Episode #50: Food Education and Nutrition is the First Step… Here’s Why

Dr. Connie Omari
Hey, hey, hey and welcome to the black Marriage and Family Therapy matters podcast where we connect black families to black therapists. Today’s guest is Miss Cecily green. Hi, Cecily.

Cicely Green LPC
Hi, Connie.

Dr. Connie Omari
How are you?

Cicely Green LPC
I’m good. How are you doing?

Dr. Connie Omari
I’m doing fantastic. Thanks so much for joining us today. For sure. Let me introduce our guest to use that okay. All right. Cecily is an aerialist Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered yoga teacher and a sixth time marathoner. She is a practitioner, and healer of all things health, wellness in movement, and has become a leader and resource in her community on aerial skills, yoga and mindfulness, mental health and healing, Marathon racing and endurance sports. Through her journey, Cecily has noticed one common theme, the lack of others in these spaces, who also identify as black. This inspired her to utilize her platform, and knowledge to create spaces in wellness and movement for black identifying individuals. She is a founder of good have in good wealth Incorporated, a nonprofit organization in the Chicago black therapist directory, and the BI PLC, circus Alliance, Midwest and contributing member of various wellness and racial injustice initiatives. That is amazing. Cecily, how do you keep doing all of this?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, I mean, pure passion and drive. I feel that for anyone to have this much going on, you need to love it first. And it started off with me, you know, focusing on my physical health about 10 years ago. And that really launched the gateway to access health and so many other ways. And while I was in those spaces, I found like, yeah, I was normally the only one. So I’ve really been able to really be where racial justice meets wellness.

Dr. Connie Omari
Very good. Very good. So would you say that one of the things that I noticed is, indirectly, you know, some of your more healthier foods, like I’m not gonna lie. Today alone, I’ve already had McDonald’s. And you know, where I am, I can get a drink for 99 cents. And I had I added a little cheese. This time, I had a chicken, chicken sandwich, whatever a couple of companies do yet? No. It was a Friday. So but when you think about just, you know, wealth, and health, there’s, there’s a, there’s a connection, and like you said, the racial disparity, it’s like, black people typically don’t have as much wealth, and we have access to cheaper foods, which are often less healthy. How has that shown up in some of the work that you’ve done? And some of the awareness that that you’re spreading?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely. And I want to give a background on why like, you don’t have access to those health. Yes, please. Yes, affluent neighborhoods. And so I’m from Chicago. And so where it is, you know, notorious for segregation. And so the south side, west sides, they’re gonna have like those McDonald’s, those corner stores, things like that food deserts that basically don’t have the nutrition, that atrocious food or the produce that you need, as easy as like the Northside, where there’s mostly white folks or money, I guess. And so that is intentionally created by you know, the system and housing and things like that, to keep our communities stuck in that cycle of not being healthy, not being educated on what to put in their body. And the food industry is contributed so that too, you know, like they are quick producing machines, and they know to put their cheaper food in neighborhoods that may not be able to afford better food or access better food, so they know that they’ll make money in those neighborhoods. So there’s two systems that play segregation, and also the food industry. And yeah, food education and nutrition is the first step. Right? And if we have that, then we’re able to, you know, take care of our bodies in live longer, like you saw like COVID We were the people that died most often two times more than white American. Yes, yes. And because you know, we suffer from all of those diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, the list goes on. I know my parents do and their parents did. Right. And that passes down unless we change what we put in our body unless we change what we do with our body. And that’s tough, you know, when we’re stuck in, in a certain neighborhood that might be impoverished.

Dr. Connie Omari
That is so true. Wow. So how do you find black families to like, how do you get into the community, where you’re saying this really isn’t very prevalent?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So that’s another barrier. So we don’t have traditionally we don’t have access to therapy services, it’s a lot better now. But like my parents, like the generation before us, we didn’t have access to mental health care, when we heard about mental health care, it wasn’t something that you want it to do. It was perceived as like, oh, you go to a shrink or therapist. Because something is wrong with you, or, or you’re crazy. And you know, the history behind us being experimented on us being misdiagnosed, and us being over medicated. So traditionally, the medical system, healthcare system we can’t trust. Right, right. And so now like the one of the purpose of my businesses, and I’m sure a lot of other businesses, too, is to decrease the mean, accessing mental health and accessing mental health and generational wealth meet so many types of generational wealth. By you know, having virtual therapy by having sliding scale by having directories. My business, essentially, is a directory of black clinicians that black folks can find online, reach out to them they’re in talk to.

