Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Block is Just a Block, and a Mile is Just a Mile

Okay, I see you bringing out your knives to stab me. But hold off for a second. When we were children, we were so excited at the opportunity to walk down the street, jump around in the backyard, and just do anything besides sit in the same position for hours. Today, as adults, we just want to sit. Yes, we work and all that. And we have more responsibility so we get tired at the end of the day. But children get tired too. They have to go to school, do homework, and argue with their parents all day. You get my point?

As a culture, we have to start changing the way we think. You might say that we can afford all the luxuries of life, so why should we give up our engines for a half hour walk when we could get where we are going in ten minutes? Well, so your body can thank you. That’s why. Growing up in the African culture, most of us had uncles, aunties, cousins, house girls, house boys, cooks, drivers, wash men, and whatever other form of help we could find. So we don’t even walk down the street anymore. Someone else makes the food, serves the food, cleans the house, drives you around, and if possible, they would wash us too. So it is difficult to start thinking that we need to start walking more. But yes, that’s what I’m trying to say in a roundabout fashion: We need to start walking more.

On days like this, where it is icy on the ground (depending on where you are) and all you want to do is stay home, I can understand your hesitance to even open your front door. But don’t you wake up in the AM to go to work, church, the mosque, and even grocery shopping? You get up to go to the club, visit your friends, do your laundry, and get your car oil changed. So why not start thinking of your body like your laundry? When all your clothes are dirty, you’d have nothing to wear. Or like your car? When you don’t change your oil, your car could go through serious problems. Your body is like a car. You have to fix it one way or the other. So it’s either you work with it now to keep it running right, or you try (emphasis on ‘try’) to fix it when it goes bad.

Walking for about half an hour every day helps us keep our engines running. Granted, it may not burn the amount of fat that running does, and it may not give us amazing muscles like yoga might, but it is a good start. Most of us are busy, but in watching people, I do not know anyone that I can really look at and say “This person cannot possibly spare half an hour today to take a walk.” People like to look busy, and so complain that they have no time to do anything, but when you look at their lives, they do have time. Even if they don’t, they can make time if it is important enough. So my question for you is why are our bodies not important enough???

Some of us really need to spend some time in hospitals or with dying people to realize that a little can go a long way. We cannot control everything, but we can control what we can control. We can control our legs, right? Make it fun! Walk to the mall, walk around with your little brothers, sisters, cousins, sons, daughters this Christmas. A little walking won’t kill you. It only takes about 3 minutes to walk a block, and twenty minutes to walk a mile at a regular pace. Just think about making it to the next street, and then the next street, and before you know it, BAM!, you’ve walked a mile.

So please take a walk today. A block is just that: a block.

Have the Merriest Christmas ever Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It Is Cold! So Why Am I Running?

A few days ago I ran in the rain. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think it was raining that hard. But the stares I got on the street said otherwise. Or maybe that’s just because it was raining and freezing at the same time. So I guess this means people don’t like to run outside in the cold. Well, really, do you?

Since the winter is here, those who have to suffer through it would probably be looking for other ways to get their daily dose of calorie burn in. Here are a few great options:

Treadmill it: If you are privileged enough to have a gym close to you (and you are privileged enough to afford it), use it! It takes your body about 20 minutes to warm up when it’s freezing outside, so the treadmill doesn’t only keep you warm, it saves you time. Just remember to step up the incline to about 1 to mimic running in the street.

Workout DVDs: ‘Tis the season for workout DVDs! There are so many options out there now that are even more intense than going to aerobic classes. The only negative point here is that since it is just you and your telly, it takes a lot more drive to push yourself beyond your limits. When you go to an exercise class, it’s all about competition, but when you work out in your living room, you have the tendency to relax whenever you get a little tired. So just workout like there are people watching.

Attend a class: Which leads to the next point, go to an exercise class if you have one near you. The best overall workout classes are the kickboxing classes, the yoga classes, and the all-over aerobic classes. I know boys don’t usually like to go to exercise classes, but this is where you might benefit from working out like a girl. Exercise classes usually help with both the cardio and strength training portions of your workout.

Dance: I’ve probably said this before, but I really love people that can lock themselves up in a room, play a little music, and dance till they sweat. They are not trying to impress anyone, not trying to look cute, simply dancing to the music with complete abandon, and burning off some calories. Plus, you can do this at home so why not?

Indoor sports: One of the great things about a sport like squash is that it is indoors. Apart from squash, a lot of other indoor sports burn a lot of calories. Some examples are swimming and indoor basketball. And there’s no better way to burn calories than during a competition. Lower fat, higher ego. Sounds lovely.

Partner up: Talking about competition, you usually burn the most calories when you think someone else is taking notes on your performance. So whatever type of workout you choose, you would probably be making it more effective if you choose to hook up with someone else. If your friend lifts 10 pounds, you’d want to lift 15. If he/she does 10 pushups, you’d want to do 20. Partnering up just makes you push yourself a little harder.

How do you plan to stay fit this winter? Would you be incorporating any of the tips above or do you have your tried and true winter workout solution? Share with us.

Oh, and Merry Christmas in advance for those who celebrate Christmas. Remember to apply the Holiday Eating Rules this Christmas!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Interview with Ngo Okafor: "I can be Anything I Want to Be"

The most downloaded black male model on the internet. And yes, he is Nigerian. I got a chance to catch up with him on his current projects, and how he keeps in shape.

E&W: I know you have your hands in a lot of things, but when people ask you what you do, what do you say?
Ngo: I tell them that I’m a brand. The reason why I do so many things is because I have the opportunity to, and it’s all part of my brand. Because what I’m trying to promote is the idea that you can do anything if you just work hard and focus. I started out doing Computer Science, which is what I studied in college, and was successful at it. And then I went into modeling, put my energy into it, got pretty successful. And then I got into acting, and then boxing, and I’m getting successful at that too. I don’t want to put myself in a box so that if say I wake up one morning and want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I can do it without hesitation. I have no desire to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but you know what I mean.

E&W: I laugh. I mean you don’t see too many Nigerian men climbing mountains and what not.
Ngo: Exactly! But if I wanted to do anything, I want to wake up and feel like I can do it. I want people to hear my story and feel like they can do anything they want, and not fall into one box.

E&W: Tells us a little about your history and how you got into boxing, modeling, and acting?
Ngo: When the economy was going up and down, I got laid off from my job as an IT Specialist. That was great because it got me thinking and I realized that I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world. I felt like I wanted to try something new. The arts were really always at the back of my mind, but growing up Nigerian, it was always about science, science, science. There was a photographer at my gym that had always said he wanted to work with me, but I ignored it because I felt I had a comfortable job and I didn’t need to venture out.
So after I lost my job, I asked him to take some pictures. We took the pictures to modeling agencies and they really liked the images, so they agreed to represent me, and started sending me for jobs. I was really lucky that I started working right away.

E&W: With boxing you were pretty bold though, right? You said you started doing it seriously in your thirties?
Ngo: Yes, I remember my first day at the boxing gym was October 2005. That was the first day I ever walked into a boxing gym. I was so mesmerized that I started training every day. I felt like this was my chance to play a sport. Luckily, I advanced so much and won the Golden Glove championships twice within three years.

