Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams: Elisabeth Tubajika

I met Elisabeth more than ten years ago when we both lived in South Africa. It was through social media that we reconnected again and when the idea for this piece came about, Elisabeth was one of the first people that came to mind. As a black woman, I have come to the realisation that it is important to celebrate your milestones and achievements regardless of whether the world co-signs with what you’re doing and who you are. No one embodies this better than Elisabeth. Elisabeth started a non-profit organization in Texas call ‘We are The Voice’ to celebrate the beauty of Congolese culture and also raise awareness on the inequality that the women in the Eastern region of Congo face. Elisabeth also has a podcast called ‘Master’s Piece’ with the aim of encouraging people to live in a way that glorifies God.

In your own words introduce yourself

Elisabeth is a wife, daughter, sister, aunt and a friend. I am and will always be a child of God that is my truest (if that’s a word) identity; without God I’m nothing.

 I am a proud Diaspora and native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before I am an American I am a Congolese woman. It took a long time for me to embrace everything that is a part of me but I love being African and I love being a brown skin girl. To really make it simple Elisabeth (Kadesi) now Tubajika is a world changer. My mission before leaving this world is to have impact. whether that impact is big or small in the eyes of society, I pretty much don’t care. I want to inspire people to become their best version, I want to create, I want to build, and I want to empower. Oh I can’t forget to add this one I love to travel, laugh, dance and shop (Very important details lol).

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When it comes to the experiences and places that have shaped your life, what or who has contributed to the woman you are today?

The biggest contributors to the woman I am today goes to several people, some tangible and others intangible. The greatest influencers of my life are my parents, the greatest role model of being a Godly woman is my mom. I also have my sisters and friends who teach me so much about life & virtual mentors (if you know what I’m saying). A big contributor right now is my husband. Being married for 4 months now, he’s taught me a lot we’re both learning together.

In general, I love learning from people who refuse to be victims of life’s circumstances. People who are passionate about their purpose. The places that have really shaped my life are all condensed from experiences in Congo, growing up in a post-Apartheid South Africa and being an African in America.

What are some of the things that you’ve accomplished that fill you with unfiltered back joy?

Graduating from University was one of my greatest accomplishments as an African girl. I always thought that it wasn’t possible for me but when I got my 4-year degree, the possibilities seemed endless. Another great achievement for me was starting my first non-profit organization (We Are the Voice) in 2012. Our mission was to help the battered women of East Congo and promoting education for orphans in Africa. Congo at the time was constantly in the media with negative press; and though we did and still do have conflicts and wars I wanted to show Americans a different type of Congo.  The beauty behind despair. The Congo with riches, wealth, enough natural resources to assist the world, beautiful black women, talented artists, and a beautiful culture. To be able to gather people from everywhere to hear your story, your vision, is a beautiful achievement.

In light of your philanthropic endeavour, ‘We are The Voice’ what was the internal shift that needed to occur to move from being appalled by something, to doing something to make a change?

One thing, mind-set. It takes a mental decision to change the narrative of your story. To move from being a victim to a leader. Congo is such a powerful country but with poor infrastructure and leadership.   Who do we continue to blame? The Belgians, White people, western countries? I was tired of our country being portrayed as a victim; yes, we’ve been through a lot, but we’re not slaves. We’re warriors, kings and queens.

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 I did a lot of reading on my culture while in college; I was curious about African studies. I asked my dad a lot of questions, and those who grew up in Congo during the 1960’s (our independence). I read a lot of books and watched movies on great leaders who changed the trajectory of African politics and culture. If you’re tired of seeing negative press on your people start becoming the kind of person you would like to see in the press.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt on your journey thus far?

Nobody is responsible for your happiness. If you want something communicate! Say it, go get it, and most importantly do something.

How have you maintained the authenticity of your brand in this age of social media?

With social media everyone copies and imitates each other, and you can get discouraged feeling like your vision isn’t necessary. I heard this quote somewhere and it changed my view on authenticity. When you come from a place of experience, when you share and create based on your own experiences you will never lack content”. There is only one you and that is your superpower

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The climate that we’re in necessitates rest both physically and mentally for black women, how do you take care of yourself to prevent burnout?

