Getting to know our PULSE volunteers: Meet Audrey!

Here at the BLC, we are extremely lucky to be one of the sites for Boston College’s PULSE program for service learning. We have had the great opportunity of having 5 amazing undergrad students volunteering with us since September 2014, and as their time with us is soon coming to an end, we wanted to hear a little bit about what their BLC experiences have been like. Today we’d like to introduce Audrey Fleming!

1) What drew you to the BLC during your PULSE placement process?

I was very interested in finding a PULSE placement related to healthcare because it is a field I am extremely interested in and want to be a part of post college. After taking a tour at the BLC, I knew that it would be a perfect fit for me because of the community-like environment and cheerfulness of the members. In addition to the members, all of the staff seemed very open and excited to have PULSE students come in and help for the year. The BLC is a community where I have constantly been learning and forming meaningful relationships since the first day I began volunteering in September.

2) What is/are your favorite part(s) about volunteering at the BLC?

My favorite part of my day at the BLC is eating lunch at 12pm with all of the members and staff in the cafeteria. When the members come in to eat, everyone is happy, friendly, and always wants to know how you are doing and what you have been up to. The staff often sits and eats among the members and even the volunteers have fun serving food. The cafeteria is an amazing environment to relax, forget about your daily troubles, and enjoy a delicious meal with friends.

3) What has been one moment that has stood out to you in your time at the BLC and why?

One of my most memorable experiences from my time at the BLC was the Gratitude Dinner, which representatives from all of the Victory Programs attended at a restaurant in Dorchester. I will remember this event for a very long time because I experienced first-hand the positive effects that the Boston Living Center and the other Victory Programs have had on so many lives. During their speeches, many past and current members from the BLC said that this center saved them and they do not know where they would be without the love and support from their fellow members. These speeches stuck with me and make me so grateful that I am volunteering at a place that is working to make real change in the lives of those associated with it, and to know that I have even a miniscule part in these changes is an honor.

4) Has your experience at the BLC impacted the way you understand HIV/AIDS and/or the people living with it?

My experience at the BLC has taught me so much more than just the basic facts about HIV/AIDS. By attending workshops and having conversations with members, I have learned about HIV/AIDS stigma and how much it affects many people with the virus, which I was not aware of before my volunteering began. I see how many members here at the BLC not only have to deal with the effects of the virus but also other parts of their lives that are affected, such as work and housing.

5) If you could describe your BLC experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Effervescent. Effervescent is defined as vivacious and enthusiastic. I would consider the staff and members to give off effervescence and even the BLC building itself. Everyone is always happy and lively at the Boston Living Center every single day. The cafeteria is always active with conversation and laughter, which can be heard even from the lobby below. This is a center for people to gather and celebrate life, to take comfort in knowing they have such a large support system, and I feel recharged each time that I come in to volunteer.

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The impact of an internship- Theresa Powers shares her experience and learnings from interning at the Boston Living Center

Around the globe, there are approximately 40 million people currently living with HIV, and an estimated 25 million have died from the disease. In the United States, approximately 1 million people are currently living with HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which is a retrovirus that kills

Theresa Powers- Lesley Student and BLC volunteer

and damages cells of the body’s immune system. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and is caused by HIV when the virus has destroyed so much of the body’s defenses that the immune-system cell-count drops to a critical level or life-threatening cancers or infections develop (Nettleman). HIV is spread primarily through unprotected sex and intravenous drug use (sharing needles), but can also be passed from mother to child through pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding (The Body, 2011). Some important things to keep in mind when thinking about HIV are the stigma in the community, treatment/side effects, and working with clients who are HIV+. There are challenges to all three of these aspects, as well as rewards. The following focuses on these characteristics as pertaining to the HIV/AIDS community.

The Stigmatized Population, Why?

            There is still a stigma surrounding HIV, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the virus first came to light in the 1980s when gay men were dying from a mysterious illness. Maybe it’s because people think they can get “infected” by simply just being in the presence of someone who is HIV+ (The Body, 2011). Maybe it’s because the general population is uneducated, which leads them to be scared of the virus. For whatever reason, the stigma is un-warranted. People who are HIV+ or have progressed to the stage of AIDS have a severe stigma thrown onto them from society, and this is a challenge. On top of feeling alone and maybe confused, the negative societal stigma adds a sense of rejection from the world.

