You probably recognize actress and comedian Cocoa Brown from Tyler Perry’s critically acclaimed comedy series “For Better or Worse” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network or from the feature films, “Single Mom’s Club,” and “Ted 2.”
Three years ago, Brown was pregnant and overjoyed with the anticipation of the birth of her child. The joy of her first pregnancy was quickly overshadowed in her last trimester when she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
“I had to inject five insulin shots a day,” Brown said.
Typically, most women with gestational diabetes have no symptoms. Women may experience symptoms that are a little more severe than the typical symptoms resulting from a normal pregnancy, such as extreme thirst, fatigue, frequent urination and snoring.
Pregnant women are more at risk to get gestational diabetes if they are overweight before they get pregnant, are of ethnic background (African-American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American), have high blood sugar levels, other family members with diabetes or previous history of gestational diabetes.
Brown, who mastered the art of comedy, knew that her weight gain was no laughing matter.
“At my heaviest, I weighed 273 pounds,” she said. “I am 5-5 and was wearing a triple X dress size or a size 22-24.”
Brown is known for her stand-up comedic performances on top-rated comedy shows including BET’s “Comic View,” “One Mic Stand” and “Showtime at the Apollo.”
Gestational diabetes is temporary.
“After giving birth to my son, it disappeared,” Brown said. “So, I didn’t change my eating habits or step up my physical activities.”
However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
After her divorce, she gained more weight and was prescribed a diabetic pill.
She added, “If I wanted to eat chicken wings and fries after a late night gig, I would.”
When Brown’s son turned 3 years old, her doctor gave her a rude awakening.
“My doctor told me that I was pre-diabetic,” Brown said. “I was warned that if I did not change my diet and start to exercise, I would be back on the insulin shots.”
An estimated 86 million American adults — more than one out of three — have prediabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2 diabetes.
Brown knew that an immediate health change was necessary because she did not want to be back on insulin.
Finding a work-life balance can be a challenge.
There are ways to alleviate the pressure of finding foods and beverages that can sustain a healthy lifestyle. Brown’s advice, “find what works for you,” is the key to successful goals of weight loss and making healthier choices. She keeps bags of trail mix in a basket near her bed and in the car.
“I tried several diet plans but decided to create a plan that would work for me,” she said. “Every morning, I drink an elixir I created made with turmeric, cinnamon, green tea, raw honey, unfiltered apple cider vinegar mixed in alkaline water.”
Portion control and food alternatives, such as cauliflower fried rice as a substitute for white rice, was working. “I incorporated walking and physical activities — Zumba, hiking, crossfit, and kickboxing — in my schedule,” Brown said. “Sometimes I skipped a big dinner and ate the food leftovers from my 3-year-old’s dinner.”
When you live a busy life, food choices can make or break a weight loss or weight maintenance program. If a three-course meal is skipped or there are no leftovers available from an unfinished meal, eat organic as much as possible and think about soup as a meal replacement.
Soup has long been known for several things, such as the cure for the common cold and, with the right ingredients, can be another way to get your water and vegetable daily requirements.
January is National Soup Month which reminds us to consider soup as a quick in-between meal or as lunch or dinner. When given a choice of soup or salad as an appetizer, say yes to soup. Here’s why, the benefits of soup include: high in fiber, easy to digest, may help relieve constipation, poor digestion, and trouble with stomach acid.
Low sodium and lean meat or meatless soups are also a great way to maintain a healthy body weight. True broth-based soups are beneficial for joint health, digestive problems, immune system, cold and flu, hair and nail strength, and are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, collagen, gelatin, glucosamine, chondroitin, trace minerals and more.
Blount Fine Foods Fifth Generation President Todd Blount, states “Our rich legacy includes the creation of a high-standard product — Blount Organic, a line of certified organic, fresh, and delicious soups.”
Blount adds: “We have master chefs on site in our kitchens creating wholesome and full-of-flavor recipes daily which allow our consumers to spend less time at the stove and more time at the table eating healthy meals with their families.”
The Blount Organic ready-made soups are available in a variety of flavors online and in select stores.
After losing 53 pounds in two years and the transformation of her body still did not register with Brown.
“My mindset did not see the weight change and I was still wearing my plus-size clothes,” she said. “One day, my stylist selected clothes from a store I always avoided because the clothes would not fit my large frame.”
To her surprise, Brown was wearing a medium and no longer needed the waist trainers and spandex to hold in her belly fat.
“I never left home without a foundation to keep me sucked in. Sometimes I wore two at a time,” she said. “It was hard to let go of the big girl image in my head. It was a shock to discover I could wear smaller sizes.”
The Screen Actors Guild award nominee admits that she may never be skinny according to Hollywood standards.
“I am learning to love my new image and shop in the regular chick stores,” Brown said. “I got my curves back and went from hiding my flaws to showing off my assets.”
Brown says her goal is to weigh less than 200 pounds. She now weighs 215 pounds and is wearing a size 12-14 dress.
“Hollywood will see a different Cocoa. I did this for my health and my son as a single mom,” she said. “It’s about healthy living and, more importantly, I can see my neck now.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.cdc.gov
The Mayo Clinic – www.mayoclinic.org
Pregnancy Health – www.pregnancyhealth.net
Blount Organic – www.blountorganic.com
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for her column in The Wave.