This week, we’re featuring health and wellness professional and entrepreneur Yadira Suazo. La dominicana spoke with Ain’t I Latina? about beating depression, her re-commitment to living a healthy life and teaching the next generation how to stay fit.
How do you identity? Do you consider yourself Afro-Latina, or use another term to describe your race and/or ethnicity?
I am a proud Latina! I am aware and proud of my Dominican roots. I am aware of the strong African presence in the history of the Dominican Republic.
What is your earliest memory of identifying as Afro-Latina/Blatina/Latinegra, etc? How did you come to identify as such?
Born and raised in New York City, I was afforded an opportunity to grow up with a mixture of different races. It allowed me to see the beauty of each race and appreciate my own roots. This was very beneficial to my overall growth as a young Latina and professional development as a businesswoman.
In the past, you’ve battled depression and weight issues. What inspired you to shift and dedicate your life to health and wellness?
I reached my breaking point when I realized that I had reached my highest weight of 205lbs. Even the simplest tasks would leave me out of breath. I have always been an athlete, so, at this point, I felt like a spectator in my own life. I could not stand looking at myself in the mirror and I knew I needed a change. I immediately went back to my roots as an athlete (competitive swimmer, martial arts, & basketball player) and started training the only way I know how to: Hard, it was all or nothing!
From that day moving forward, I was all in. I knew that it would not be easy, but I knew I deserved to gain control of this aspect of my life once again. I went from being an ‘emotional eater’ to eating to function—eating healthy meals and portions, without attaching any emotion to it. I know that there is a certain amount of discipline needed to achieve any goal in life, and I was immediately locked in. The gym became my escape; headphones in and I would get lost in the weights. It was time for me to lose all regard of negative feelings and emotions, and make myself proud. This was for me!
You’ve taken that personal motivation and encourage the next generation to stay healthy. Talk about the youth-focused programs you have implemented.
My ultimate goal is to show youth the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and remaining active. I would love for it to become a habit in their lives, as an outlet to whatever they may be dealing with at school and/or at home. Many children do not participate in physical activity, other than the physical education classes their schools might provide a few days a week.
As a coach for a swim team in the Bronx, I made sure to provide my swimmers with stretches and amazing workouts everyday that strengthened their conditioning and endurance. I told them the importance of staying active, especially at a young age. In February 2015, I was blessed with the opportunity to partner with Ignite Change, Inc. as they provided over 85 middle/junior high school girls the opportunity to take part in different sport & fitness events. Through this partnership, I led a fitness clinic for these lively and energetic young ladies. I enjoyed seeing them laughing and positively tapping into their competitive nature through drills. Our first session was featured on NY1. What an amazing way to increase awareness about healthier living?
Moving forward, I am looking toward more partnership opportunities with Ignite Change, as well as various other community-based organizations to promote healthy living and social change. Recently, I was afforded an opportunity to lead the commencement fitness segment for the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ 1040 fitness series, which will take place on June 11. Here, I will be providing the attendees with a total body workout that builds strength, endurance and conditioning while having a good time. I’ve been blessed, thus far, to have many opportunities to increase healthy living throughout NYC. The future is bright and I’m sure the best is yet to come.
With spring around the corner, and summer up next, how can we snap back into shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
It takes about a month to turn any action into a habit, so why not foster a healthier lifestyle?
Make better food choices: What worked for me was tracking what I ate. Once I began to realize exactly what I was eating, I was able to have a visual of where I needed to make some stricter changes. I began to eat less processed food. I increased the amount of vegetables I would eat, as well as opting for leaner proteins and healthier carbs to give me the necessary energy to fuel me for the day. I got out of the habit of ‘snacking’ and replaced it with smaller meals, so I would be putting better quality foods in my body. With most of my clients, I give them a list of preferred foods to help them achieve their personal goals.
Exercise regularly: Whether it is 30 minutes or an hour, lifting weights or jogging, get your body moving. You will feel a lot better after!
A good night’s sleep: It will have you feeling balanced, focused and energized throughout your day.
Stay hydrated: Drink more water and less sugary drinks. Especially with the hot days coming up, it is important to remain hydrated. Drinking water is also a way to help maintain a healthy weight. Try to drink a gallon a day. What helped me drink all the water was adding lemons, cucumbers and mint leaves. It gives it a great taste and really quenches your thirst.