            In talking with my supervisor, she informed me that much of the stigma towards the HIV+ population comes from urban legends about it. A friend of mine even told me of a story he heard, which was completely over the top and there was absolutely no way that it could have happened; it was just used to make people who are HIV+ or have AIDS look like terrible people. Folktales about the spread of HIV include things such as “AIDS Mary” and AIDS by “stealth injection.” AIDS Mary is sort of like a cautionary tale on the dangers of unprotected, careless sex. The story goes as follows: “After a night of casual sex with a woman he doesn’t know… a man wakes up the next morning to find the words ‘Welcome to the world of AIDS’ scrawled in lipstick across his bathroom mirror” (Emery). Supposedly this woman was purposefully sleeping around to spread the disease to anyone she could seduce after she had contracted it from a former lover. Clearly, this story is a reflection “of the fear and ignorance that surrounded the epidemic in the mid-1980s” (Emery). AIDS by “stealth injection,” much like the story told to me by a friend, is just like it sounds. Claims in these legends have stated that women have gone out clubbing, or sat down at the movie theater, and been pricked by a needle. Attached to the needle is a note that states, “Welcome to the world of AIDS.” These legends are not only untrue, but they are hurtful to the population. There are facts to go against these urban legends, yet people are hanging onto them, creating a stigma that people who are HIV+ will infect everyone in their path (Emery). This is simply ridiculous and ignorant. Because of the stigma placed on this population, it is hard for them to live a normal life. This stigma gives a sense of rejection from the rest of the world, and it has also been considered an obstacle in organizing programs in response to the epidemic.

            A Sociologist named Erving Goffman defined stigma as “an attribute that is deeply discrediting,” and that it brings down a normal person to a “tainted, discounted one,” and that society will stigmatize others based on deviance from what is normal. This leads for the stigmatized individuals to view themselves as unwanted and shunned (as cited by Coates et al). The formation of stigma is not only based in one’s mind, but also in society. Stigmatized groups are disadvantaged in many ways, including income, education, housing status, medical treatment and health. Stigma is most easily described in stages put together by Bruce Link and Jo Phelan, stating:

            1) Individuals distinguish and label human differences, 2) dominant cultural     beliefs link labeled persons to undesirable characteristics (or negative   stereotypes), 3) labeled persons are placed in distinct categories to accomplish        some degree of separation of “us” from “them,” and 4) labeled persons experience status loss and discrimination that lead to unequal outcomes  (as cited by Coates             et al).

Here, the reasons for stigma are explained, yet is anyone doing anything about it? There are a number of programs in the country which support people who are HIV+, allowing them safe havens and small communities. The Boston Living Center is one of them. Interestingly enough, stigma is what is holding back the organization of programs just like the BLC, but we need programs like the BLC to reduce the stigma.

 

Medication and Treatment

            Continuing medication through terrible side-effects is hard all alone, but the support of a group in the same position makes it easier. Group counseling is so important both psychologically and medically, because it helps with mental and physical health. Along with upkeep of medication to take, it is important to also be a part of a group therapy or one-on-one therapy. Becoming a Helper by Corey and Corey touches briefly upon the benefits of group therapy. “Groups provide a sense of community, which can be the antidote to the impersonal culture in which many individuals live” (Corey and Corey 334). This is true especially for HIV+ groups, as discussed before in regards to stigma. It’s much easier for people who have HIV to relate to others who are also going through the same things, hence the importance of groups. There is also a sense of safety and understanding due to the fact that everyone is going through the same thing. “Groups offer a forum in which members reveal their confusion, anger, helplessness, guilt, resentment, depression and anxiety… members are able to see the similarity of human struggles” (Corey & Corey 334). Working in a group setting of clients who are all HIV+ can bring up many of the similar issues that these people feel, especially that they are looked at differently by the general population. It’s important for them to talk about these feelings and have others who can relate to them, as well as to help them cope in their everyday life.

            Studies have been done involving HIV+ adolescents and peer-group therapy. “Adolescents who have experienced a long history of HIV infection accumulate a number of potential difficulties with peers, with self-image, sexuality, future academic and occupational plans, and planning for life as an adult…” (Blanche et al). Because of these potential issues with adolescents who are HIV+, a study was done about the effects of peer-group therapy. The conclusion came down to say that “peer support group had a beneficial effect on the adolescents’ acceptance and perceptions of their HIV infection… improvement in well-being could have a positive influence on biological variables” (Blanche et al).  The interesting part about this is that peer-group therapy may have an effect on the biological factors of HIV, like how medical treatment affects the body.  While the clients are going through therapy, their overall well-being is being brought up to a higher level, which in turn affects their biology. Holistically, this makes a lot of sense and is very important to chronic illnesses. It is clear that peer-support groups are helpful for people living with HIV, because it offers them an outlet and some understanding into their lives that usually don’t have those things.

