Friday, December 31, 2010
The New Year is almost upon us and we continue into a succession of holidays where food is the centerpiece of the gatherings we have with our families. Yet, before you sit down to the dinner table with thoughts of second and third servings of your favorite macaroni and cheese, now is the time to take a moment to contemplate the impact to your overall health and lives.
Today, many Americans are suffering from diseases and conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, which can be aggravated due to poor food choices. To make these gatherings nourishing to your spirit as well as your body, it is time to face the facts about our food and beverage consumption in a new light for a new year and beyond.
In the United States, more than 72 million Americans are obese, a 1 percent increase and an additional 2.4 million people, over the last two years.1 Other recent studies reveal 17 million Americans have diabetes.2 Nearly four million African Americans that are 20 years or older suffer from this disease. Unfortunately, African Americans bear the burden of diabetes and others conditions at higher rates of incidence than any other ethnic population.3
Based on the statistics above, it is essential for African Americans to understand these diseases, its causes, but more importantly how to take preventative measures. The holidays are a good time to start. This season, temptations will come at holiday office parties, Christmas dinners, Kwanzaa celebrations and New Year's Eve festivities. If you go in with a plan, you can maintain control and adhere to your nutrition objectives. At social gatherings or as you sit down to your table daily:
> Choose small portions and limit your favorite carbohydrates such as pasta, breads and dessert.
> Enjoy more vegetables and high protein meats.
> Try baking foods instead of frying and use spices liberally to deepen the flavor.
> Enjoy mini-sized cans of your favorite drinks to manage your calorie intake. You can also choose zero calorie beverages to enjoy with your meals.
Despite all of our busy lives, it's time to stop making excuses and make exercise a priority. It is critical to maintain a healthy weight and incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine. Weight maintenance is about burning the calories we put into our bodies. I recommend:
> Adults and children get in 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be broken down into 15-minute increments throughout the day.
> Bike riding, dancing, working in the yard, cleaning the house with music and playing interactive video games such as the Wii are all forms of physical activity that can be fun and help us burn calories.
The holidays are wonderful times to gather with friends and family; making smart choices allows us to share in the true spirit of the holidays and still enjoy the foods and beverages we love. When making your new year's resolutions, resolve to: communicate more regularly with your doctor; choose healthy foods and beverages that fit your lifestyle; and stay active so that you can enjoy many more events with your loved ones.
Rani Whitfield, MD aka "Tha Hip Hop Doc"
Live Positively Ambassador and Consultant to the Food and Beverage Industry
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Vital Signs, Adult Obesity. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/AdultObesity/index.html
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Agenda for Public Health Action: A National Public Health Initiative on Diabetes and Women's Health. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/action/facts.htm
3. American Diabetes Association, Living with Diabetes, African Americans & Complications, http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/african-americans-and-complications.html
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
"I tell 'em put down the drugs, but they say--"
"I tell 'em get an education, but they say--"
"Whatever! W-W-Whatever, W-W-Whatever!" echoed through Hartford's Lyceum during Connecticut's second annual Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) youth leadership conference, on Monday.
Dr. Rani Whitfield "Tha Hip Hop Doc" or "H2D" uses hip hop culture to further his message on health while bringing positivity to the hip hop genre by promoting healthy lifestyles.
[Caption: "He was funny and at first it seemed contradicting. You wouldn't think a doctor would rap, but he did," said 10th grader Callie Hagemeister (center) from Westbrook's SADD chapter. Photo by Colleen Kopp.]
Tha Hip Hop Doc's talk was part of an all-day line-up starting with a talk by Lieutenant Anthony Cuozzo on the importance of leadership. Projects designing 'inner heroes' followed and a lesson in understanding alcohol marketing tactics. The teenagers also participated in a discussion about conflict resolution and understanding cultural differences. They were also given a talk about how the brain develops, along with other break-out groups and workshops.
The workshop on stereotypes and cultural differences had an impact on Lisa DeCrescente, an 11th grader from Hamden High School. She said the students sat in two rows facing each other and were encouraged to ask deep questions and break past first impressions.