Readers, if you didn’t know, the New York Golden Glove Championship is like the most prestigious amateur boxing championship outside of the Olympics. People come from all over the world to fight in the Golden Glove because it’s a great place to showcase your talent.

E&W: So are you planning to go further with your boxing talent?
Ngo:  Right now, it’s not my goal. My goal was to compete in the tournament and win, and I did that. But as a competitive person, I do wonder from time to time about how I would do if I took boxing to the professional level. But I want to focus my energy more on acting and producing films. I still train every day though, and the truth is that in life, you never really know how much your goals can change from one day to the next.

E&W: So you’re Nigerian. Can you tell me a little about your ties to Nigeria right now?
Ngo: I was born in Massachusetts while my dad was getting his PhD. But he always knew that he wanted his kids to grow up in Nigeria, learn the culture, the language, and get close to family. So when he was done, we moved back. I was probably about a year and a half when we moved back, and I live in Nigeria till I was 18. Half of my life actually. 

E&W: Where in Nigeria did you grow up?
Ngo: I grew up in Enugu, which is in eastern Nigeria. My parents live in Maryland right now, but I still have a lot of family back in Nigeria so I do maintain a lot of ties back home.

E&W: Okay. So I know you were working on a documentary about your life in Nigeria. Can you tell us a little about that?
Ngo: Yes, it’s called ‘Triumph of the Will’. I’m still working on it right now, but we’re hoping to have it done early next year.

E&W: You’re also releasing a calendar as part of the same project, right? 
Ngo: Yes, it will be part of the documentary because the funds that we raise from the sales of the calendar will go to charity in Nigeria, and the calendar sales will be shot as part of the documentary.

E&W: Can you tell us a little about what the documentary will be about?
Ngo: We’re basically going to try to show my life full circle. Coming from Nigeria definitely helped shape who I am. Nigerians are taught to be strong, tough, and proud from the day we’re born. The toughness has definitely helped me in the ring, but the pride was also what kept me from giving in whenever things got a little tough.

E&W: So when you say full circle, it’s your life coming from Nigeria here and how both cultures have affected you?
Ngo: Exactly. It’s just documenting what my life was like there, my life here, the modeling, acting, and boxing, and then going back and seeing things from a different perspective than when I was there.

E&W: So you’ll be shooting part of the documentary in Nigeria?
Ngo: Definitely. We’ll be shooting in Enugu, going to houses where I grew up, and the schools that I went to. I went to the University of Nsukka in Nigeria for a little bit as well. So we’ll also shoot out there.

E&W: Apart from the documentary, you also had a workout DVD a while back. Do you have any plans to release more?
Ngo: Hmmm… not right now. My focus right now is on acting and producing. I’m not a great multi-tasker. I’m the type of person that picks one thing to focus on at a time, excel at it, and then move on to the next thing.

E&W: For the documentary, workout DVD, calendar, or any other recent movies or projects you’ve worked on, have you had to do any special training? What was that like?
Ngo:For the DVD and the calendar, I had to switch up my training a little bit because the training for boxing and for modeling are very different. For modeling, you train more for leanness and the look. For boxing, it’s more about quickness and strength; a boxer is not too concerned about his looks. So for the DVD and calendar, it was a lot of lifting and dieting. I had to cut down my carbs. So my workout usually went like this: I would run for about 30 minutes and bike for 30 minutes in the morning. Then I would come back in the evening and do my strength training. For strength training, I usually split it into body parts per day. So arms one day, back and shoulders another, and then legs another day.

E&W: Wowee! That’s your schedule for when you want to build lean muscle. So if you were not training for your calendar, what would your normal workout schedule look like?
Ngo:Now my normal training is: boxing for about an hour, and then I would strength train. But one really important thing for me on a day to day basis is to keep my workout constantly changing. So I try to circuit train a lot with bits of cardio in between different sets when I strength train to keep my heart rate up. One thing I try to incorporate into my regular strength training is like six weeks of different body parts per day, and then six weeks of mixing up body parts each day. That is to make sure my body does not get too used to the workouts.
E&W: What about food? I think for most Africans, keeping our diet balanced is even more difficult than heading to the gym. What does your diet look like?
Ngo:Well, I can’t eat pounded yam and garri if I want to do a calendar. I would eat pounded yam and egusi soup every day for the rest of my life if I could. That’s my favorite meal. But to keep in shape, I wake up every morning and eat about four eggs and a bowl of oatmeal. For lunch, I usually do rice or potatoes with chicken or beef. I’m trying to eat my vegetables, so at night I usually eat some vegetables with some meat. I don’t do much snacking, so it’s three meals and that’s it.

E&W: What about supplements? Do you taken any?
Ngo: I try not to. Unless I’m training for a fight, I usually don’t do supplementation. I do the regular multivitamins daily and that’s enough for me. If I was training for a fight, I would take protein shakes during the day.

E&W: What’s your secret though? How do you keep so physically focused? Whether it’s exercise, food, or boxing, how do you stay on target?
Ngo: Fear. Fear of losing. The entertainment industry is not like medicine or engineering where there are thousands of positions. Instead, there are so few spots and so many people vying for that one job. When you rely on your body for your livelihood, that’s certainly good motivation.

E&W: Lastly, at Eights & Weights, we are very focused on the words ‘Healthy’ and ‘Happy’. What do these mean to you?
Ngo: Health and happiness to me is about freedom to think, freedom to do anything I want to do, and being able to do what I want to do health wise. I’m not talking about having a six pack. If I wanted to run up the stairs and not get breathless, I can do that. Health also consists of healthy thinking. Our minds control our bodies, and so whatever state of mind we are in usually reflects how we look. If I can control the way I think, I can get fitter. For example, if I am immediately inclined to take the stairs when the elevator is not working, that’s a sign that I’m thinking healthily. This is basically being mentally and physically ready and strong to do anything.

To learn more about Ngo’s projects, and to buy his calendars (ladies, you know you want to) and workout DVDs (guys, you know you want to), visit Look out for his documentary next year.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Modern Day Popeye's Spinach.

Well, I was chatting with a friend this week about how awesome Gatorade is. Let me give you a little background. It's not that I actually drink Gatorade, but I am an avid University of Florida alumnus, emphasis on 'avid', so I'll start by saying GO GATORS! And yes, just in case you were wondering, we did create Gatorade. Feel free to worship now.

Okay, okay, back to my topic. Energy drinks. What really is the difference between the various kinds? And do energy drinks really benefit the body at all? It's fairly easy to chug down an energy drink when you're about to head to the gym and your body feels tired. After all, it is called an ENERGY drink. But it's important to know what's in these drinks, and if they are giving you energy at the expense of something else. Here are a few highlights on energy drinks that I think are important to know:

Caffeine: When we hear the word caffeine, we automatically think of coffee, right? But caffeine is also in soda and energy drinks as well. Actually, the caffeine in energy drinks is usually just as much as that in coffee, and sometimes more depending on the type of coffee you drink (instant coffee usually contains less caffeine). So why is this bad? Well, caffeine stimulates your nervous system keeping you alert, but it also dehydrates you. So while the short term effect seems great, in the long run, you could be messing with your nervous system, especially if you become dependent on it for exercise. For a list of the caffeine content of energy drinks, check out this link: Caffeine Content of Beverages.