Counseling Clients

            In working with clients who are HIV+, it is important as a therapist to consider things such as confidentiality, ethics and cultural competency. All of these aspects of a helper can relate to working with clients who are HIV+, and they are important to counseling this population. It is hard to find a therapist who is educated in the culture of HIV/AIDS, and who understands what the client is going through. All of these aspects of therapy should be kept in mind with any population, but it is especially important in working with clients who are HIV+. There are some regular themes that have come up in HIV/AIDS counseling which include secrecy, complexity and relationships/interaction. Secrecy relates to the question of who the client should disclose his or her status to, and how the therapist can guide the client on that. Complexity means that both socially and biomedically, many people are involved with the client, which can lead to more problems or conflicts. Relationships/interaction refers to the fact that HIV/AIDS can create a relationship problem due to the social stigma of the illness and fear of contracting the illness. (Bor & Miller). As a therapist, there are many basics to consider in counseling a client with HIV/AIDS. These basics are generally the basics of counseling which can be applied to working with any population, but some of these concepts are especially important in counseling people who are HIV+. Confidentiality and ethics are closely related. Clients are expected to trust their therapists, but ethically, there are things that therapists need to expose to authorities. In Becoming a Helper, Corey & Corey use an example of working with a client who is HIV+. “As a helper, you may need to balance your client’s right to confidentiality against warning a third party ho may be at risk…” (Corey & Corey 239). There is a balance between confidentiality and ethics in regards to working with clients who are HIV+. “… Practitioners who work with HIV-positive clients will continue to wrestle with the ethical issues in deciding on a course of action with their clients” (Corey & Corey 239). It’s a hard balance, but apparently confidentiality with the client holds more than ethics do. The client must trust the therapist, so in this type of case, the therapist must keep confidentiality. Other therapists that Corey & Corey work with claim that “there are many alternative to breaking confidentiality and warning a third party” (Corey & Corey 240). Imaginably, this would mean the client telling the third party themselves.

            Cultural competency is another concept that is important for those in the helping profession to understand. In regards to HIV, this is extremely important because it involves knowing different cultural beliefs. In HIV prevention and education, it’s difficult to get through to people who culturally do not talk about sex and the body in the same way that Americans do. “These beliefs and attitudes make our job very hard… you can’t talk about HIV without talking about sex, certain body parts, certain activities and certain truths that many people would prefer [not to hear]” (Lechky). In this Canadian article, it states that people “reason [that] they’re not white, not gay, and don’t use drugs, and therefore are not at risk. There’s still a lot of stigmatization and stereotyping around who gets infected” (Lechky). Therefore, it’s important to look at all cultures and the different ways in which they can be educated, regardless of their beliefs. There is a huge emphasis on clients seeing the therapist as a real human being, and building a trusting relationship between the two. It is important for the therapist to be “very open-minded, nonjudgmental, and willing to educate themselves on the issues” (Lechky). There is clearly a huge importance in knowing and really understanding what the client is going through, and if the therapist is not actually going through the same, education about the issues is of great importance in understanding and empathizing.

Self-Reflection & My Future as a Helper

            I absolutely love being at the Boston Living Center. It has been an integral part in my experience at Lesley, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I was so skeptical about going in there and working with clients; I simply didn’t have any idea what to expect from the HIV/AIDS population. I am now fully open-minded and loving towards everyone, no matter their situation. Working with this population has opened my heart to so many different opportunities in the helping profession. Honestly, I can’t see myself leaving the BLC. This is such a spectacular community center for people living with this illness, and I know that it has helped so many. One of the members, told me that he was in a really terrible place (mentally, physically, and environmentally) before he came to the BLC. Now, he’s doing so much better and he wants it to stay that way. He revealed to me that being at the Boston Living Center really made him want to live with AIDS, not die from it.  The Center has been a turnaround place for so many people, and I am so happy to be a part of it. The members have been recognizing me, and it just warms my heart to know that I can make a difference to them. Simply smiling at them brightens their days, and some will open up to me and tell me stories. I love that I have already made such an impact just by being my positive, smiley self. I know that I am supposed to terminate at the BLC, and I will as an intern, but there is no way I can stay away from this place as a volunteer. I have been sucked in and there is no way for me to get out. I am making time next semester to make a point to go to the Center at least once a week, that’s how much of an impact it has had on me. I am so incredibly grateful for being given this opportunity to make a difference.

