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Finding Calm in The Chaos And Other Strategies for Improving Blood Sugar

OnTrack Diabetes recently sat down with wellness coach turned physical therapy student Jennifer Lutz to talk travel, yoga, and her current goals.

My Most Memorable Trip

My most memorable trip was a pretty big adventure considering it was my first time leaving the United States. I went all the way to Kibera, a Kenyan slum, in 2015, and I went alone. Looking back, I’m not sure traveling on my own to Africa was the smartest decision I’ve ever made but I’ll chock it up to naivety naïve.

The trip came about when, the morning after discussing my lack of travel with my well-traveled, well-educated, now-ex- boyfriend, I woke up to an email looking for volunteers to travel with an organization bringing medical relief to various countries. Kenya was the only country where Spanish was not a requirement, so to Kenya I went. 

When I arrived, there were no other volunteers, no program guides, and the school where I was meant to be a physical therapy assistant for disabled adolescents was on holiday. I felt alone in the unknown. I was, however, well-equipped—I had a bag filled with baby wipes, bug spray, antiseptic, and the clothes recommended in the volunteer packet. The little research I had done before departing showed pictures of violence, garbage, and something known as “flying toilets”. (Until recently there was no indoor plumbing in Kibera. “Flying toilets” refers to the bags that people do their business in and discard by throwing them out the window)…so I prepared accordingly.

wellness-coach

Little did I know how much hospitality I was about to be shown. I stayed with a family who had purchased coffee for me because they heard Americans drink it excessively. I was invited into tin-sided homes and offered every provision families had to give. They were protective of me, too. A friend I made later insisted on escorting me to and from my homestay each day because he said it wasn’t safe for me to walk alone. I never felt afraid; I didn’t know enough to be scared. But I was fortunate thanks mostly to the kindness of strangers that took me into their lives. 

 When the school told me, there wasn’t anything for me to do, I insisted on teaching yoga to the older children who lived in the slum. Then I was told that “Kenyan boys don’t do yoga” but I asked them to try it. Within a few days, I was holding yoga classes each morning with a better turnout than I had ever seen at the non-profit where I taught previously in Harlem.
In Kenya, I anticipated being sick due to the new environment, new foods and new culture, but I ended up feeling healthier than ever. The food I ate every day in Kenya is too expensive for me in the States—grass-fed beef and organic, homegrown kale. I ate potatoes, collard greens, and whatever fruit was ripe that week. My trip made me wonder if so much of the sickness we see in America comes from the foods we eat.

Because of the wonderful memories I made on this first trip abroad, it filled me with wanderlust and today I travel as often as possible. Experiencing a different culture revealed how much I didn’t know and filled me with questions I’m still seeking to get answered. Visiting Kibera inspired me to be the best version of me. There’s so much deprivation there that it’s not difficult to make a difference. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to help make life a little happier for someone.

Favorite Yoga Pose

Tree pose. It’s a simple pose, that some may not consider all that exciting, but I love it because it’s the first pose I learned as a child doing yoga with my mother in living room. It’s such a comfortable pose that I find myself lifting my foot up to my inner thigh whenever I’m trying to stay focused or relaxed. My friends tease me about it!

Food I Crave Most Often

Chocolate.  Always chocolate. It’s the first thing I eat when I wake up in the morning—one perfect square of dark chocolate.  Often, I enjoy a piece flavored with matcha tea or cayenne, to wake me up. My morning routine includes lighting a candle and waking up with a few yoga poses while listening to my favorite playlist. I always have black coffee—at least a cup—and hydrate and detox with lemon water. I take thyroxine in the morning, so I need to wait before eating. Therefore I've decided a square of chocolate is permitted!

I also always keep an emergency chocolate stash in my bag. I only eat dark chocolate and I likely spend too much money on it, but it’s my end of meal treat and my Oh my God, New York rescue. It’s loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants and it makes me happy. To prevent chocolate binges, I buy only one bar per week. If I eat the whole bar on Monday, the rest of the days will be sad and chocolate-free days. If it has been a tough week, I sometimes allow myself two bars, because life is short and happiness matters.

Advice

Be the person you want to wake up with in the morning.  You are the only one who you can’t walk away from. This knowledge has gotten me through every difficult choice I’ve had to make in life. Also, always look for opportunities to be kind. Every situation has them but sometimes they aren’t so obvious.  And from a traveling artist I met in Portugal, ‘anything is possible, no?’

One of My Current Goals

My goals are scribbled on Post-it Notes that I stick on the wall above my bed during particularly challenging times in my life.  One of those Post-its reads, “Every situation is an opportunity to do good.”  The world is a mess right now, and often things are so overwhelming, it feels like I’m too powerless to affect change. In response, I try to be kind and useful to each person I encounter. I don’t always succeed, but I always try. Every night before bed, I write down how I made the world better that day. Sometimes I have nothing to write, but then I wake up the next day and try harder.

Want to hear more from Jennifer? Check out @ontrackdiabetes on Instagram to see her adventures for the week.

Updated on: November 8, 2017
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