The year 2020 has been a very challenging one for everyone with black lives matter, COVID19, and unemployment rates at its highest. I prioritize my mental health, is important to me. I don’t leave that responsibility to someone else. To keep my sanity in these times I have to run, pray, meditate, and watch a lot of comedy. My husband and I laugh a lot together so thank God the quarantine didn’t destroy us lol.  Another important step for me is controlling what I choose to watch. You have to manage every aspect of your being: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. They are all VERY important.

What advice would you give to the younger version of yourself?

I would tell that black girl that there’s nothing more beautiful than being yourself, you were supposed to be different embrace it.

What does it mean to you to be you ancestors wildest dreams?

Being my ancestors wildest dreams is a very profound statement. To me the question is what were my ancestors dreaming about? What were their desires? As black people we all come from different tribes and backgrounds, our history dynamics are so different. One thing our ancestors all had in common was the need to survive, to be free and to leave a legacy. I want to give my ancestors more than that, not only do I want my freedom, I want excellence for my people.  I want to thrive not only survive. I want my ancestors to see that I was able to be a steward of their history, wisdom and culture.

To my ancestors we’re tired of being victims of the past, we’re tired of only fighting, we hear you. It’s time to take our crowns back. We are royalty.

The New Normal

The smile on my face… plastered.

How is lockdown going for you? Over the past three weeks, I have gone through ALL the emotions, and none of them have involved much productivity. There’s a strange thought that started spreading across mainstream social media channels that this is a time to learn a new skill whether that is playing a new instrument, learning a new language etc. Basically if you’re not doing any of the aforementioned things, then you’re a wasteman. Yesterday I was speaking to my supervisor who is part of the covid-19 response task force and he said something that is aiding in shifting my perspective in regards to what life post covid-19 is going to look like. Until we get to a point where scientists have created a reliable vaccine, we are going to have to find a way to go back to living not as we used to , but as our new world requires us to. Life is not going to look like what we previously knew, and in all honesty, we should be very glad about that. The normal that we were used to was unhealthy with ethnic groups with people that look like me, left on the outside. The old way of living was toxic. I suppose if you benefited from the old way of living,, you’d be resistant to accepting the reality that things are never going to be the same again.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

Y’all please don’t come for me and loop me in the same group as the crazy Christians who say covid-19 was sent by God for a mass cleanse to restore the good in humanity. RUN from those peeps!!! What I am saying, like Isaiah writes in the verse above, God can make our world (individual or collective) better in the midst of what feels like a crappy season in the wilderness. The one thing that we do know for certain, and that I think we can find some comfort and safety in is this: things are never going to be the same again, and that’s okay! It might actually be the best thing to come out of this., We’re still gonna have bad days, and that’s normal. It is a global pandemic after all. It’s okay to feel as though you’re not coping, and if you need a little bit more support, don’t be afraid to reach out. The only thing I’m working on is actually found in the title of a very popular Bee Gees song, ‘staying alive,’ and you know what? That is good enough.

Look of the Day: Pink Happiness

I’ve been playing around a lot more with make-up. Part of it is because I’ve always loved make-up, and the other part is because I find that playing with make-up is a great outlet for my nerves that get so tied up in a knot because of work and family responsibilities. This weekend I tried out a new foundation, NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop in the shade ‘cappuccino’. I’ve been wearing the NARS Sheer Glow foundation and it is up there with my favourites. I didn’t see any other foundation clawing their way up to NARS status.

I had tried NYX foundation a very long time ago and I was not impressed. This time was different. There’s something about the formulation of this foundation that doesn’t feel clogging. All my blemishes and scars were covered without any caky vibes, that’s a win. The lasting power of this foundation is great, it’s been ridiculously hot in South Africa. Today was 30 degrees if I’m not mistaken and not once did I feel my face running or see any oiliness peeking through. I just looked like I had healthy glowy skin! If you want to recreate this look, keep on reading!