            As for future internships, I am sticking with the helping professions. A recent interest of mine has become veterans, specifically those with PTSD. I would like to find an internship at an organization for veterans, and I would like the organization to have a population of women. Maybe there is a place for women veterans that I can do something at. This new interested was discovered when I was in my Women, Culture and Society class with Amy Rutsein-Riley, and we had a guest speaker who spewed off all of these statistics about the lack of help that veterans receive when they come back from serving. I was especially interested by the fact that approximately 70% of women report sexual assault during their service. These numbers were appalling to me, and I can imagine that these women aren’t necessarily getting the help that they do need to recover from these traumatizing experiences. The same goes for veterans in general, because I don’t necessarily think that they are getting the correct counseling necessary for their PTSD. I would especially like to work with wounded soldiers in getting back on their feet and back into the social world of the United States. Many end up homeless and hungry because there are no programs that show them how to live again. This is research that I will be conducting over winter break.

            As a whole, the Boston Living Center has been a place of sanity for me over the past semester.  I couldn’t imagine not loving waking up and going to my internship two days a week as some people do. I absolutely love the people and the environment, and I especially love that everyone who works there is there to help. If I would have to say one thing I want to do in the future, just one, it would have to be helping people. It’s my self-care, it’s my happiness and soon, it will be my career.

Two great videos about the BLC in the news in December

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/29998607/detail.html

http://www.reuters.com/video/2011/11/29/living-with-hiv-not-a-death-sentence?videoId=225950659

Please watch and share!

An Interview with Theresa Powers, BLC Intern Fall 2011

Theresa Powers, Lesley University

 

 

What kind of work do you do here at the BLC?

I’ve been doing everything here!

I’ve been working in the kitchen one or two days a week, helping to prepare and serve food to the members. I’ve also been working with the wonderful Lisa, our volunteer coordinator, doing tasks for her that she needs help with.

You are an intern from Lesley University, why do you think Lesley supports Service Learning? 

Lesley starts their internships earlier than most schools, so I am only in my sophomore year. It’s important to get students out into the field as soon as possible to gain experience that will help them to obtain jobs in the future. Service Learning is important because students are able to serve a community or population and learn so much about it at the same time. I am personally very involved in the community service program at Lesley, so I am very grateful that I was able to do an internship that also serves a population in need.

What are you studying at Lesley and how has your time here prepared you for post graduation? 

I am studying Holistic Psychology with a Sociology minor. In the Sociology aspect, my time at the BLC has exposed me to a population that I never would have imagined working with! It has broadened my interests and shown me that there are so many opportunities for after I graduate. In respect to Holistic Psychology, I have realized that the holistic therapies can work virtually anywhere and I will have so many opportunities in the future. Being here at the BLC has taught me to be open to everyone, as well as reiterated the fact that there is so much to learn about everyone you meet.

You have an interest in holistic therapies, based on your experience here how do you think they help the chronically ill?

Holistic therapy is so important to healthy living, especially here at the BLC. Holistic therapies look at everything as a whole, which includes mind, body, spirit and environment. All of these aspects are so important, because the chronically-ill not only need to take care of their body, but their environment plays a huge role as well. Specifically here, the BLC provides a community and a healthy, positive environment and is important for the support of all the members.

Our membership seems to really enjoy your company here- how do you feel as a volunteer about your interactions with our members? 

I love being at the BLC so much! I leave here every day feeling so happy and great, and that’s a feeling that I can’t get anywhere else. I am so glad that I get to brighten days just by smiling and having little conversations with the members. The members are starting to recognize me now, and that is another awesome feeling. I’m glad that I can be here to help J

Has your perception of who we help changed over the few months you’ve been here?

I was very skeptical at first, coming here and not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really have any assumptions about the population; I really just had no clue what to expect. I have learned to be open and accepting of everyone, because every member has a story to be told.

Is there anything else you’d want people to know about the BLC?

The BLC is really a beautiful organization that helps the HIV+ community in more ways than I can ever explain. It is a wonderful place for people to come together and just be people and hang out with others who are just like them. I know that the BLC has changed so many lives, and I know that it can only excel from here on out. I am so grateful that I have been a part of the BLC for the past few months and that I have been welcomed with open arms. I will definitely be back to volunteer in the future, there’s absolutely no way that I can ever leave!

The BLC would like to offer our most grateful appreciation to Theresa who has volunteered her time with us all semester long and contributed in so many ways to our community. 

