"Health is Wealth" Changing Soul Food to Soul Fuel
By Keyona Jones
Keyona is a slay-at-home mom, Lover of God, Wife, Mom, DOPE CHICK on a Journey to Healthiness and Happiness.
“Health is Wealth” is a phrase I heard throughout my elementary school days. You know, the days where we played dodgeball and kickball until we were champs of the playground. When freeze tag and four square wins felt like you won the Super Bowl. When skating with your friends on Saturday night were all you talked about all week. When life was simple and time was a thing you misunderstood. Being active was easy because sitting still was never on the agenda. And, being HEALTHY was easy.
As I grew, that message went from being extremely loud to a small voice in the background. You see, I, like so many others, got conflicting messages. We were told to “Jump Rope for Heart” while we were fed SOUL FOOD. The kind of food that fed your soul while it grew your waist.
I grew up in the kitchen. My family owned a soul food restaurant. Most of my weekends were spent cleaning chicken, rolling homemade rolls and cooking peach cobbler. We had our Saturday and Sunday regulars. Always supportive of my school fundraisers and my educational endeavors. They weren’t customers, they were my extended family. We bonded over food. They came for a plate and left with so much more.
Soul food has been a part of the Black experience for our entire existence here in the US. It was the food of our ancestors. The food of the struggle. The dinner table was the place in which marches were planned and sit-ins decided. Soul food has carried us through and yet, its very existence has been somewhat detrimental to our community. Many health issues within our community stem from the foods we have eaten over the years. The seasonings we place in these foods and the lack of overall healthy options that appear on our plates.
How do we find the balance? Can food feed our souls while we honor our health?
Fueling our bodies doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless. It can be full of soul. Since the pandemic, I have been seeking to change the narrative of my own life. I am leaning into the mantra of “Health is Wealth” and choosing to feed my body Soul FUEL and not Soul Food. I am learning the difference and embracing the journey. Soul food tends to be heavy and full of things that don’t serve our bodies. But SOUL FUEL, fuels our bodies and does so without losing the flavor. Yes, I eat mac and cheese. But I am mindful of how much and what I put in it. I still cook collard, mustard and turnip greens, I just use turkey instead of a ham hock. I season without going overboard. I have perfected my AIR-FRIED chicken and it rivals grease-fried chicken! It’s golden and crispy. I have introduced more fish options into my diet while still holding a special place for a good southern fried catfish experience. I have begun to eat vegetables that I would once turn my nose up at in disinterest.
Once my mindset changed, my body changed. I saw “health is wealth” beginning to play out in my daily life. I am able to run up my stairs without being winded. I am able to walk for miles at a time without needing to stop. My ability to play with my children completely changed. I am happier. My self-confidence is through the roof. My husband (who has loved me through the highs and lows) sees the smile on my face when I hit milestones and dances around the living room with me as I celebrate. The “wealth” is abundant because everyone in my life is impacted by my health journey.
I encourage you to go on your own “Health is Wealth” journey. It may not be your relationship with food that is unhealthy; however, it may be your relationship with people, your job, or even YOURSELF! Unhealthy habits surround us daily and inhibit us from reaching our full potential. Let us challenge ourselves to BE BETTER and DO BETTER because WE DESERVE SO MUCH MORE!