Taurine: This is an amino acid that helps to regulate your body's energy levels. The body already produces enough of this unless you are ill, but energy drinks usually contain more. So it is not certain if this ingredient helps the body in any way.

The 'Ades': Gatorade, Powerade, and all other sorts of electrolyte ades. There is a huge controversy about whether these are energy drinks or not. They are advertised as drinks that help replenish the body after a workout, and even give you energy before. And that's what energy drinks are right? Not really. These 'ades' help to hydrate the body where energy drinks actually do the reverse. They do not contain caffeine so they usually don't mess with your nervous system. What they contain is a proper blend of sugar, water, and salt to efficiently hydrate your cells. So they will provide you energy, but not necessarily in the instant way that caffeine does. Now even though I think Gatorade is fantastic (isn't the concept just genius?), be careful when you drink these because studies have shown that they may contribute to enamel erosion. In other words, you start getting grandma teeth at 25. Not a good look.

Ginseng: What the hell is Ginseng? Ginseng is an herb that helps to prevent fatigue. Right now, studies have shown no negative effects unless regularly consumed in very large quantities. So go ahead and have that ginseng. But remember that it's more about relieving stress and preventing fatigue than it is about giving you that instant energy that engorges your muscles so they start ripping through your shirt. Just saying.

Sugar content: Shocker! Energy drinks contain a lot of sugar. If you've ever been around a child that has just ingested way too much sugar, you know sugar gives you instant energy. And thus, it makes sense that drinks that are created to give you an instant energy boost do contain lots of sugar. So who cares? Why is tons and tons of sugar bad? For one, lots of sugar usually means lots of calories. Another demerit is that too much sugar intake has been linked to diabetes. And as we all know, diabetes is a disease that black people are already at risk for, so we should probably not be doing too much to push our bodies. Lastly, the more sugar your take in, the more sugar your body wants. Sugar is like cocaine really, except that it's legal and won't affect you if you take it in small quantities. The more you eat, the more you want. I think I'm in the wrong profession actually. I should have started selling desserts. Oh well...

In summary, energy drinks seem to help the body get that instant push, but should be taken carefully and infrequently. They do have some positive benefits, but the major drawback is the number of calories and the effect on your nervous system. Try not to get too dependent on them. Rather than take energy drinks, it seems better for the body if you eat energy boosting foods before you work out, and eat protein and carbs after you work out to repair your muscles and replenish your energy. And of course, if you play a lot of sports or work out a lot, the electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are very useful because they help you stay properly hydrated though your game or your work out routine.

Are you seriously attached to your energy drinks? What's your drink of choice and why?

Have a lovely week Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cleanses: Healthy or Unsafe?

Before I start, let me say this. I am against colon cleanses unless absolutely necessary, so my advice here may not be the most objective. Please do some more research before making a decision.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing with a group of African ladies about cleanses. The consensus around the table was that it was a great tool to flush out the system and lose a little weight in the process. In fact, one lady mentioned that Dr. Oz had said it was okay to cleanse as long as it was not done too often. So with my detective mind and my anti-cleanse conviction, I decided to do some research. I found out that Dr. Oz does say that if the colon is healthy, the mind is happy, but that’s where he ends it. Actually, Dr. Oz had performed a trial on a few women and men to see if cleanses had any positive effect on the body. The result? The people who regularly cleansed had not lost any weight compared to those who didn’t, and they were not protected from any sort of diseases. So really the effect of cleansing may be just in our minds.

So I guess the biggest question is why do people colon cleanse? How did the trend start? Colon cleansing started in the early 1900s, but there was no theory to support it so it kind of died down. With the emergence of the internet, weight loss diets, and online medical advice, it came back in style. One of the main theories behind colon cleansing is an ancient belief that certain foods cause mucus buildup in the colon, which produces toxins that enter the blood's circulation and poison the body. So long story short, colon cleansing is simply forcing the colon to expel all of its contents, including the mucus buildup. I hear you say “But isn’t that already what my poop is?” That’s where the big question lies. There really is very little to no research to suggest that regular poop is not enough. 

Doctors have said to people time and time again. You were created with kidneys and a liver that already do the cleansing and detoxifying job for your body just fine. In fact, this is why these organs were created, to flush out toxins. You don’t need any external sources to flush out toxins from your system unless your organs are not working right. And of course if your organs are not working right, you need to go see a doctor, who would prescribe the right type of treatment.

There are two types of colon cleanses: one is using dietary supplements, and the other is by going to a colon hygienist to perform a colon irrigation. I think most of us are familiar with the dietary supplement type of colon cleanse. Is there really research behind the ingredients of these dietary supplements to support the fact that they do the job that our livers and kidneys supposedly do not? If you go online to search for colon cleansing research, you’ll find a bunch of companies claiming endorsement by Oprah and Dr. Oz, and then if you go to Oprah’s website, you’ll find a note stating that they do not really endorse any of these companies. None of the colon cleansers are approved or endorsed by the FDA or any other healthy regulatory body, so you buy them at your own risk without any guarantee (which I’m fairly certain they would write in small print on the bottom of the box). 

The contents of most of the colon cleansers are the same though: acai berry, laxatives, herbal teas, enzymes, anti-parasites, and some other mystery stuff. A lot of companies have been touting acai berry and herbal teas as great weight loss products because they boost your metabolism. We know that they are good for the body as they contain antioxidants, but are they proven weight loss helpers? This has not been proven. I don’t think any of the items that make up these colon cleansers are harmful in small quantities, but when taken over and over, things like laxatives and enzymes can have really bad side effects.

So trust me (for those who know me or have read this blog for a while), what did I do? I went to see my doctor. First question I asked him was about this whole colon cleansing theory. I figured I’d use the most of my time there since it is after all covered in my consultation charge, right? What did he tell me? You’re dying to know, aren’t you? He said I should focus more on what I eat rather than think about flushing my body of toxins. What you put in has more of an effect on your body than anything else. His biggest advice was to eat tons of fiber-rich foods like whole grain, vegetables, fruits, and oatmeal (which I already do so yay!), and drink lots of fluid. And when I say fluid, I mean water, not alcohol. I see all the sad faces around town. Don’t worry, you’ll be okay.

In summary, all the professional advice seems to be pointing towards the fact that you can cleanse your colon if it makes you feel better, but really, it seems like the positive effects of colon cleansing are all in the mind.

Any thoughts?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

As the Holidays Begin…

If you are in the US, you know that this week is Thanksgiving week. People are talking about turkey here and there like they can’t wait. As for me, I don’t get uber excited about turkey. I need to marinade it in some pepper and spices before it even leaves the ‘bland’ section. But because it is turkey, these spices don’t usually get all the way in. Well, if I can’t cook the turkey Naija style, I guess I probably won’t cook the turkey.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, you know that the holidays are here and that usually means food, food, food. If you are looking for some healthy options for the holidays, here are a few things you can add to the dinner table to reduce the calories without reducing the flavor.

