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!
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