A trip through Cyberspace- Andrew Friedman

Andrew Friedman- Emerson College

The Boston Living Center takes living very seriously. It could be a member lunch, painting class, yoga, or a massage, theBostonLivingCenterworks to make sure that you know how to live your life. Every day this center enables its’ members and allows them to reach their full potential: giving them skills, a sense of community, resources and most importantly hope. A hope that reminds the members of this center that living with HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence that it used to be; that people can live their lives to the fullest regardless of their status and their socioeconomic level. That is what the Boston Living Center does. It gives people a chance to live.

From the moment I walked into the doors of theBoston Living Center I was greeted with respect and kindness. It didn’t matter to anyone if I was a member or a volunteer but only that I was there to make a difference. I was to only stay five weeks, as part of a service learning project at Emerson College, but I quickly found that a place like this you could volunteer for a lifetime.

I was set up in the computer lab, where I was to help members in need of basic Microsoft Office skills or just any problems on the computer. I was nervous, quiet, and wondered if I was going to be receptive in my mission to help the members of this community. Would they merely view me as another volunteer just doing this because I was assigned?  Would they not take me seriously because I didn’t have HIV?  These questions pounded through my brain as I wandered down the hall on my way to towards Cyberspace. In about three seconds of being in that room, those thoughts were out of my head. Everyone wanted to talk, everyone wanted some help and everybody was nicer than I could ever believe. It didn’t even matter to people that I didn’t have HIV.  In fact I forgot I was even in a place that helped people with HIV!

 As I write this on my final day of the project I am filled with a sense of connection that I had never anticipated. Since day one I have been accepted into the Cyberspace community and it is a community that I will dearly miss. The laughter of people watching YouTube, the constant writing and re-writing from people working on letters and papers and the warm handshake and great conversation of Stuart, the overseer of the whole operation.

The Boston Living Center has enthralled me, challenged me, taught me and most of all inspired me. It reminded me how important it was to take full advantage of the simple fact that we are here breathing on this Earth together. That regardless of HIV status or socioeconomic class we all are connected and reliant on one another and it is our mission to help each other. That is the most important lesson of all and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Thank you,  Andrew Friedman Emerson College

Expression Yourself Art Class- Halloween edition – By Abigail Thompson

Kitty Pumpkin
Wonderful pumpkin created by BLC Member

It is a crisp and beautiful Friday. The Living Center is as busy as ever. Today in the free expression art class, taught by Juan, Halloween spirit is in the air. The members are pumpkin painting, and the table filled with pumpkins are causing quite a bit of traffic in the art studio. Members stop in their tracks to look at the spooky creations. Using the center’s new paints and perfectly shaped pumpkins, the orange orbs begin to take on a life of their own. Sharing ideas for pumpkin creation and stories of Halloween’s past, it seems everyone’s spirits are bright today. Glitter appears to be the theme of the patch, with scary, happy and colorful pumpkins finished with beautiful, sparkling glitter. Juan’s class is attracting all sorts of visitors, and almost everyone has at least paused to take a look at the spectacle. “There’s a pumpkin in here with your name on it!” he encourages passerby’s to stop in and make a pumpkin of their own. Everyone is in the best of spirits at the Boston Living Center this Halloween, and talk about the Monday October 31st special Halloween dinner is filling the room.

On Ocotber the 31st, those who came to the center in costume entered a raffle to win prizes. The center was adorned in spooky decorations and stocked with cider and candy apples.  Halloween is a holiday that is not to be missed at the Boston Living Center! 

BU School of Medicine Volunteers helped serve Monday Night Dinner in costume!

Are we April Fools for a New Fad Diet?

BLC Nutrition Intern – Jennifer Stallings of Simmons College shares her thoughts on fad diets and how to keep your nutrition goals in line.  Nutrition is a high priority for every person’s health but especially so for those living with a cronic disease like HIV.

 It’s finally April and the old saying “April showers bring May flowers” will hopefully hold true . The first of this month is also the only day of the year you may be “fooled” by friends or others playing a practical joke in honor of the 1st, otherwise known as “April Fools Day.” Oftentimes, there is a media presence in the world of diet and nutrition claiming there has been an exposed “secret” to the most weight loss or BEST life after starting a particular diet. Like the tricks played on the first of April, these claims are known as “fad diets.”

