“It’s a Family Affair” was the theme for Prairie View Cooperative Extension’s kNOw Dia-Besity conference, held on the campus of Prairie View A&M University, November 9-10. This conference, which had over 300 people in attendance, was the culminating event for Project DEAP (Diabetes Education Awareness Prevention), Extension’s flagship health education project that takes a holistic approach to reducing diabetes in children and adults in minority communities. The conference took the information a step further in focusing not only on the dangers of diabetes, but also the devastating effects that obesity can cause and following a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease and stroke.
“Our goal for this conference was to educate persons who may suffer with diabetes and/or obesity, know someone with these conditions or help themselves and others to prevent getting diabetes and becoming obese,” said Dr. Carolyn Nobles, program leader – Family and Consumer Sciences and interim associate administrator. “We wanted people to say NO to getting diabetes or becoming obese and to KNOW the facts to help control and prevent these serious afflictions.”
To kick off the conference on Tuesday evening, Angela “The Kitchen Diva” Medearis, well known author and TV personality, showed her culinary skills by whipping up favorite dishes that are traditionally known as African-American favorites. “Food does not have a race”, said Medearis. “Although some foods are identified with a certain ethnic group, any food that is grown is good for you. Making food taste good by preparing it with healthy ingredients is the key to staying healthy.” Approximately 100 persons feasted on a meal of roast vegetables and chicken, steamed fish, fresh coleslaw, and a nutritious dessert consisting of fruit, whipped topping and angel food cake.
Medearis said that there are many ways to make food taste good and also be healthy by substituting certain ingredients. “Staples to keep in the kitchen are olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, poultry seasoning and mustard,” said Medearis. “These ingredients bring out the flavor in vegetables, seafood, and meats. Eating the correct portions of fruits and vegetables is especially important for persons who are diabetic and overweight.”
The second day conference activities featured Cherita Andrews, Season 9 contestant on NBC-TV’s hit show, The Biggest Loser. “I am a wife and mother, breast cancer survivor, and weighed 277 pounds when I went to the Ranch,” said Andrews. Kicked off the show in the first round did not stop her from losing weight. With the help of her personal trainer Calvin Lawson, Jr., Andrews lost close to 100 pounds making her the only contestant in Biggest Loser history to lose all of her weight at home.
Andrews said that her real story was not the fact that she went to the show Biggest Loser to support her daughter, Victoria Andrews, who was also a contestant, but the fact that she felt she was okay weighing 277 pounds and being physically unfit. “Until I had the mindset that I was going to take control of the situation with some help, because I needed help and support to put myself on a healthy path physically and mentally, that is when I realized that being obese and unfit was not okay.”
Andrews’ story of her dramatic weight lost gave hope to conference participants who also struggled with obesity. When asked what her goal was, Andrews stated that she is committed to helping women of all ages tear down the excuses and seize the opportunity to be Fit, Fabulous, and Free.
Other speakers at the conference included Dr. Garvin Davis, M.D., ophthalmologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center who told participants about diabetes and the affects it can have on the eyes. Dr. Cleverick Johnson, D.D.S., at the University of Texas – School of Dentistry, addressed the issues of diabetes and how it affects oral care, and Dr. Debra Williams, M.D., director of the Family Diabetes Program in Beaumont, Texas, made sure participants were well versed in properly managing the diabetes medication prescribed for them.
Dr. Angela Branch-Vital, assistant professor of Health at Prairie View A&M University, Dr. Mickey Bielamowicz, professor and nutrition specialist at Texas AgriLife Extension and Calvin Lawson, Jr., owner of Infinite Fitness, participated in a panel discussion led by Cherita Andrews. All of them spoke about how to become healthy, ways to prevent diabetes, and ways to lose weight to prevent obesity.
During conference breaks, called Fitness in Fifteen, Leticia Rolland-Hardy, extension agent- Family and Consumer Sciences in Grimes County, showed participants the best way to work off midday meals in the office or while sitting down. The afternoon session of Fitness in Fifteen had everyone grooving to “She’s a Brick House”, while working away the pounds.
Closing out the conference was a segment called “Share Your Story”. This was indeed a family affair. Mrs. Chris Morgan, mother of Cooperative Extension’s web content associate, LaRachelle Smith, said she was diagnosed with diabetes ten years before she accepted that fact. “I finally had an experience where I was ready to accept the fact that I had diabetes,” said Morgan. “Ten years after my physician told me that I had diabetes, I started to do something about it. Today I’m taking medication to control the disease, have been exercising with my husband, have lost 25 pounds and plan to become a spokesperson to help people overcome diabetes and obesity.”
“This conference was all we hoped for and more,” said Marvin Young, extension agent – Family and Consumer Sciences in Dallas County and conference chair. “It was definitely a team effort with all of our Family and Consumer Sciences staff and Cooperative Extension staff to make the event a success. A special thanks goes to our conference sponsor, Texas Department of State Health Services – Texas Diabetes Program and all of the speakers who helped everyone increase their knowledge and get on the road to becoming healthy.”
Interested persons can contact Mrs. Carolyn Perkins-Frank, health coordinator, Cooperative Extension Program, at 713/797-7033, firstname.lastname@example.org , local Cooperative Extension Program agent, or visit http://pvcep.pvamu.edu for more information about the kNOw Dia-Besity: It’s a Family Affair” conference and Project DEAP.
Written by: Gloria J. Mosby, program director – Communications and Jalisa Jones, PVAMU Mass Communications Major
Photos by: Alecea Rush, communications specialist