Here’s what I wore:

  • Face: NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation in ‘cappuccino’, Revolution London illuminating setting spray
  • Eyes: Beauty Treats 88 shade professional eyeshadow palette and a pink shade from Bodyography, can’t remember the name, and Le Volume Révolution de Chanel mascara, WOW, WOW,WOW is all I can say about this mascara, I’m in love!
  • Cheeks: L’Oreal Les Chocolats liquid lipstick in ‘tasty ruby’ don’t like it on my lips but it’s beautiful on the cheeks. Maybelline chrome highlight in ‘knockout’. The highlighter was the real star of the show for me!
  • Lips: L.O.V Shine & Care Lipstick in ‘Istanbul’, Estée Lauder Pure Colour Envy matte lipstick in ‘desirous’ topped off with Fenty Beauty’s gloss bomb 💣 in ‘Fenty glow’

Start Again

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Black, Fat & Living with HIV

I apologise for the click baity title however I am hoping that if you clicked on the link, you’ll stay and read this post.

I have set for myself a target to run a marathon…forty two kilometres (yikes!!!) in order to raise funds for POWA, an organisation that helps & empowers women who have been abused, as well as an organisation supporting those living with HIV. I have been in contact with a very special charity and once they have confirmed their participation in this, I promise to give you guys ALL the juicy details and the why behind this. I was on Facebook this afternoon and read a piece posted by the South African HIV Clinicians Society on how obesity and HIV are linked.

As a black woman I am all too aware of how unpopular exercise is in my community. Yes we have Serena Jameka Williams 🎾 but on a smaller scale, black women have very few role models motivating them to shift the weights at the gym/box (if you CrossFit).

The rise of ‘thic’ being in, as well as the very unnecessary butt shots, has led to very unhealthy behaviour gaining momentum and thriving at such a rate that globally obesity is on the rise. Until this article I was completely oblivious to the fact that women living with HIV experience the weight stigma in a different way.

Things you might have known: South Africa has the largest HIV population globally, in addition to that, it also holds the record for the most obese and overweight nation on the African continent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist 👩🏾‍🔬 to figure out that people living with HIV (PLWHA) need to take control of as many health markers as they can, nutrition and physical exercise being the most important ones.

People living with HIV need to ensure that they remain as physically fit as possible.However, due to weight loss stigmas predominately in the black community where thin = sick, clinicians are now faced with treating patients who are living with HIV and also overweight. With just 6 months of 2019 left, and as much as I hate to be a Debby downer, the reality is that time is running out towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets set by the UN towards eliminating HIV. Recommendations are to diagnose, treat and achieve viral suppression in 90% of people diagnosed with HIV. In my opinion, the solution lies not in the development of new treatment therapies, or even new antiretroviral drugs (although those are great too,) but rather in attacking the various cultural stigmas that prevent people (especially women) from getting tested and treated for HIV. In my eyes & experience as a budding researching in HIV, the problem lies mainly in getting people to accept that they are infected and this can only happen through more awareness and education of what HIV is, and a vast improvement in the access to health facilities particularly for those living in areas that are isolated and far removed from clinics and/or hospitals.

Isolation, stigma and a lack of support are still haunting black women living with HIV/AIDS, and now it seems so is obesity. As a black woman working in the field of HIV research, this has increasingly become something that I cannot ignore. Ensuring that no one gets left behind, has now become my cross to bear. It’s your cross to bear too. We’re all in this together!

In review: intermittent fasting

It seems as  though there’s a new diet almost every single day. If you’re a 90s baby you’ll remember the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Blood-Type diet, the Zone diet, the list is endless. One of the reasons why I’ve never stuck to any of these diets is because I don’t like being told what to eat. In the blood type diet my blood group (A+) is meant to avoid mangos and potatoes which is crazy for me. Intermittent fasting is less about what you eat and more about when you eat. It’s not a diet but an adaptation to your eating pattern. I became curious about intermittent fasting after having picked up a tiny bit of weight that made me feel uncomfortable in my skin. I love having breakfast…when I remember to prep so IF seemed like a good way to eliminate my morning forgetfulness around eating. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital have found out in a study called HELENA – the largest investigation on intermittent fasting to date, that there are many paths leading to a healthier weight and it’s all about finding the path that fits you best.