Dr. Connie Omari
Very good. Very good. So you made the connection. I’m not sure really where you’re going with this, if you don’t mind. How does our Health Connect Connect to our wealth?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely. Health is wealth. Healing is wealth. We think of generational wealth as financial, which it is, you know, like ownership of a business, inheritance of some money, things like that a house that you can pass down to your kids or to your family. But generational wealth is also Yeah, health, like physical health, and emotional health, spiritual health, financial health. We need all of those in order to liberate ourselves. Because say, we have our money or financial health, but we don’t have our physical health or emotional health, we still will likely either die early or pass that curse, or that trauma to our children. And that doesn’t promote liberation. Love it. Love it.

Dr. Connie Omari
Love it. Wow. So what’s the what’s one thing that you wish black families knew about health and wellness?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely. Well, the first part would be like redefining what generational wealth is, but also just getting education on generational wealth, and why it’s so important to you know, get out of, you know, maybe segregated neighborhood or impoverished histories or generational curses, like that would be priority, understanding why financial health is important, and how to reach that. But also how to emotionally be there for each other. I know that my family and I know many families, in my clients, families, most of them, they haven’t received the emotional care or emotional support that they needed as kids. And so that creates a disconnect between the parent and the kid and kind of a detachment. And also it creates some issues in adulthood. It’s hard for us to either connect with others in relationships, or we get into unhealthy relationships because we’re, we’re desperate for any connection that we didn’t get when we were younger. And so that in itself is a generational curse that passes down. And so just being okay with being knowing how to love each other, like as simple as that.

Dr. Connie Omari
Awesome, awesome, awesome. Where do you think the black community struggles the most?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, I mean, I feel like it’s, it’s Similar to what I’ve been saying, as far as emotional care, emotional support, and understanding the value of generational wealth, I would say they struggle the most with that.

Dr. Connie Omari
One of the things that I noticed and I’m curious to know if you have anything about this, but my husband’s from Africa. And so I’ve been there a few times, and even the same foods that he cooks here, when he cooks it there with the spices and stuff, I don’t want to give TMI. It does different things to my body like that it doesn’t do more here. I mean, it’s good food, please, I am not insulting it. I love it. And I might be part of it, I probably eat too much of it. But it well, one of the things I’ve noticed as a sidebar, like they eat, even if we eat the same things. Tip I have seen and maybe this is a bias of mine, but the way that they just burn off the calories and the way that their bodies are shaped and stuff, or put it much different look different from mine, I will see from other people, but definitely different. And I’m just wondering, when you think about the fact that we were like, take it from there, since we’re talking about generational. And as we all know that the slaves got like, the worst options of the food and, you know, justice, so we’re getting these scraps. Our bodies are not really designed to eat this stuff. And we’re adapting to it. I’m just wondering if you’ve seen any of that kind of play out in some of the work that you do.

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely. And I hear you on like, food from other countries, sits with our bodies better? I mean, especially. But I haven’t been to Africa yet.

Dr. Connie Omari
But when I’ve been to other countries like South America are like, no one’s something to our food, or is it just that we’re not from here, so it just doesn’t.

Cicely Green LPC
I definitely feel like it’s both, you know, like, America’s food is processed, kind of like what we were seeing at the beginning. So they put GMOs in it and things like that. So in preservative, so it can last longer on the shelf. And that they can sell it quicker. And also they inject you know, like the animals with certain things so that they’re they can produce quicker as well. And so there’s a lot of process and you know, factory things going on when they’re creating our food. And so I think this goes for everyone that like art food does not sit well with us. But our bodies adjust because we live here. So when we go to other people’s countries or eat other or just eat whole nutritious food,

Dr. Connie Omari
That’s, that’s the first step.

Cicely Green LPC
Our bodies want that, like our bodies naturally need that versus the process things that go into it. And then as far as slavery go, slavery goes like, yeah, the scraps that we received turned into soul food. You know, the collard greens, mac and cheese, ham hocks? chitlins. I didn’t touch chitlins.

Dr. Connie Omari
But mouth water. I agree. We do deserve to indulge, like why not? But if it’s the foundation of our diet, yeah, we’re going to have health problems, which doesn’t promote generational wealth, and passes down those eating habits and those diseases to our children too.

And I just want to emphasize, you know, one of the things that I’ve seen, unfortunately, is people who have been able to earn money, right, only end up spending a lot in health care, you know, in terms of meeting all these medical bills and all these, you know, things that maybe had their health and they focus on their health as much as their wealth, they would realize that there’s a connection, right, like, well, good is making all this money if you have to give it all to health care, anyway.

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah. I mean, I have, yeah, I just, they understand, right, that maybe they need to eat better, but they just don’t like voice. It’s and it’s also habit like, and you know, it tastes good. So we’re going to stay with this, you know, I’d rather maybe some people would rather sacrifice health for what they’re used to what they’re comfortable with, and what tastes good. And that’s, you know, and that’s unfortunate, right? But that is that’s a big part of it.

