Of the top 10 states with the highest number of Latinos, the percentage of obese Latino adults falls between 24 and 32 percent. While you may be tempted to rent a U-haul and drag your abuelita, mami, papi and the tios to your local fitness studio, let’s face it, that plan may not work. Language and cultural barriers prevent many of our loved ones from joining the gym or sticking to a fitness routine at home. Luckily, there’s more we can do to fight the obesity epidemic than push-ups and pull-ups (which of course are good too!).
You can fight against obesity by educating your family about healthier ways to eat. Similar to showing up to the gym two to three times a week, choosing health-promoting food requires discipline. It’s also at least 70 percent of the fitness equation. Without further ado, let’s get your abuelita and the rest of the familia on the road to health with the top three ways to help make your family a fat burning, health-promoting machine.
Eat more, snack less: Snacking has long been linked to weight gain. Ironically, not eating enough during meal times is one of the most common reasons why people snack. If you’re hungry two hours after your regular meal, chances are you’re not eating enough. Each meal should last you for about four hours. This would give your digestive system time to do its job and time to rest up in preparation for the next meal. For this to work, you must consume enough nutrients during each meal – that means a combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates that are whole foods and not processed (i.e. foods from a box, carton or bag).
Eat more fat: Essential fats are crucial for our body’s optimal health. Our brains are mostly made of fat and many of our essential micronutrients (i.e. minerals and vitamins) need fat in order for our bodies to absorb them and process them effectively. Many people don’t know that what turns into fat in the body is actually excess sugar from processed carbohydrates.
Be cautious with your intake of trans fats, however, which are found in many processed foods such as margarine and potato chips. The best way to begin recovering from fat phobia is to slowly add good fat to your diet. Try taking a spoonful of cod liver oil on a daily basis and increase your consumption of foods naturally rich in good fats. Sardines, mackerel, beef from grass-fed cows, avocado, coconut oil and nuts are a good starting point.
Trade the rum for the red (and I don’t mean Red Bull!): The “mixed” portion of mixed drinks is one of the best ways to unknowingly undo hours of fat-burning fitness training. We Latinos know how to enjoy a sweet cocktail (think margaritas, mojitos, and sangria). We get points for creativity, but not for health. We can change that. Try substituting your sugar-filled cocktail with a 5 oz. glass of red wine, which when consumed in moderation (one glass per day for women and two for men) promotes cardiovascular health. The drier the wine the more beneficial. Limit whites like chardonnay and sweeter red wines, which in addition to having less antioxidants also have higher sugar content.
Yaromil Fong-Olivares, ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Reiki healer and lifestyle coach, empowers women to aim beyond weight loss and expand their wellness and fitness goals to include lifelong health, functional fitness, self-love and and healing. Learn more about her work a Brown Stone Fitness.