Take it a day at a time!
For years, Lilla Sweet had problems with high blood pressure. She ended up in the E.R. several times. Times of high stress seemed to trigger episodes. In 2009, she went back to school to get her accounting degree and continued to have problems with high blood pressure. Her cholesterol level soared, putting her at risk of stroke. She knew she had to make her health a priority. She began learning about healthy meal prepping, water intake and exercise. She joined a running group called Black Girls Run. She stuck with her new lifestyle and shed 30 pounds.
She started running in 2012 and ran the Aramco Houston Half Marathon in 2014. Today, she does Zumba, CrossFit, boot camps, yoga and pilates, and focuses on eating healthy. Best of all, her cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are the best they’ve ever been.
How was high blood pressure impacting your health?
In 2009, I had health problems because of high blood pressure. But even years before that I had a few episodes where I’d wake up and couldn’t see. I was driving at night one time and my vision just suddenly went blurry. I was alone and afraid. So I had enough scary moments – each time I’d end up in the ER worried that what I was experiencing would be permanent or worse.
I did have to consider the fact that on both sides of my family hypertension and diabetes is paramount. So I started to get more serious about it. I told my doctor I couldn’t see giving up the foods I like. I was used to spices, fried foods, cheeses, sauces, breads and desserts. But I had to make a conscious decision that I had much more to live for and less to lose by making that step to get serious about this.
What changes did you make?
I started by going back to my doctor who said she was going to put me on medication. I told her I didn’t want that and that I had to beat this. I began learning about meal prepping, water intake and exercise. I joined a running group called Black Girls Run. It’s a national organization and they focus on African-Americans because we have a high rate of being sedentary, so the rate of hypertension and diabetes is higher. This year, I became a local ambassador.
What are you eating now?
I mainly eat raw fruits and vegetables, lean meats, shrimp, salmon, brown rice, sweet potatoes and oatmeal with a sprinkle of trail mix. I also make my own smoothie and drink water infused with fruit. No soda and I eat very little beef.
Have your lifestyle changes made a difference?
Just getting active and watching my diet has helped. I’ve lost 30 pounds. I’m getting ready to start a new CrossFit boot camp and I’m continuing with my running and encouraging women to stay fit and healthy. A friend and I ran in the 2015 Aramco race. I finished before her and she’s five years younger. I also went to the doctor recently and now my numbers are excellent. They were the best numbers I’d ever had. Best of all, I’m off all medications.
What advice would you give others?
Think about yourself and that you have purpose. You have so much to give and to live for. You do have people counting on you. I have four children. I have three granddaughters. I couldn’t image what I would have missed if I hadn’t changed my lifestyle. I’ve had so many days of joy and bliss – a very fulfilled life. Realize that if you don’t put yourself first, you won’t have anything to give to others.
Buckle down and get serious. Don’t make excuses. Don’t quit. My mantra is “Endure to the end.”
What are your goals now?
Right now, my goals are to lose 10 more pounds and get more toned so I can run at a faster speed.
Do you have any additional words of encouragement?
It’s your race and your pace. Take it a day at a time and go at your own rate. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Make sure you see your doctor first so you’ll have a health plan. Make a decision to get it done. Find someone to partner with who encourages you and sees the glass as half full – but won’t just tell you what you want to hear. It is a lifestyle change. You have to keep it up.