Make your own drinks: So I know holidays are usually our chance to drink as much Coke and Malta Guinness as humanly possible (or was that only me as a child?). But rather than spend money on soda, why not make your own Kunu and Zobo instead? Sometimes, we give our local drinks the cold shoulder when we’re trying to prove fancy, but these drinks are so much better for us than the over-processed alternative. Zobo is such an easy option since it basically makes itself. All you have to do is soak the leaves in hot water for a while to get all the juice out, sieve out the leaves add in some flavoring, sugar, ginger, or whatever fruit you like to give it a fruity taste, and throw it in the fridge to cool off. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

Don’t ‘rice’ everything: Why not introduce some diversity to the dinner table? Most of the time, we make rice the highlight, and everything else is kind of a side dish. This year, you could make just as much rice as you make beans and vegetables so that you’re forced to fill half your plate with some healthy options.

‘Appetize’ your guests: If you’re serving appetizers, try not to serve anything that you’ll have to cook. When you cook appetizers, you get tempted to bake and serve all sorts of pastries. Instead, buy a lot of fruits and vegetables. Chop them up and lay them out beautifully. So while you’re waiting for the main course, if you’re tempted to touch anything, you’d be surrounded by fruits and vegetables so that’s all you’d eat.

Reduce the oil consumption: Fried meat is great, but to reduce the oil in your food, try grilling. Make fried rice, stew, jollof rice with just a splatter of oil. Sometimes, I make fried rice without any oil at all. I just use some pan spray to reduce stickiness, and let the meat stock and vegetables do their job. Throw in some liver and it gets even tastier :)

Introduce healthy desserts: Remember pumpkin pie? A few weeks ago, we did talk about some healthy dessert options. Try some of these over the holidays. Check that article out here.

Spice up your veggie options: As you try to introduce more veggies to the dinner table, try to keep it colorful and interesting. The more colorful the vegetables, the better they are for you. Instead of just lettuce, celery, and carrots, steam up some green beans, Brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus. Maybe grill them up with some garlic and peppers to give it an inviting smell and add a little flavor.

Alcohol options: As we’re thinking of what we eat, let’s also consider what we drink. It’s easy to think all alcohol is the same, but it’s not. Here is a list of “stay away from!” and “drink in moderation” in the quantities that they are usually served.
Stay Away From: White Russian (710 calories for 8 ounces), Egg Nog (360 calories for 1 cup), and Margarita (400 calories for 8 ounces), Long Island Iced Tea (780 calories for 8 ounces).
Drink in Moderation: Gin and tonic (192 calories for 8 ounces), Champagne (90 calories for 4 ounces), Apple Martini (150 calories for 3 ounces), Mimosa (80 calories for 4 ounces), Vodka and tonic (200 calories for 8 ounces), and of course, Wine (95 calories for 4 ounces).

Physically force yourself not to overeat: Do realize it’s all about portion control, so even though it may be difficult to say no to a second helping, you’ll feel so much better in the morning. This might sound crazy, but you may have to actually take physical precautions to help you avoid overeating. Some of these are: sitting as far away from where the food is laid out, getting up from the dinner table as soon as you’re done eating, playing some fun games to get your mind off the food, or even chewing gum to get the taste of food out of your mouth.
Share your own tips. How do you plan to stay healthy over the holidays?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interview with Gbenga Akinnagbe: "Acting is What I do, Not Who I Am"

Gbenga Akinnagbe
If you ever kept up with the extraordinary show that was ‘The Wire’, you definitely know Gbenga Akinnagbe. On the show, he played the character Chris Partlow and recently, he played the nemesis in the movie ‘Lottery Ticket’ opposite Bow Wow. Eights & Weights caught up with the phenomenal actor about his current projects and how he’s kept his great physique over the last few years.

Eights & Weights: Tell us a bit about your story and how you got into acting.
Gbenga: Picture it. It all happened in a village in Sicily in 1963.
He breaks into laughter. Like ROFL-type laughter as I had my mouth wide open wondering ‘But he wasn’t born in 1963’. Yes, that's how slow I was.
Gbenga: Okay, I’m kidding. I fell into acting by chance actually. I was working for the Federal Government and I was curious about acting. I wasn’t trying to become an actor, but I was curious so I bought some books and did some research. I found out that there were some auditions around me so I started going, and I was offered a role in a theater in DC. That’s where it started, and I have been acting since. There are many different paths into acting.

Eights & Weights: You were born and raised in Maryland. Do you visit Nigeria often, or maintain any ties back home?
Gbenga: Well, my whole family is Nigerian. We are Yoruba. I was the first one born here so I was raised in a very Nigerian household. Yes, I do have a lot of family back in Nigeria, but unfortunately I don’t know them very well because those ties have not been maintained too well. But in my adult life I have been taking steps to try to bridge the gap, and get involved in a lot of the Nigerian cultural events here, and hopefully eventually back in Nigeria as well. For example, I was on the float at the Nigerian Independence Day parade in New York. So basically I’m doing a lot of things to try to promote a positive image of the Nigerian culture here.

Eights & Weights: Is it difficult maintaining an identity here being Nigerian- American? I know sometimes this may affect the kind of parts you get branded with?
Gbenga: I think I’ve been really lucky as I’ve got to do all kinds of acting. I’ve got to play roles as an African, and I’ve got to play other roles as well. People see my work and they can tell that I can do other things.

Eights & Weights: I hear the rapper Wale is your cousin? Did you guys influence each other’s decision to do what you do?
Gbenga: It’s funny because we both fell into entertainment. He didn’t grow up doing music and I didn’t grow up acting. I was already acting when I found out he had started doing music, and I remember that his brother and I would take his mix tape everywhere with us trying to promote him. For a full week once, we took his mix tape everywhere and handed it to everyone because he is really really good. And a week later, he had a gig and it all kind of skyrocketed from there.

Eights & Weights: So we all know you as Chris Partlow on the Wire, a sociopathic killer. It’s often said that once you establish yourself as a character on television, it could be hard to break out of that identity. Has that been true with you?
Gbenga: Breaking out of a role is never easy, but I’d like to think I’ve been more fortunate than a lot of people on other shows with roles that were as heavy as Chris. I can’t say that I’ve had great difficulty. Even in the fourth season of The Wire, I got to play a nurse in a movie called ‘The Savages’ by Fox Searchlight, which was very different from the role I was playing as Chris Partlow. So I really don’t think I’ve had some of the stereotypical difficulties of breaking out.
Now that being said, we are always constantly fighting against stereotypes, right? People may look at you and form a preconceived notion of what they think you can and cannot do. With those, I have to fight to show what I can do, but I think most people know that my ability is not restricted to one role.

Eights & Weights: What would be your ideal role?
Gbenga: I can see myself doing a lot of things, like playing a supporting role, being the romantic lead, I like really different things. But a role I’d love? I’d love to play Batman.
I burst out laughing, not because I found it amusing, but that was just not what I expected to hear.

Eights & Weights: I think that would be really interesting.
Gbenga: Why are you laughing? I’m serious. You said that would be interesting. Interesting as in?

Eights & Weights: Interesting as in good! We don’t have any black superheroes that I know of. So that would be a great role, I think.
Gbenga: Yes, I think I would love that. I get that character.
Eights & Weights: You mean that dark and twisted type character?
Gbenga: He pauses like he’s remembering something, and then says in a mischievous voice “Oh yeah!” I would have asked him to expand on that, but after that pause, I decided not to dig into that so I don’t have to rate this article ‘PG-13’.