"It made us dig deeper and get to know people instead of just how they look," De Crescente said. "It was eye-opening as we were able to get past the appearance and the surface."
For Sarah Boiano, an 8th grader from FOCUS, a group of teenagers from Ashford, Mansfield and Willington, the alcohol marketing talk and what she learned about malt beverages had a large impact on her.
"We learned that those kind of drinks should be considered 'distilled spirits' and we hope to get them out of grocery stores," Boiano said.
Boiano's adviser Jen O'Neill said FOCUS, which is under a tri-town coalition against underage drinking, is a small group with big ideas. She plans to help FOCUS raise more awareness about what kind of alcohol is sold in grocery stores.
Ninety-three teenagers from 22 SADD chapters and youth groups in Connecticut attended the conference.
The Governor's Prevention Partnership supports SADD in its mission 'to keep Connecticut's youth safe, successful and drug-free.' Each chapter holds their own fundraisers and events as well.
[Caption: Conference projects included designing ideal leaders - with a "Nose to sniff out trouble." "Brain and strong mind to think independently about the decisions we make." "Hands to help those in need." Photo by Colleen Kopp.]
Catherine LeVasseur, program manager for the Governor's Prevention Partnership and SADD State Coordinator, has been involved with SADD since she was 13.
"I've been doing this for half my life," LeVasseur said, "helping promote healthy decisions, and hoping to change the climate in these kids' schools. I'm
After his varied talk on health with free-style rapping and a hip hop love song mixed throughout, Tha Hip Hop Doc said, "If the kids take home one thing, I want them to know that health is their most important possession. If I wake up in the morning and all I have is my health, I know I'm okay."
As Deborah Stewart, director of Youth Development Training and Resource Center in New Haven, walked to her car after the conference, she said: "Parents are ignoring or dismissing underage drinking, thinking it's a teenager's rite of passage. Now as we learn that the brain is still developing into the mid-to-late 20's and the allure of drinking is magnified by technology, we face new challenges as parents. And we cannot just say 'whatever.'"
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, also known as RZA or Bobby Digital, is not just another rapper. The actor, director, author, screenwriter, Grammy winning music producer, chess player, martial artist and co-founder of the Wu-Tang Clan wears many hats. He recently took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about his new movie, new book, and his health. The interview that I did with him had to be one of the easiest that I have ever done. RZA gave selflessly of himself and was so honest and open that it seemed as if we could have talked forever.
Hip Hop Doc: Peace RZA. I know you are busy, so let's jump right into it. Tell me about the new movie Repo Menand your role in the film?
RZA: Peace to you Doc. So yeah, if you like sci-fi, Doc, you're gonna like Repo Men. Like I said it's a sci-fi action film and I play the role of T-Bone (laughs). This movie is set in the "near future", maybe like in the year 2100. T-Bone is a music producer at the end of his career and like other characters, he has purchased a heart. The movie's setting is during the recession, times are hard, T-Bone is going broke, and is unable to make payments on his heart. He's living in a mansion with nothing left. He thinks the IRS is coming to repossess more of his personal affects, but it's actually Remi (played by Jude Law) who's coming to repossess T-Bone's heart!
Hip Hop Doc: So what happens?
RZA: Let's just say, T-Bone totally changes the outcome of the movie's suspenseful ending. It's a cool film and I enjoyed working with Forest Whitaker and Jude Law.
Hip Hop Doc: Now this is not your first time on the big screen or even working with Whitaker is it?
RZA: Nahhh, I've been doing some other things. I love Kung-Fu flicks and got a small role in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai; Whitaker was the lead in that. Ghost Dog came out in 1999 I think. Man, I got a lot going on.
Hip Hop Doc: More than a lot! So, you mentioned Kung-Fu, what's up with your own Kung-Fu flick, The Man with the Iron Fist? Rumor has it that you have the green light and funding to make this project happen.
