Taking Control of Our Lives

The smell of homemade ajiaco, a traditional Colombian chicken stew, always takes me back to simpler days when meals were a sacred ritual. My grandmother spent hours cooking everything on our table from scratch, a fact she took great pride in. Each flavorful spoonful was filled with nutrients and the abundant love she poured into every bowl. These days, I am on a mission to recapture the essence of the Colombian and Mexican cuisines of my childhood and pass it along to my children.

 In addition to the cultural aspects associated with Latin American cuisine, for me it’s a matter of health and well-being. In fact, it’s the underlying reason why I believe so firmly in the mission and work of my company, Herbalife. According to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Center, adults in the Latino community are more likely to be obese and more likely than non-Hispanic white Americans to develop diabetes and other chronic health problems as a result. The sad truth: many Latinos don’t even realize they have a problem.

 In 2014, CNN reported on a study of Hispanic women entering public health clinics, which found that “25 percent of the overweight Hispanic women perceived their weight as ‘normal,’ while only 15 percent of non-Latino white women did.” Trained medical professionals can prescribe the best course of action to treat some of these conditions, but there is no question that a good start is being healthy and active. That means being smart about what we eat and making sure we exercise on a regular basis.

 There is a lot of misinformation out there about the food we eat and the foods Hispanics have enjoyed for decades. The truth is Latinos have a diet historically rich in fish, beans, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. It is a diet that recognizes the benefits of good nutrition, just like the food my grandmother made for us and her mother made for her. Somewhere, somehow, over time, we went from a simpler diet to the processed, fried foods of today.

 As a mother of two, I’m working hard to pass along the good nutrition my family gave me growing up. I’m establishing healthy eating habits at home. For example, I’ve started modifying some of my family’s favorite recipes to make them healthier. In a world dominated by fast food, carbonated drinks, and sugary snacks, it’s challenging to make these kinds of lifestyle changes. But, it’s a change that is well worth tackling. Instilling good eating habits in our children is one of the best legacies we can leave behind for future generations.

 For example, instead of frying tostones or patacones, another traditional deep fried delicacy of my childhood, I bake them. The best part is that they are still as crunchy and delicious as ever. I also bake, roast or grill chicken and steam my vegetable, using fresh spices, lemon and olive oil to add extra flavor. And, our Sunday morning breakfast would not be complete without a pitcher of freshly juiced maracuyá — a tropical Latin American fruit.

 For me, healthy eating is a habit that extends beyond my home and into the workplace. Working at a global nutrition company, I’ve seen the benefits of achieving a healthy active lifestyle with Herbalife through my colleagues. At our corporate office, we practice what we preach, offering employees healthy options such as protein bars, shakes and teas. Our independent members also remind me about the important role nutrition plays in our development as individuals, families, and communities.

 Through my job I have had the opportunity to meet Hispanics who have changed their lives and adopted a healthier active lifestyle by using our products and engaging in physical activity. Witnessing their enthusiasm and commitment to reach their own health goals and helping other Latinos be healthy is nothing short of inspirational. That is why every chance I get I encourage people to focus on one small achievable change they can make in their life. This can be snacking on a protein bar, preparing a morning shake, doing Zumba with close friends, or getting up early for an intensive boot camp session.

 Whatever approach works best for you, let’s take control of our health and encourage our friends, colleagues, and loved ones to do the same. It’s one of the most important ways to fight obesity.

Angela Arboleda is Vice President, Government and Community Affairs at Herbalife.