Eights & Weights: So back to what you’re doing right now, you are currently shooting for the television show ‘the Good Wife’. Can you tell us more about your role as Pastor Isaiah?
Gbenga: I play Chris Noth’s spiritual advisor. I run a church in Chicago with a very large African American constituency and Chris Noth asks me to help get his poll numbers up with black people. My character generally doesn’t play political games and has no interest in helping out, but he is interested in helping Peter, Chris Noth’s character, repair his marriage as he’d just been released from prison and was trying to make a real turnaround.

Eights & Weights: Is it a recurring role? Can we expect to see more of you?
Gbenga: I actually started at the end of last season so start watching from last season so you can see the full story. So it is recurring because they brought me back after last season, but for the future, you can never really tell where TV shows are going so you don’t know what they plan for future episodes.

Gbenga and Bow Wow on the set of Lottery Ticket

Eights & Weights: For the other project you worked on that was just released ‘Lottery Ticket’, tell us a little about your character.
Gbenga: My character’s name is Lorenzo Mac, who is the antagonist of the film. He is very much a thug, aggressive, but pretty intelligent. And Bow Wow, who’s the protagonist, wins a million dollars and has to make it through the weekend with his lottery ticket before he can turn it in. Lorenzo and Bow Wow’s character live in the same neighborhood, so basically Lorenzo is after this lottery ticket.

Eights & Weights: Apart from ‘the Good Wife’ and ‘Lottery Ticket’, do you have any other big projects being released in the near future that you’d like us to know about?
Gbenga: People always ask me just about my acting, but right now, I’m also freelancing for the New York Times as a writer. I’ve had a couple of articles published so I would say look out for more articles.

Eights & Weights: Yes, I did read your article about your trip to Nepal to climb the Himalayas. That’s very impressive. Can you tell me a little about that experience?
Gbenga: The trip was amazing. We were above 18000 feet. I was in a small town where some people had never seen black people before. I had my hair at the time, and so many people would touch my hair and freak out because it was so different. I took a bunch of pictures and it was just incredible. I mean these are grown people who in their entire lifetime had never seen anyone who looked like me, people of my race. When I was walking by this man once, he said to me that he had read about people like me in books.
But though the view was absolutely gorgeous, the climb was difficult. We walked about 100 miles straight from town to town to town going up in elevation. Sometimes, we would walk 7 hours from one town to the next, and stay in these little tea houses that were like cabins. Nepal was great, a very peaceful city. Katmandu was a bustling city, but very filthy unfortunately. For a city with such history, the air was pretty bad. But it’s not different from a lot of third or second world big cities.
One thing I thought was great is that you can find seashells in the Himalayas. I mean this is thousands of feet above sea level, but you still find seashells. I think it’s a testament to the fact that at one point, these mountains were actually covered by water.

Eights & Weights: While we’re on the topic of you climbing things, can you tell me how you stay in shape on a daily basis?
Gbenga: I was a wrestler in college, and so I was used to staying in shape on a daily basis. Recently though, I’ve been biking a lot. I bought a bike that I ride in and out of the city. I was never much of a biker before; I always loved to run so it’s a new experience for me.
But I used to run and then do crazy pushups and situps. There’s a website I use called, which has a lot of crazy fitness programs. One I used to do was run 800 meters, do 300 squats, 200 pushups, 200 situps, 200 pullups, and then run another 800 meters. It’s pretty quick and you can be done within the hour, but it’s really difficult. Because of my training, I learned the difference between pain and injury. So if you don’t mind pain, you can pretty much do anything.
Once a lot of people feel a little pain, they back off. But then they see little to no benefits and start to think that exercise is a waste of time and doesn’t work. But you have to push yourself way beyond your own comfort level. Just like much in life actually.

Eights & Weights: What about with food? Are you health conscious with food as well?
Gbenga: I love to eat, and I’m very aware of the food I eat. So when I eat badly, I know it. I’m very conscious of it. I try to eat greens very week at least and drink a lot more water. It’s funny though because it really comes down to basic things that our bodies need. We know what we should eat and what we shouldn’t because our bodies tell us.

Eights & Weights: Do you have any other little tips for our readers on how to stay inspired to work out?
Gbenga: I love to play music as I work out. That really gets me going. When I was wrestling, I would think about my goals as an athlete as I worked out. In fact, I did my last wrestling tournament in 2007 so I still wrestle when I can. Wrestling itself keeps you in amazing shape. 

Eights & Weights: Where do you wrestle though?
Gbenga: There are tournaments that are pre-Olympic qualifiers or qualifiers for other tournaments, and there are college tournaments, which you don’t really have to be in college to participate in. I haven’t been training enough to really wrestle and I haven’t had enough time to focus on it. But in 2007, when I last wrestled, my friend called me at like 10pm on a Friday night and said come wrestle. I was in NY and he was in Baltimore so I resisted at first, but then when I hung up, I couldn’t get wrestling out of my mind. So I stayed up till 3am and caught the next train from NY to Baltimore. I got there at like 6am, and they had to weigh me like they do in wrestling tournaments. I weighed in 4 pounds over, so guess what? I lost 3 pounds in like an hour and then they let me into the tournament.
But then as I’m wrestling, I pulled a muscle in my rib and my hand started to seize up, probably because I did not sleep, I lost all that water weight in an hour, and I had not been training for it. The first round was 0-0, the second was 0-1, I scored I point. By the third, he scored 1 point as well so it was even. We went into overtime, and my body just started failing me. The kids were all crowding me by then screaming ‘Come on the Wire! You can do it!’ And then my mind started wondering, but apparently, while my mind was wondering, my body acted and I flipped him over and won the tournament. It was intense and I could not move the next day.
Eights & Weights: That sounds like an amazing story. As an athlete, I’m sure you would have still done it over again if you had the chance.

Gbenga Akinnagbe
Eights & Weights: At Eights & Weights, we’re also very focused on charity initiatives that have connections to African countries. Are you involved in any charity initiatives? Any relating to Africa?
Gbenga: I work with a charity called ‘All for Africa’. It’s a charity that helps non-profits on the continent fund themselves. We recently had our annual event where artists like John Legend, and the cast from Fela came out and performed. The premise of the non-profit right now is to plant a million palm trees, and allocate the lots of land to non-profits on the ground so when these trees grow, the non-profits can have the profits from the fruits to fund themselves.

Eights & Weights: Our ‘Eights & Weights’ motto is health and happiness since we are all about promoting awareness for health and fitness among Africans. When you hear those words ‘Healthy and Happy’, what does that mean to you?
Gbenga: Healthy equals good abs! He laughs. No seriously, when I think of healthy and happy, I think of eating well and enjoying your friends and your family, but definitely eating well.

Eights & Weights: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Gbenga: Well, I’d just like people to know that I’m appreciative of everyone that has supported my career till now.

Can you keep up with Gbenga's intense workout schedule? Boys, maybe this is just what you need to push yourself to gain that extra muscle.

The television show ‘The Good Wife’ plays on CBS on Tuesdays at 10pm EST in the US.  The movie ‘Lottery Ticket’ is out now. Since this interview, Gbenga has also landed a recurring role as a nurse on the TV show ‘Nurse Jackie’ beside Edie Falco. The third season of the show is set to air from February 2011 on Showtime. Keep watching Gbenga because he's sure to always be on your TV screen or at a cinema near you.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:,,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Do I Have to Give up Desserts COMPLETELY??