Right now, IF is the path that fits me best. I was interested in losing weight and keeping it off, with intermittent fasting because you’re not constantly eating, you give your stomach and gut a chance to recover from the usual churning of stomach acids to digest food which in turn can reduce inflammation. The first week of IF, I watched a million and one videos on IF (my favourite being anything by Dr. Jason Fung, I even follow him on Twitter!)  and read countless articles (I would recommend that before you commit to IF, do as much research as you can and consult a doctor or nutritionist if necessary) on the experiences that people have had with IF.

There are three main ways to do an intermittent fast: the 5:2 diet, in which you eat regularly for five days a week and reduce your intake to 600 calories during the next two; alternate-day fasting, where you rotate between standard and 600-calorie days; and time-restricted eating which is what I’m doing where you limit your eating periods to four-to-eight hours. What works best for me (since I wake up at 5 and am in bed by 22h on most days is to fast from the time I wake up until 12 noon and on some days I’ve even pushed that time out to 14h. This gives me a total of 16 hours fasting and on some days when I’m a superhuman…17 hours.

How am I feeling?

The first two weeks were hard. I had to make a conscious effort to drink not just more water (which is something I’m constantly practicing) but also more tea to ‘fill’ me up. One thing I realised is that once I made the decision that I wouldn’t be eating before 12/13h, it’s almost as though my stomach shut up aka stopped grumbling. The less I thought about food, the easier it’s was for my stomach and the less it complained. The mental aspect for me is what plays the biggest role in ensuring that you commit to IF. In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. I wake up with zero bloating which does a lot to lift the mood. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha!) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month and I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. In the first two weeks I battled with extreme fatigue and feelings of hanger (hunger that leads to anger), luckily having to maintain good work relationships was enough of a reminder to keep me from lashing out in hunger!

In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month though.I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. I am not a fan of the feeling of hunger that is present during non-eating periods and in light of my 2019 body goals (which I’ll share in a later post) IF just isn’t going to work for the long-term. A girl is trying to get stronger and fitter as she approaches 30…damn did I just address myself in 3rd person!

For an eating plan to be successful, it should be sustainable and improve your performance not just as an athlete (where I’m concerned,) but as a human. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt through IF, food should be tasty yes but it’s even more important for the food you eat to fuel you. When I am eating, I am 100% more conscious about what I put into my mouth. Along the way I have had some treats but what I’ve noticed is that I have more self-control and those naughty treats are few and very far in between in comparison to when I was eating whenever I wanted. I will say the one thing I truly miss is having breakfast at breakfast time!

How to make IF work for you?

  • I cannot stress this enough: plan, plan plan! You’ve heard this cliché before and it’s because it’s true: fail to plan/prepare and prepare to fail. Fill your water bottle the night before, make sure that the tea you have is one that you won’t get sick of drinking during your fasting period and prepare your meals in advance.
  • If you’re going to snack during your eating period, make sure your snacks are healthy. I love to stick to raw nuts. Cashews, walnuts and almonds are my favourites but you can go with whatever you like best. Hummus & carrots will also NEVER go out of style. 
  • Get an accountability partner. Friends, I consider myself so lucky to be with the man I call my boyfriend. I tell him about every single lifestyle change that I make and he holds me accountable; whether it’s running more often, eating healthier and now sticking to this new eating pattern, he is SO good at reminding me of the goals I set for myself. I can’t tell y’all how much I love this man!
  • Plan your training at least an hour after you’ve had your meal during your eating period. I found that this worked best for me. Training in the morning while still in a fasted state left me feeling hungrier than usual and we all know that hunger can quickly transform to hanger. I also found that when I took pre-workout on an empty stomach, it’s almost as though I could feel my body disassociating with reality, can’t explain that.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt in this intermittent fasting journey? A healthy lifestyle is not just about the food you eat but the choices you make in your everyday life. It’s not just about losing weight, although it does start that way. When you remove the toxic elements that aren’t serving you well in your nutrition (if you’re consistent enough), it then extends to your physical environment. One day you’re making healthier food choices and the next you’re making healthier life choices! Constantly work towards being in the best physical, mental and emotional shape of your life, it’s what I’m focussing on and it’s what you should be focussing on.