RZA: Definitely! I'm scouting now for art directors, locations, things like that. I'm going to Hong Kong the second week of April. It's all about finding proper locations that can sustain the budget and the ideas that I want to bring to the screen. That's a five month process in itself.
Hip Hop Doc: I read that (Quentin) Tarantino told you to stay under $10 million on this project?
RZA: Yeah he did, and it was some wise advice, but it does limit me.
Hip Hop Doc: What do you mean? Ten million is a lot of money!
RZA: Well, with the recession that we are in, coming out of, the American dollar not being as strong as it used to be, as well as script that's a bit more elaborate than I thought - to bring it all to life I already had to cut out ten pages just to meet the budget requirements. Not an easy job, but I'm cutting where I can and trying to keep it in that $10 million dollar range.
Hip Hop Doc: Cutting pages, but I hope not the concept?
Hip Hop Doc: Is this your directoriall debut?
RZA: Yeah, on a major studio level. But I've directed videos for Wu-Tang and myself, of course, and also unbeknownst to some people, I've directed a few independent films such as Bobby Digital and one I'm revisiting and reinvesting in called Wu-Tang vs. Golden Phoenix. I hired actors from Hong Kong to come in; the fight choreographer from my favorite Kung-Fu film The Five Deadly Venoms, and even flew this guy in from Taiwan who helped me put together some fight sequences. I'm thinking about releasing that on DVD
Hip Hop Doc: I just read your second book, The Tao of Wu, and several years ago, I read The Wu-Tang Manual. Not what I expected. I read The Tao of Wu on a plane in one sitting. Incredible book!
RZA: Man, much respect Doc! It was good for me to write. So what was a point that stood out to you?
Hip Hop Doc: So many, but probably the story about the drug dealer in your neighborhood, Chili Wop, or the story about going to Africa to visit Ghostface while he was being treated for diabetes by the bushman, or the whole seven pillar concept.
RZA: (Laughing out loud) Doc I believe you read it homie! Yeah that was deep about Chili Wop. Pretty sure Chili Wop is not with us- you live and die by the sword in the hood, know what I mean. It was hard times growing up in the hood. As far as my trip to Africa- wow. The people who had worldly possessions had their hand out to me and wanted more. They saw me with gear on and thought I was somebody important you know- rich. [Ghostface Killa] was dressed down, his beard had grown out and they thought he was a nobody. When we got to the village, it was all love. The poorest people in the world offered me whatever they had- water, food, shelter. It was amazing!
Hip Hop Doc: Yeah, that was a moving part of the book. I also learned while reading that your mother had a stroke. I work with the American Heart Association and the Power to End Stroke campaign. Unfortunately African Americans are twice as likely to have a stroke as any other ethnic groups.
RZA: I had no idea about those numbers. Well, yes she did. She died from a stroke. That was a major turning point in my life.
Hip Hop Doc: From a health stand point?
RZA: Mental, spiritual, and a health stand point. I'm a vegetarian and I exercise at least three times a week- weight training or kicking bags. My weight has not changed in over fifteen years. My whole family is affected by high blood pressure. You know how it is in the hood (he laughs again). My grandfather died in his fifties, frying fat-back at least 3 or 4 times a week (laughing out loud).
Hip Hop Doc: Wow! Man, fat-back can be a weakness for some (we both laugh). We have to change our diets. I'm big on that and I try to influence the young people I speak with on a daily basis to eat better and love themselves. Before we go, I have to ask who your favorite rappers are.
RZA: Biggie, Pac, Jay-Z, Gza, and Ghostface. GZA and Ghostface did some crazy stuff on the mic. You can't forget about Nas. Nas is like a Kung-Fu master who achieved his goals at a much younger age than the average rapper.
Hip Hop Doc: I'm still a big fan of Rakim, but have to agree with you on Biggie, Pac, and J. Nas is tight, but I don't like him on live performances.
RZA: Respect. I understand but you can't deny his lyricism.
Hip Hop Doc: Definitely. I hate to end this interview, but I know you are busy. RZA, it's been an honor and a blessing. Thanks for your time. Peace.
RZA: Much respect Doc. Peace.