Here’s To Your Health – Under the Northern Sky

Northern Lights, Polar Bears, and Food... RAW:Churchill
Northern Lights, Polar Bears, and Food...

The price in Thunder Bay is usually $2.00 or three for $5
The price in Thunder Bay is usually $2.00 or three for $5

by Xavier Kataquapit
ATTAWAPISKAT – With winter on the way I see a lot of people out and about in town wanting to connect with others. Northerners are hardy folk but we also have a lot of hard lifestyles that we follow. We tend to pride ourselves as big party types. Many of our northern towns and cities have an abundance of places where we can drink until we drop. Few are into moderation.

When we are teens and up to middle age our bodies and minds are capable of taking a lot of abuse. However, now as I have reached the ripe old age of 40, I realize that some parts of my past are catching up with me. I am very grateful that I got sober 20 years ago and that has really helped me to fulfill some of my dreams with a more or less happy life.

These days I am beginning to feel the aches and pains of arthritis and I do not have the stamina I once had. A couple of decades ago I could work all day with few breaks in construction, logging, transport and freight duties and moving on the land. Perhaps I am suffering from male menopause in that I am taking stock of myself at the age of 40. One thing for sure is that this year has been a huge marker and milestone in my life. Much of that has to do with the fact that my mom Susan passed away this summer.

I am also watching old friends and family age with many health issues. Many have heart disease and diabetes for the most part. In recent years I have been educated on how diet and unhealthy lifestyles contribute mainly to these diseases and also cancers. For too many years my diet has been high in fat and sugar. That is a killer combination.

Too many northerners are stuck on terrible diets with lots of junk food. For years I had a steady diet of burgers, fries, poutines, fried chicken, lots of meat, huge amounts of carbs like bread, pasta and potatoes and sugar filled treats. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy some of these foods but more or less as a treat here and there these days.

I am terrified to end up with heart disease or diabetes as many of my family members and friends suffer from these diseases. For that reason I gave smoking and drinking 20 years ago. For the last few years I have been trying to follow a diet high in fibre and nutrition. That means I am eating more raw vegetables in all kinds of salads. I am also eating black beans, lentils, kidney beans and chick peas as all of these foods are high in protein.

These high protein foods have replaced meat in my diet to a great degree although from time to time I will have a burger, a roast of beef, moose roast, pork tenderloin, beef steak, spaghetti and meatballs and even the odd poutine. Happily, I have not found it so hard to pick up on healthy foods like vegetables, legumes and fruit. I also drink a lot of tea, some coffee and so much water.

As a result of this change in my diet I have lost more than 20 pounds and I know that my blood sugar levels are very good. Prior to changing my diet I was sick a lot during the year with flu, stomach problems and a general feeling of being tired most of the time. These days I notice that I am rarely sick and I do have more energy. I have discovered a real taste for raw vegetables and my day is not complete unless I am having a meal with plenty of raw carrots, lettuce, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, onion and cucumbers. I am also trying to get a brisk walk in for half an hour a day at least four times a week.

I hope that if you are having problem with heart disease, diabetes and being overweight that you can take some encouragement from me and make the move to change your lifestyle. It might seem like a difficult thing to do but really after a little effort you will find that eating more vegetables, legumes and fruit and less meat and fried foods you will improve your health substantially. I have a few people I look up to on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. My good friend Alana Pierini and my sister in law Christine Rose have been following such healthy diets for decades and they look half their age so I know it works. We need more hardy northerners that play hard, party moderately, eat healthy and get a lot of exercise.

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.