YOUR journey.

Live, laugh, cry, repeat.

There’s nothing that has changed my life more than the passing of my sister. She was my best friend, she was straightforward, had the best advice and when she hugged me, she would always go over my 5 second limit. I’m so glad that in her last days, I got to tell her that I love her and hug her for longer than my usual 5 seconds.

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There’s so much that I miss about her. Her warm (long) hugs, her calls and messages to tell me that she was thinking about me, that she loved me or that she was proud of me. One of these ‘I’m proud of you,’ messages came when I was straight out of uni, unable to find a job. I was like ‘gurrrrl, what are you seeing? There is nothing in my life that warrants being proud of.’  My sister then proceeded to remind me of the strength that I had in me, the strength I have in me. She was the one who would help me to see things rationally and with a new perspective. By nature, I am very emotional…just ask my CrossFit coach but somehow my sister Nadege would always remind me to not allow my emotions to lead me. Never make a decision when you’re angry or overly emotional. Whenever she said that, I did not always receive it well. It sometimes felt as though she was telling me to get over myself and sometimes when you want to sulk about life to your older sister, it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear. At times it would feel as though she wanted me to accept whatever situation I was facing and detach myself emotionally. I’ve come to realise that that wasn’t what she was saying. Emotions aren’t evil but being controlled by your emotions was a whole different ball game and potentially dangerous.

What she wanted me to learn was to stop allowing my emotions to control my reaction to every situation or to every annoying person haha. Sometimes you need to give yourself a time out to better assess a situation without the cloudiness of mind that being overly emotionally can bring. I will spend the rest of my life thinking and probably writing about all the lessons that I learnt from my beloved sister. Her life motto was to keep going even when you want to stop, she was relentless and the bravest person I knew.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you. The reason for that counsel is 1 Thessalonians 4:13, where Paul says, “We do not want you to be uninformed . . . about those who are asleep” — about those who have died — “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” So, there’s real grieving, which he expects, and there’s hope. Grieving is real, losses are real, pain is real — really felt, really expressed — and hope is real that changes it profoundly. John Piper

It’s a year since she’s passed and we’re all still learning how to live, laugh, cry and repeat the whole cycle again without her. In the thick of it all, I am constantly being reminded that there is hope, and that as John Piper puts it, changes things profoundly.

Arms like aunty a.k.a black, female & strong

Aunty* just turned 60…

Simmer on that. Yes, my eyes popped out too!

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I was about six months late on watching Black Panther. While I understood the cultural significance of Black Panther, I am not one of those people who will rush to the cinema for new releases. When I finally watched it, I left feeling as though an incredible opportunity to feature more of aunty Angela was missed. I don’t have any doubts that CrossFit, running, Nike training club workouts and the occasional Jillian Michaels workout here and there will keep me fit until the day I return to God, but whenever I feel myself getting lazy, somehow as if by magic a picture of aunty Angela pops up out of nowhere. As a black female constantly at odds with the stereotype still running rampant that black women don’t work out or have a high sense of health prioritisation, seeing a black female icon (my others being Serena Williams obviously, G.O.A.T!!!  Elisabeth Akinwale, Massy Arias and Lita Lewis,) breaking this stereotype is representation that truly does matters!

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In an interview with Essence magazine, Angela spoke on her confidence on the red carpet;

Sometimes, if you don’t feel it, you gotta do it and then the feeling will come. I’ll say to my glam team, ‘I have great arms, you might want to show that!’ I believe we all have something—great legs, beautiful hair—so find your something, be proud of it, and accentuate it.”