Most of us hear the word dessert and our brains automatically let off a craving signal. Desserts are created to make you want more and more, but then most of them are loaded with calories, sugar, salt, and fat so we know they are bad for us. However, more often than not, our cravings win and we settle for that lava cake, or that blueberry cheesecake… I can feel my mind wandering off… What was I saying again?

It seems impossible to fathom that the words ‘healthy’ and ‘dessert’ can ever go together. Well, I thought I’d do some research and come up with some healthy dessert options you can try if you’re a dessertaholic. And no, that’s no actually a word. But maybe I can get it added to the dictionary like ‘bootylicious’ was. Anyway, moving on…

So what are some 'healthier' dessert options? Here goes:

Strawberries and dark chocolate: The issue here is that most people tend to eat milk chocolate (and tons of it). If you buy dark chocolate instead, you’re giving yourself a healthier treat with tons of antioxidants as well. But even just watching the amount of chocolate you use with each strawberry can go a long way. Each medium dark chocolate covered strawberry is about 30 calories.

Jello dark chocolate mousse: Now, if you’re lucky enough to be in a location where they sell Jello, yay! This dessert is only 60 calories and it’s delicious. If you have a chocolate craving, go ahead and have one. But if you don’t like chocolate mousse, that’s okay. We’ll find another option for you.

Fruit salad: There are so many fruits to choose from and all you need to do is chop them up together into this sort of medley. The great thing about fruit is that you have the sweet ones like bananas, the tangy ones like oranges, and the sour ones like berries. Mix them all up and it tastes great. I remember lots of these at parties in Nigeria. After you have finished the jollof rice, you settle in for the fruit salad. It is pretty yum too. But if your brain works like mine, where it simply wants something that is bad for you, you can put in a dash of ice-cream to give it some sweetness. The number of calories here varies depending on the type of fruit you use.

Fruit and custard: Instead of whipped cream or icing, why not try some custard? I usually assume that a banana can go between 60 and 100 calories depending on the size, and custard is about 60 calories for a tablespoon (that is in powder form). So if you chop a banana and top it with about three tablespoons of cooked custard (I’m assuming one dry tablespoon would translate to three cooked tablespoons), you’d be getting about 120 to 160 calories. For a dessert, that’s a great option! That’s less than a cookie!

Pumpkin pie: Pies generally contain a looooot of calories. But pumpkin pies tend to contain the least amount of calories compared to other fruit pies. But since most of the calories come from the crust, why not minimize the amount of crust you eat, and just focus on the delicious filling? One slice of pumpkin pie (crust included) is about 170 calories. Note that this is for one-eighth of an 8” pie.

Baked Spring roll: While we are on the topic of pies, let's skip the meat pie today and go for the baked spring roll. There are so many ways to make this healthier. Use whole grain flour instead of regular processed white flour, fill it with fresh vegetables instead of just cabbage, and bake it instead of frying it. In fact, this goes for the fish pie as well. Fill them both with fresh vegetables, use whole grain flour, and throw them in the oven to bake. 

Frozen yogurt: Haagen Dazs has a variety of frozen yogurt flavors that are about 100 calories for ¼ cup. Even the mallam on the corner usually has great fresh natural yogurt. Just make sure you know where it's coming from. Here’s what I suggest with frozen yogurt. Use a relatively small amount and load it with fresh fruits like chopped mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, or even some great nuts like almonds. Since one strawberry is less than 5 calories, you can considerably reduce the total number of calories by mixing yogurt with fruit.

Dark hot chocolate: If you’re craving chocolate, you could cut down a bunch of calories by going the liquid way. An 8 ounce mug of dark chocolate is only about 80 calories. With a dash of milk, that’s about 100 calories. Thanks Nestle! And Cadbury!

Coconut juice: Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. That fresh coconut where the seller has chopped of the top just large enough for a straw, and you sit there with your man/girl sharing the juice from the same coconut. No? Well, this is usually only in the tropical parts of the country, but you can definitely get fresh coconut around the beaches. 

So if you’re craving something sweet, these are great options. Please share if you have more healthy dessert ideas.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

You’re On the Go? No Problemo!

As an avid traveler, I have come to learn a few things about staying fit while you travel. What’s the biggest thing I’ve learned? That it is not easy! Therefore, I think those who have just started working out and those who have had trouble working out while on the road will definitely benefit from this. Whether you’re staying at a hotel or squatting with friends/family, there is always an option for you. But wherever you’re travelling to, and wherever you are staying when you travel, one thing is always clear: Plan your fitness regimen BEFORE you travel. Don’t assume that you’ll figure it out when you get there because, let’s be honest, when you daily routine changes, so does your inclination to work out and eat right.

Hoteling it
Exercise: Living in hotels is hard enough when you can’t wake up in the dark and figure out what part of the room everything is in (or is that just my OCD talking?). But it is important to choose a good hotel before you travel. While you are making a choice, try to ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is there a gym at the hotel? If there is a gym, your life just became a lot easier.
  • If there is a gym at the hotel, is it included in the room charges?
  • If there is no gym, is there a gym near the hotel? How much does it cost?
  • If the hotel can’t satisfy the two options above, where is it located? Is it near a park that you can run at? Is it in a major city? Is it in a safe neighborhood where you can feel comfortable running outside?
  • If you decide to work out outside, what’s the weather going to be like? 
  • What kind of workout clothes would you need to pack?
Yes, it is actually a little more complicated than it seems when you do think about it. One major thing I have learned while travelling is that sometimes a ‘Marriott’ or a ‘Holiday Inn’ is better than a ‘Hilton’ because they all have good rooms, but the Hilton would usually charge you to use the gym, while the others would not.

Food: There are usually good restaurant options in or around hotels, so at least you don’t usually have to drive miles and miles to find a good place to eat. But there are also questions you can ask yourself:
  • Are the restaurants within walking distance? Can I just take a quick walk?
  • What kinds of restaurants are around the hotel? Fast food, generic, or fancy?
  • Would I be eating alone or with friends/co-workers?
When most of your meals are determined by other people like friends and co-workers, it’s difficult to be picky about where you eat. But at least if you know what is around the hotel, you can prepare yourself to present some options. If you’re eating at Burger King every day, it is going to be extremely difficult to be strict about what you eat. But at the same time, Burger King is a chain, so you can figure out what your healthy options are and rotate what you eat based on those limited choices.

Now, if most of the restaurant options are smaller restaurants, not chains, and you have no idea what kind of food they serve, you can still make sure you ask the waiter about what is healthy. Waiters know everything on the menu so they’ll be quick to point out their healthy side or what compromises the chef can make for you.

