After reading an inspiring blog on Latina on a Mission, I watched a chilling video called Meal Per Hour, that opened my eyes. It showed me how Toyota and Food Bank For New York City, helped make a small change. A small change that was able to increase the number of emergency meal boxes from 25 to 450 per hour! It was amazing to watch what a small change can do. After watching the video, I was inspired to share my story.
“What small changes can we make in our own lives that would better ourselves, our community, and our world?”
What would you say? What would you do? I can’t imagine the thoughts that came into my head when I read that sentence. I sometimes find myself questioning, did my Mom die from a heart attack so young because it was my fault? was there something I could have done to prevent her battle with obesity? After all, she was too heavy to walk to the corner bodega or supermarket. It was my siblings and I that had to do the “outside” chores. Go grocery shopping, do the laundry, pick up her medicines and pretty much all trips that involved walking. That included picking up her favorite snacks and unhealthy foods.
As a Hispanic little girl, growing up in the Upper West Side by a single mother, I was surrounded by beautiful thick woman of color with curves. To me that was true beauty. Their confidence was something I lacked. I was the skinny one, often called “Flaca” or “Olive Oil”. No matter how you put it, I was the awkward skinny girl that had to eat. My plate was filled fuller. I was allowed to eat anything I wanted because I needed to “fill” out. Genetically, I wasn’t getting fat if you fed me lard 3 times a day! I had my fathers “skinny” gene. I was so insecure, I would dress in layers just to look like my friends. I felt ashamed to be skinny. I was the only skinny girl in my mothers side of the family.
Even if my family wanted to eat healthy, there wasn’t anyone teaching us about healthy eating or ways to cook healthy. We ate what we could afford and back then, junk food was affordable. If I look at all my childhood birthday party pictures, you could see large bottles of soda everywhere, not to mention the oversized bags of chips and cookies. It was just normal back then. We were the “cool” ones with all the good snacks. We ate a lot of take out because my Mom was too heavy to stand and cook. We didn’t mind. What kid could resist take out?
Sadly, my Mom died from a heart attack due to her obesity shortly after her 40th birthday. I was only 17 years old. I never changed my childhood eating habits of stuffing my face with fried foods such as a bacon egg and cheese on a butter rolled for breakfast every morning, followed by fast food for lunch or drinking massive amounts of soda because for .25 cents more you can get an extra large. Lets not forget that in my teenage years I began smoking cigarettes to relieve my stress and never realized that I could be at risk of a future heart attack.
It wasn’t until 10 years later, after the birth of my 1st child that I started to feel heart palpitations. I figured it was stress from the baby. I can’t be at risk from a heart attack when I only weigh 110 lbs? boy was I wrong. After several test from my cardiologist, I was informed that I had the beginning stages of plaque build up in my arteries. Immediately I thought of my mother. Who dies from a heart attack this skinny? I thought only “obese” people died from heart disease.
I knew right there that I had to change for my daughter. It began with cutting back on meat and dairy, to cutting all junk food and adding more greens, to eventually becoming a full Vegan. That was my small change to myself. What was my small change to help my community you ask? I started to support local farms and inform my daughters on the health benefits from growing and eating our own food. We take trips to our local farms and learn the importance of our environment and what we can do to help. How can I change the world? by telling you my story and hoping you help spread the word about healthy eating habits.