These types of diets are types of eating patterns that promote short-term weight loss but are not concerned with long-term weight maintenance. The ultimate goal for any dietary change is a long-term improvement whether that is a decrease in weight or enhancing overall health. Below are a few diets that are thought to speed weight loss however, the research does not support this.

Gwyenth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey

 Gluten Free diets

             Celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Gwyneth Paltrow have recently tried the Gluten Free Diet which they claim helped them shed pounds. Foods that contain wheat, barley and rye contain the protein gluten. Baked goods that contain gluten can be high in fat and calories such as muffins, bagels, cake, and brownies so eliminating these from the diet has the potential to decrease weight. The key reason here is simply because a person is eating less sugar and fat from these foods not because they are eliminating gluten from their diet. Currently there isn’t supporting scientific evidence to support the belief that replacing a food containing gluten with a gluten-free food (both of which contain the same calories) will help with weight loss. Perhaps the GF diet weight loss idea comes from the fact that a person may incorporate more filling grains without gluten such as buckwheat, corn, rice or amaranth however some non-gluten whole grains have less fiber than the gluten-containing equivalent.

            Unfortunately a gluten-free diet is not the secret you aren’t trying to finally lose those pounds. It may be a way to jump-start a diet by eliminating certain foods from an overall intake, however there is no evidence to support gluten-free foods will help you lose weight.

 The Bonus Years Diet

             Written by Ralph Felder, M.D. and Ph.D. and Carol Colman with Oscar H. Franco M.D., Ph.D., this book, The Bonus Years Diet although published back in 2007, makes an outstanding promise. Right on the front cover reads “7 Miracle foods—including chocolate, red wine and nuts—that can add 6.4 years on average to your life.” With health concerns hitting the media in full force including the obesity epidemic, radiation in water supplies, BPA risk and heart disease, who wouldn’t want to tack on as much as six years to their life? Daily recommendations made by the author consist of daily intake of: 5 ounces red wine, 2 ounces dark chocolate, 4 cups of raw fruits and vegetables, one glove of garlic and 2 ounces of nuts. Add to these three 5-oune servings of fish a week and you could be looking at longevity, lower blood pressure and a decrease in heart disease risk.

            These claims cite powerful antioxidants, flavonoids and phytochemicals present in these foods that can decrease disease risk along with lowering inflammation and cholesterol.  Apart from these delicious foods, the rest of the diet is up to the reader. Pitfalls do exist, as with any diet, in that these six foods should be mixed up to avoid repetitiveness. Healthful eating and reaching a goal weight is all about variety to avoid boredom.

This diet may seem too good to be true and it probably is. Trying this diet means sticking by the serving sizes to avoid excess calories from fat and sugar. Ever enjoy a meal and exceed a 5 ounce serving of red wine? How about grabbing a bar of chocolate and limiting yourself to 2 ounces? Moderation is key especially when it comes to alcohol, chocolate and nuts. To successfully reap the benefits of the “Bonus Years Diet” one must eat the recommended foods in the amount identified to avoid extra calories. Such a diet is promoting eating chocolate, nuts, and drinking red wine when in fact, these foods can be part of any lifestyle in moderate amounts together with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products. No magical diet can give you longevity but a lifestyle dedicated to healthy attitudes about food, exercise and health can.  

What may work better for you?

            Instead of throwing away everything in your cabinet and stocking up on gluten-free pasta, red-wine and dark chocolate, try to incorporate guidelines from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released by The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This document provides useful information concerning eating and physical activity patterns which focus on consuming fewer calories, being physically active to maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of chronic disease and promotion of overall health. Some recommendations include:

Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. •

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids from avocados, nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil.
  • Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol. Foods that are high in cholesterol include butter, cheese, full fat meat and dairy.
  • Avoid trans fat which appears on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable/soybean/palm oil.”
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially those that are dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas. These include kale, spinach, red-peppers, sweet-potatoes, tomatoes, soybeans, kidney and black beans.
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains to increase intake of fiber. Look for at least 3 grams or more fiber per serving on packages of bread.
  • Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or soy beverages.
  • For adults, exercise for at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) a week. This could include brisk walking, yoga, jogging, weight training or other aerobic activities.

 There is not hidden secret to weight loss no matter what celebrities and diet books are promoting. The key is to allow some wiggle room in a diet based around low-sodium, lean sources of food including an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate, a glass of red wine and a fish filet but remember that these calorie dense foods should not be the foundation of any diet. Remaining active and aware of food choices related to overall health is key.

The BLC would like to thank Jennifer for her contributions to our blog and her continued support of the HIV/AIDS community.