organizations in NYC and churches looking to implement health programming.  

Over the last few years, the Bronx has consistently been ranked 62 out of 62 in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual county health rankings report for New York State.  It would be easy for our faith-based leaders to throw up their hands and give up, but they never do.  Seeing our faith-based leaders continue to plan, participate, and support health initiatives in the Bronx, despite publication after publication deriding the health status of their communities, inspired me to work on my own health. 

In 2011, I set myself on a 1750 calorie diet and started to track the amount of calories I consumed every day on a smart phone app called MyFitnessPal (free). Also, I replaced all sugar sweetened beverages with water and ate salad, fruit, and yogurt for lunch every day and began tracking these healthy habits on the smart phone app Lift (free). Finally, I worked out 4 to 5 days a week, running over 100 miles in 2012. As a result of all of these activities, I lost 30 pounds when I finished my first tenure as a Community Healthcorps Member in September of 2012.  

Below are some other helpful tips on losing weight and eating healthy. Make sure to consult your physician before trying them to ensure that these activities are right for you.

1) Find out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) TDEE represents the amount of  calories you need to eat to sustain your weight. If your daily caloric intake is higher than TDEE, you will gain weight. If your daily caloric value is lower than TDEE, you will lose weight. Generally speaking, those trying to lose weight are suggested to eat 200 calories less than TDEE. Healthy weight loss should be 1-2 lbs/week. 

2)  Count your calories! To assess whether you’re consistently eating lower than your  TDEE, count the amount of calories that you consume each day. Myfitnesspal is one of many calorie counting apps. It’s available on iTunes or Google Play.  Try to save “meals” you frequently eat so you don’t have to log each food item over and over. Additionally, to help you count calories, I recommend purchasing a portable food scale. Weighing your food is the best way to get an accurate calorie count based on portion. 

3) Exercise and log the calories you burn in your calorie counting app! This will help you realize how exercise and diet work together to help you lose weight! 

4) Cut out all sugar sweetened beverages and replace them with water. Water has 0 calories! This is the first place you can look to reduce your daily caloric intake.

5) Eat vegetables everyday! Vegetables are low calorie and great for your health! Avoid excessive salad dressing too.  

Thanks again to all of our faith-based leaders at Bronx Health REACH who have inspired me to be healthy!  

This blogpost was written by Hardeep Singh, a HealthCorps Member at Bronx Health REACH. 

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