I tell her that I work with Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County and that I am looking for stories to inspire others to take care of themselves. So, Annonda tells me her story:
“I thought, ‘I need to change because this is not healthy’. I was working at Sonic and eating there and then I would go to McDonald’s for dinner. I saw a video called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. A friend and I gave up fried food. We started exercising and running up hills. I started to eat [unprocessed] chicken instead of red meat. I started to juice. I started to eat whole wheat instead of white bread. The more I kept going, the easier it was to eat salads and grilled chicken. I would make my juice in the morning and walk to Kingston High School - it was a good 20 to 25 minute walk. Afterwards I had to work. I managed to get the juices in. After three months I was still eating “healthy” but stopped with the juicing. I was committed to maintaining the weight loss and stopping the red meat. I eat just chicken, fish, salads and vegetables. I feel so much better, alive and energized.”
Straight-talking Annonda lets me know that, “The other day, I was with my Mother. She had a sub, I had a salad. After she ate, she felt tired. I told her, you feel drained, I feel alive.”
18 year-old Annonda has lost 35 pounds since August of 2014 (it is now July of 2015) and she has kept it off. I ask, what is her secret? She says, “you just have to decide to change your life.“
Annonda enjoys kale, banana, strawberry and almond milk smoothies. Initially, she would hold her nose while eating it; now it is “alright”. “I never really thought I could do it for myself. Before, my Mom controlled what was in the fridge. It is hard to have control when someone else is the one putting something in the fridge.”
I ask Annonda where she buys produce. She tells me she is a bargain shopper and gives me some great advice, “It is expensive and you can’t buy it in bulk or it goes bad.” Locally, she will go to Aldi’s or Shoprite. She is super interested when I let her know about the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and South Pine Street City Farm, two urban farms that carry reasonably priced produce.
Annonda tells me, “I stopped drinking soda. I replaced it with seltzer and it was amazing. That was my replacement. Soda is too sugary”. Annanda says, “I asked myself, ‘Am I going to stay this unhealthy?’ I was eating so much of that bad stuff, I could have a heart attack.”
Annonda tells me how sometimes she gives in, “because you have to do it.” But afterwards, she gets right back on track. “I snack on almonds and raisins. I make my own home-made granola.”
I ask Annonda for a few of her favorite foods and she shares a kale salad recipe with me. She lets me know that, “It’s really simple. You rub olive oil on kale”. Annonda likes to accompany her kale with oven-baked boneless chicken in a low-sodium Teriyaki Sauce and red quinoa. Annonda enjoys a home-made dressing that includes olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. She garnishes her salads with sliced almonds and dried cranberries.
Annonda is embracing joy in her dance with vegetables. She is setting the stage for a healthy life for herself… preventing the intrusion of obesity and type two diabetes into her life
Thank you to Dana Katz of Family of Woodstock for connecting Annonda and myself.