Staying with a friend
Exercise: If you and the person you are staying with plan to lead independent lives while you are there, go back to the hoteling section because you’ll have to look around you to figure out how you can work out. But if your lives would be intertwined, consider the following:
  • Does your friend work out? Staying with someone that works out makes life easier for you. You have a partner to gym with, and you just have to ask them about their exercise schedule. If he/she works out at a gym, find out which gym and research their visitor options. For example, my gym allows members to bring in guests free on Wednesdays and $15 each other time. Ordinarily, a guest would pay $25 if they come alone.
  • If your friend does not work out, ask yourself the hoteling questions. What would your schedule be like? Is there a gym around his/her house? How much does it cost? Can you work out outside? What would the weather be like?
Food: Again, if you plan to lead independent lives, all the hoteling questions would apply to you. If not:
  • Ask questions! Does your friend usually cook? If he/she cooks, again, you life may be easier (or harder depending on who you are staying with) but your major focus would be portion control.
  • If your friend does not cook, find out where he/she usually tends to eat. And research restaurant options so when asked what you are in the mood for, you have an opinion based on what is nearby.
Hope this helped those that travel! I know how hard it can be to stay fit while on the road, but just like with anything else, don’t assume. Recognize that you’ll probably need to plan and make some changes. You can do it!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Power of the Incline

Have you ever seen people on the treadmill? Most times, they just want to get on, look like they really know what they are doing, and get off. Nobody wants to look like that novice messing with the buttons on the machines at the gym. But because of this attitude, we may miss some great things we could implement into our workouts to burn mega calories.

One of these things is the ‘incline’. If I asked for a show of hands of how many readers use the incline button, I’m sure there would be only two or three. But just as little as a level 1 or 2 incline can burn so many more calories. Well, maybe if they could have come up with a more fun name for it, people would be curious enough to push the button. Incline seems a little blah to me.

But this is good news! This means you don’t necessarily have to increase your run time to burn more calories, just increase your incline! If you’re a workaholic like me who has a limited amount of time to hit the gym, this would go right on your list of things that make you happy. Where you would have burned 200 calories in 30 minutes, now you can burn between 250 and 300. That’s a major increase!

Now, if you’re not a runner, or if you are worried about hurting your ankles and knees doing high incline levels, the best way to start with inclines is to walk. So I put together a workout we could all try out to see if inclines work for us. Don’t hate me yet. I tried it myself with more intensity so I say in my slave-driver voice “You can do it!”

Treadmill (30 minutes)

Try this workout this week and let me know how it works out (yes, I rhymed). I’d love to hear your opinions. This can be a good start to your new found love for the incline button 

Have a fabulous week Eights & Weights!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Interview with Nneka: “I do it in a sweet way, but I sing to speak the truth”

Recently, I had the chance to interview Nneka. The crooner came on the scene in 2005 with her release of Victim of Truth, and has soared to higher heights ever since. Her most recent work? The release of her album ‘Concrete Jungle’ in the US earlier this year, and her amazing tour with Damien Marley and Nas. So what’s next for the singer from Warri? I caught up with her to find out about her next move, her current work, any charities she’s involved with, and of course, how she stays in shape.

Suzanne: Tell us a bit about your story and how you got into music. Who is your biggest inspiration?
Nneka: Well, I was born and raised in Nigeria. Living in Nigeria and seeing different things happening around me, both positive and negative, has made me the person that I’ve become today. I stepped out of Nigeria for a while around 1999/2000 to study in Germany. It was my first time being away from Nigeria, and it was initially difficult adapting to living in a different country. I was trying to cope with a different mentality and a different culture, and that pushed me to get to know myself better, and understand my passions. In all that self-discovery, I figured out that I had a passion for music. Music is something that I always felt connected to, but I discovered the difference between a mere connection and an identity. I found my identity, I found myself while I was out in a different world. And I started becoming more alert towards my history, my culture, my origins. And that had a big impact on how I wrote my music.

Suzanne: Was there a moment when you realized that this was what you were supposed to do?
Nneka: No, that moment never came. When people say things like that, it makes it seem like music is a job. I don’t consider music as just a profession. Of course it pays the bills, and gives me the ability to support my family and allow my band to have a life and support their own families as well, but I still do not consider it my profession. I studied biology and anthropology and had a passion for that, but that was in a professional way. With music, it’s kind of a bizarre feeling. I’m just doing exactly what I love.

Suzanne: From Lagos to Hamburg to New York, you are doing big things all across the globe. Where do you plan to hit next?
Nneka: We are doing a couple of things here in Nigeria, which is for now the major focus. We’re trying to push the message across in this country because this country needs a lot of love and a lot of focus. And you cannot really do it from outside. You have to be in the system, in the grass roots, to spread your message. We just did a free show in Computer Village; it was a free show, free CDs and everything. We will be doing about three more free shows around Lagos: Ikeja, Mushin, Ajegunle. It will be completely free. Free concerts, free CDs, just to show the people some love. That’s where I’m at right now.

Suzanne: So you just finished the Distant Relatives tour with Nas and Damien Marley, and earlier, you released Concrete Jungle, your first release in the US. What else do you have in store for your music right now?
Nneka: We should be releasing a new album soon. I am recording an album here right now. It’s the fourth album. My management and recording team are coming to Nigeria for the first time to work with me on this album. So this album is definitely going to be pure madness. There’s always some madness on my albums, but definitely some sanity within the madness. I have a couple of collaborations planned, but those will be a surprise.

Suzanne: We know Nigerians have been open to your music, but what has the reception been to your music on the international front?
Nneka: The Europeans have been very supportive right from the beginning. Without my start in Germany, I wouldn’t be who I am today. First of all, because I am so Nigerian, sometimes people forget that my mother is white and that mix can make people a little confused in the identity department. But releasing my music in Germany, I didn’t have a problem figuring out my identity. They did not try changing who I was.

Even in America, the fans and the record company Sony Epic were very receptive. We did have some differences because the American record companies have a different dynamic with their artists than in Europe. They require more control of the album and they like a little more commercialization of the music that is produced. But the fans, especially the African Americans, have been very supportive towards my music. So it’s definitely been very positive.

However, sometimes, black non-Africans do ask me why I’m so pro-Africa. They say there is also hardship outside Africa and I should consider that as well. I just answer and say that my music is not meant to segregate anyone. I’m simply writing what I know, from my own experiences and the experiences of people around me. I am in a very good position to judge both sides of the wall, both black and white, and so I write what I see. So definitely, when I say things like the white man needs to step down and stop taking advantage of our resources in Africa, I’m doing it very objectively. But I find that I always have to explain myself. That’s why now, before I perform, I always explain my songs, my position, and my way of thinking.

Suzanne: One of my biggest passions is health, fitness and true beauty for the young African. Can you tell you tell me what true African beauty means to you?
Nneka: True African beauty is about appreciating yourself and being proud of your color. That is very important. The other day, they just opened a beauty studio near my house with the sign “Lighten up your skin in 7 days”. I was like what the hell is wrong with these people? And when I spoke to the lady in the shop, she said, “Well, look at your beautiful skin. We want to be like you.” I looked at the lady and it was obvious she had bleached. Her elbows were much much darker than the rest of her body, and it was just so sad. It’s not very attractive to want to try to be like someone else. Another example is the weave-on plague in Lagos. There is nothing wrong with a little attachment, but when we are doing it and losing ourselves to become so much like someone or something else, it is a different extreme. We should let our true selves breathe once in a while. So it’s all about respecting yourself, seeing yourself, loving yourself the way you are, and taking care of yourself.