Dr. Connie Omari
You Hmm, what are can you give us some quick tips? Because one of the things with what you just said, makes me think of is meal planning. Can you give us some tip quick tips on how we can do that better?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely. And so meal planning starts with buying the groceries and finding a grocery store. So you know, in the food deserts, it’s going to be tough, like we have to travel to the stores, or I mean, ordering, delivery is an option, but it probably wouldn’t be an option in in those in those neighborhoods, right. So I would, you know, go to a person or as close as possible. And make your list of things that that you want to buy. Right and buy it and then come home. And as far as meal prepping, I don’t really align with having the same meal every day, I would buy things that can go in different types of meals every day, like so.

Dr. Connie Omari
Quick example. Yes.

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, for sure. Like say you eat chicken. You can buy chicken and like salad and lentils or beans, or rice, whatever your site is. And so you can have that as one meal. But then maybe the next day, you also buy like tortillas and and cheese or something like that. And you can have like a chicken taco so that you can mix around how you’re using the same the same ingredient. Because we know we get bored with eating the same thing every day.

Dr. Connie Omari
Correct. That’s very true. Good, good deal. Good deal. What is a common myth that you’d like to debunk about black families health and wellness?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely that there is something wrong with you if you find if you seek mental health care, and also that they’re at that yoga or working out is not for us. So mental health care is kind of in that bucket as well. So I’ll just talk about that in general. And so yeah, so that that wellness is not for us. And I know that wellness has been whitewashed in so many ways, like what we see online and maybe in other videos, there’s not as much representation for us. And so it’s hard to believe that it’s for us, right. And so a way to think about that is look for wellness practitioners who look like us.

And you can do that through Instagram, and I have like a podcast that I can recommend. Because I a podcast is that. It’s called food heaven.

They’re dieticians. And they talk about food a lot, kind of like how we’ve been talking about and they talked about the intersection between food and wellness.

Dr. Connie Omari
Love it. Love it. Love it. Love it. Well, real quickly, I just want to transition to a part in the show. That’s called what’s good. I like to give a hypothetical situation. And I’d like for you to give your feedback. Is that okay? Yes. Okay. Meet Darrell. Darrell is an African American male football player. He is very athletic, and he is very committed to health and wellness. But he recently found himself in a very stressful situation. He has been dealing with some family problems and also some legal problems. And he is at a loss. As a result he has invested and overeating and not working out in the capacity that he normally would and has gained weight and feels insecure. How would you advise him to get back on track while also dealing with so many mental health problems?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, so the first thing to address is the mental health problem. Right? We need to address what’s internal before we can address what’s external, which is the physical health because he be he ended up gaining weight and over eating because of the mental health issue. So the first step would be finding someone to talk to. And you know, I would like to redefine mental health care as not something is wrong with you. but it’s a way to access healing and a safe space for you to heal. So that would be the first step. And, you know, his therapist would be able to address like his emotionally eating, and if it’s a Holistic Therapist, they can discuss, you know, eating habits and how to change those once the emotional needs are addressed and coped with. And then from there, if needed, he can go to a dietitian as well, or find, you know, a local gym that he’s comfortable with.

Dr. Connie Omari
Yeah, that is great. Well, I think you have provided so much information. And I know that our audience is going to be grateful. Just before we go, do you happen to have anything that we haven’t mentioned that you want to be able to share with our audience today?

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah, definitely. And I want to reiterate that I am the founder of Chicago, black therapist directory, which is an entity of in good wealth, and the directory so

Dr. Connie Omari
You said entity have in good wealth? Yes. Okay. So that’s one company with two parts.

Cicely Green LPC
Exactly. So wealth is the umbrella we focus on wellness and movement in black communities by giving access to capital access to resources to black on wellness and movement focused businesses. Oh, that’s nice. So by doing that, then, black folks will have a space to focus on their health and wellness. And then from there, we have our mental health entity, which is Chicago, black therapist directory, where we host a marketplace of mental health resources, such as a therapist directory, events, directory products, services and careers.

Dr. Connie Omari
Awesome. Well, that’s great. Well, I’m gonna put a link to both of those links in our show notes. Is there anywhere else people can find you? I know you have an Instagram.

Cicely Green LPC
Yeah. My personal Instagram at Miss Ms. Sicilian green.

Dr. Connie Omari
Love it. Love it. Love it. Well, thank you so much for your time today. You have shared so much about health and wellness with our black community. We’re very grateful. Thank you so much. You take care. All right.