St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Dr. Kanika Tomalin and Chef Ray Flournoy of The Fit Kitchen shared ways to eat healthier during their cooking demonstration at the Change 4 Life Health Expo.
BY SHERON BROWN, PH.D., Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG — Although it feels like summertime most of the year in the Sunshine City, the summer season is special because it stirs up feelings of light-heartedness, celebration and freedom to explore. These feelings started in childhood with summer break and remain with us as adults. We make plans, try new things we haven’t tried all year and sometimes add new experiences to our lives.
This happens without even making deliberate plans. But what would happen if you did all of this deliberately? You would up-level your life using the feelings of light-heartedness, celebration and freedom to explore. You would change for life over the summer.
In May, the St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. hosted the Change 4 Life Health Expo in collaboration with USFSP Campus Recreation. The community event gathered health and wellness professionals and St. Pete residents for a day of food, fitness and fun.
There were exercise classes to try such as Fit 4 Fifty Plus, Zumba® and Xtreme Hip Hop. There were cooking demonstrations and also great prizes such as gym memberships and spa packages.
Equally as important were the screenings for cancer, spinal health, type 2 diabetes, Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure. Community partners came together to help St. Pete residents change their health and wellbeing for life.
Did you attend? Did you start making changes?
Even if you were not able to attend or have not started making changes, it is not too late. Summer is a light-hearted time of year that is great for trying new things to better your health for life. Here are a few easy ways to make that happen over the next few months.
Make it light
There is no shame in enjoying a refreshing glass of iced tea or half and half, but too much sugar in it is what can lead to type 2 diabetes — even if you use sugar-free sweeteners. Your body can handle about six teaspoons of sugar a day and be fine, but once that number increases with soda, desserts and refined foods, the problems begin.
What can you do? Try making it light at least once a week for the summer. There are many ways to do this. You can save your artificially or over-sweetened drinks for once a day, drink only water all day once a week or put half the amount of sugar you usually use in your drink. This way, you are lightening the amount of sugar you ingest without totally giving up the beverages you enjoy.
You can also make it light with substitutions. At the expo, one beverage that attendees had the chance to try for free was naturally sweetened coconut water. In addition to being a great source of hydration, it may also lower blood sugar levels and reduce heart disease.
Drinking plain water is extremely important for your body, but you can also enjoy sweetened drinks if you are deliberate about lightening the amount sugar you drink.
Maybe you have heard that just 30 minutes a day of exercise can improve heart health, reduce stress and help you lose weight. Thirty minutes sounds easy, but may still be daunting if the exercise is too strenuous. This can easily be remedied by exploring mindful movement.
Some call it yoga and others may call it stretching, but whatever you call it, this lighter version of exercise can change your health for the better. The movements are gentle but help you to become stronger. Because you stay in your poses for a while, the movements help you improve your flexibility — something that becomes more important with age to protect against injury.
Additionally, you focus on breathing as a part of the exercise. This helps with improving respiration and reducing stress. Finally, yoga has been linked to improving type 2 diabetes conditions, so this less strenuous form of exercise is worth a try for many reasons.
This summer, you can try it free. The Urban Yoga Foundation, one of the expo community partners, offers a non-religious version of yoga called Mindful Movement on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. at the Enoch Davis Center and Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Willis John Recreation Center. No sign-up is necessary. Just show up to explore how yoga can help change your health for life.
Celebrate in August
Life can get so busy that we forget to take care of ourselves. One easy thing we may forget is making check-up appointments with our doctors. It is not until we feel a pain that we think about the doctor, but a celebration in August can change that.
August is National Health Center Month. Whether you use a clinic, health center or private doctor, use the month to check your health status with basic screenings.
Celebrating in August can make the difference in changing your health for the better for life.
Two community partners present at the expo that can help you celebrate are Baycare and Healthy St. Pete. Here are three ways that take away all possible excuses:
- If you are not sure about your insurance, reach out to Baycare for their Health Care Navigators. Just like at the expo, they can help you figure out your options to access healthcare.
- If you want to visit a health center, but not sure where to go, reach out to Healthy St. Pete and ask about their resources. They can help you discover what health centers are available to you in our city.
- If you want to get basic screening but not sure about making an appointment, visit the Baycare table at Pinellas Community Church for their back-to-school event on July 27. Like at the expo, Baycare will offer diabetes and blood pressure screenings.
Summer started on June 20, so you have enough time to make the most of these next few months. Use the feelings of light-heartedness, celebration and freedom to explore improving your health with these easy ideas that can change your health for a lifetime.
Visit www.stpetedeltas.org to learn more about the expo.
The Change 4 Life Health Expo was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., USFSP Campus Recreation, Suncoast Credit Union, Florida Blue, Raymond James and Lucky’s Market.