Suzanne: On that note, how do you take care of yourself?
Nneka: I eat right when I can. I try to eat a lot of fruits. I also jog regularly, and swim a lot. I try not to overdo the jogging, but I definitely swim a lot. I love to sweat it out. Sometimes, it’s good to sweat. It certainly does make you feel better. As for my skin, I just try not to use too many products on my skin at once. Because sometimes, in trying to prevent, you create more problems for yourself.

Suzanne: When you’re not working, how do you relieve stress?
Nneka: When I’m not working, I paint and work out. I don’t really go out to parties and I’m not too into the social scene, but I try to hang amongst every day people and just listen to what they are going through day in and day out. Hanging out in the real world really.

Suzanne: Are you involved in any charity initiatives in Nigeria?
Nneka: I have a small foundation called Rope. We’re still really small, and we’re not an NGO, we’re just a foundation. We are trying to raise awareness about certain issues. Some of the programs we are currently organizing are programs like workshops with kids in the slums of Nigeria. We have done Ajegunle and we are doing Warri over the next couple of weeks. The aim is to create change through creativity. For now, we are having workshops where we discuss the personal experiences of these children. One topic we just talked about was corporal punishment and the way it is presented to these kids in the slums. We want to empower them to give their own opinions and discuss their own experiences through writing, poetry, art, and music. So it’s kind of like therapy. At the end of the workshop, we do an exhibition of all the children have created and invite the press to give these kids a voice the right way. The next topic in Warri is oil, and we’ll do the same thing with the kids that we did in Lagos.

Suzanne: We all know you as the talented musician who shares what's in your heart. And fortunately, what's in your heart is a passion for Nigeria and Africa as a whole. So many young Africans are coming up today trying to find their voice. What advice would you give them?
Nneka: Finding your voice is important, but do it without stepping on someone else’s dignity. That’s the first thing I would say. Secondly, as you’re finding that balance, remember that you also have parents, a culture and morals that may actually be right. So listen to them sometimes, don’t lose everything in trying to find yourself. We are part of something, and although we are a curious generation, we need to remember where we came from. So I guess in summary, there’s no need to overdo your freedom. There’s always a limit and maturity should help you see that limit.

Suzanne: Is there any other initiative that you’d like to promote?
Nneka: One thing I’d like to promote is, especially for Nigerians in Nigeria. Go check it out, raise your voice, and register to vote before the end of October.

Suzanne: Lastly, in an effort to try to promote a true perspective of health among Nigerians, let me ask this. When you hear the words 'Healthy and Happy', what does that mean to you?
Nneka: Healthy means having a relationship with God. Happy seems like too much of an extreme to me. I would rather say balance. Balance is that middle between happiness and sadness that works for me.

There you have it. A little insight into Nneka’s world. For more details about upcoming tours, releases, and performances, visit I must say, I’m enjoying the interviews I’ve been doing lately because everyone seems so charged up and positive about Nigeria, and everyone’s doing something to help in a small way. Thoughts anyone?

Photo credit: and

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Series: Part 2

Over the years, as more strange diseases come to light, we create more and more rumours on what we need to do (or not do) to prevent those diseases. Well, this month is about promoting awareness for breast cancer. So you know I couldn’t go through it without talking about some of those cancer myths and facts. Here are a few:

Cancer Myth: Wearing an underwire bra or a tight bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer.
Cancer Fact: I’m not sure where this started from, but I remember hearing it a lot as a child. There is no scientific evidence that supports this. It probably started this way:
Mrs. Big Boobs: “This underwire bra is so tight, man.”
Mrs. Little Boobs: “Hmm… that thing will give you cancer one of these days.”
Or maybe it was Victoria’s Secret that started the rumour with all their wireless bras. Whoever started it though, it has not been proven to be true. 

Cancer Myth: If you get implants, you’ll probably get cancer.
Cancer Fact: Sorry to burst your bubble (or maybe not), but studies have shown no link between breast implants and your risk of breast cancer. One thing that has been proven to be true is that breast implants make it harder to detect breast cancer through a mammogram so additional X-rays and tests have to be done. So maybe you’ll go ahead and increase that bust size now? I kid, I kid (before I start getting worried calls from my mother). There are still other dangers with getting implants so research carefully before you make any decisions.

Cancer Myth: Smaller boobies, less risk.
Cancer Fact: This is not true at all. Whether you are flat-chested or lugging major jugs, you have an equal risk of getting breast cancer. On the positive side for the less endowed ladies, smaller breasts make breast exams easier to perform and that may mean that you can catch lumps easier than with larger breasts. You know, some consolation...

Cancer Myth: Lump = Breast Cancer.
Cancer Fact: First of all, a lot of lumps are benign. In reality about 8 out of 10 of detected lumps are benign. You can let out a sigh of relief now. This is why when doctors find something, they tend not to worry until they have run further tests. If you find something in your exam, consult your doctor and get tested before you start to worry. On the other hand, lumps are also not the only indication of potential cancer risk. You may feel no physical lumps at all, and a mammogram could still catch breast cancer. So please keep an eye out for other symptoms like tenderness, discharge, swelling, pain, itchiness, or any other changes in your breasts. Report any changes to your doctor so you can catch it early! As I always say, your doctor wants you to report changes to him/her. It's what they get paid for.

Cancer Myth: Caffeine causes breast cancer.
Cancer Fact: As much as I'd like to lie and say that it does so you'll drink less coffee, no, it doesn’t. Drink your coffee if you please. But, you know, maybe come over to the bright side and drink some tea as well.

Cancer Myth: Mammograms themselves can give you breast cancer because of the radiation.
Cancer Fact: While mammograms do expose the body to radiation, it is a very minute amount compared to the potential benefits. Plus, you only get them once a year. Really, with that small a risk, just go and get it done. Imagine how much pain it could save you if it helped to detect cancer early.

Cancer Myth: Whether you are overweight or regular size, your breast cancer risk is all the same.
Cancer Fact: Actually, studies have shown that overweight women have a higher risk of breast cancer than regular sized women. Plus, being overweight also has a lot of risks for other diseases.

Cancer Myth: Only women over 50 can have breast cancer.
Cancer Fact: Every woman with boobs has breast cancer risk, independent of age. However, as you grow older, the risk increases. So depending on your age, there are different steps to take to make sure you are doing all you can to reduce your risk, as well as catch the disease early. Please read my post from last week to see what you can be doing based on your age group.

Cancer Myth: Deodorants and antiperspirants cause breast cancer.
Cancer Fact: We are all too familiar with this one. The circulated rumours have been that antiperspirants clog the lymph glands in your armpits, which increases the risk of breast cancer because your armpits are right next to your breasts. Now, this is the one rumour that I won’t totally shoot down, not because it’s true, but because there is still ongoing research. So far, there is no proof connecting breast cancer to antiperspirants. The myth started because less women in Africa compared to America were known to have breast cancer, and less women in Africa use antiperspirants. However, it has been countered with the fact that less women in Europe use deodorants/antiperspirants, but more women in Europe have breast cancer than Americans. So the summary is that so far no link has been found between deodorants, antiperspirants, and breast cancer. However, there is still more research being done on the issue.

I hope you learned something new. Please share if you have some more.

Cheers Eights and Weights! Ladies, remember, let's do all we have to do to save those tatas. And gents, remember, you could save a life by groping your wife.
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