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My something has for a long time been my arms, however it isn’t always an asset I flaunt because of past insecurities on my arms being too muscular for a girl, add to that a very strange experience where a man I do not know came up to me and touched my arm and proceeded to ask how I got them that way. Lord knows I wanted to say ‘if you train, you too can have arms like mine.’ Unfortunately, it’s only in my head that I’m extremely snarky to intrusive strangers. How can I forget a blind date gone wrong where I was asked to flex? That is exactly what every woman wants to do on a date…

Lately I’ve started to care less about what people think about my arms, about me. At the end of the day, my body houses my spirit, my thoughts, my emotions, my intelligence (both intellectual and emotional.) Our physical appearance, our physical make up is secondary to our spiritual make up. Internally, (not just about my arms,) do I love the physical manifestations that I am responsible for on this glorious journey of life that I get to experience every day? It’s the opinion that you have in relation to your life and the things you can control that matter the most. There are circumstances and people that are out of our realm of control. The things that we can change, requires strength from us to take that first step towards boldly walking towards those things we know will fulfill us. I love Beyoncé (you’re crazy if you don’t) and I love what she said in her interview with Vogue magazine. Queen B said that she wants her son to realise that the real magic he possesses in this world is that power and ability to affirm his own existence.

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image courtesy of Vogue magazine

I believe this is the boldness and confidence that exudes so visibly from the women that I’ve mentioned in this post. The ability to claim the space that you take up unashamedly and unapologetically being true only to yourself. This act of taking up space and claiming it is one that I am currently learning. I work with the most intelligent people, yet they’ve maintained a humility that you wouldn’t expect from people of their calibre. The boss lady is a woman who astounds me each time I speak to her. I gush A LOT about my bosses to my boyfie. When I first started my contract, I would have this ‘deer caught in headlights’ look whenever I spoke to her and now I’m finally moving to a stage where because I’m growing in confidence simply by listening to the knowledge they impart, the fear-filled look on my face has all but disappeared and I am learning to use the responsibility I’ve been given to speak up when needed, without fear or apprehension.

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G.O.A.T

Positive images of blackness are affirming, positive images of womanhood are affirming. Positive images of what it means to be black and female, even better! In a world that doesn’t immediately (and often times does not at all,) appreciate blackness, seeing black women thrive whether they be artists, sportswomen, academics or the girl next door, is empowering and validating. To see women who are as committed as you are in looking after the body that houses their spirits, the very essence of their being lends to your own stamina and endurance on this journey of life.

You can recognize strength by it being juxtaposed against vulnerability, vulnerability is sensitivity and tenderness and all those things, there’s great strength in that. It ebbs and flows, it’s just being human. Knowing that whether I’m strong, whether I’m weak or I’m tender, I’m enough. Angela Bassett

aba*you’ll get the aunty reference if you watched Black Panther 🙂 

In Review: USN vs. NPL

One thing that grates on my titties is when I want to buy a supplement, my first instinct is to go on google to read reviews. Sadly 9 times out of 10, there aren’t any reviews. I like having facts in front of me BUT I also like to know how a product has or hasn’t worked for someone. When I bought these two products at Dis-Chem roughly two months ago, I had in my head the intention that I would review these to help someone else like me that loves facts combined with experience. The products that I’ll be reviewing are USN Energizing Amino Ener-G and NPL’s Amino Burn. At face value (with such similar names,) you’d expect identical results however there are a few key differences that would make one product more suitable for you in regards to training goals.

I am a very simple girl when it comes to supplements, I don’t like to use too many. My staples throughout the 3 years that I’ve been doing CrossFit, have been creatine HCL (unflavoured, mixed with nothing else,) and glutamine. In addition to that I take a multivitamin (when I remember.) I am at a place where I love what I’m currently doing, hard work but rewarding work and I find that my energy needs a little kick up the bootay before wodding. I’ve experimented with a lot of different pre-workouts and currently these are the two in rotation. I’ve rated each product on taste and energy delivery. Those (aside from ingredients of course,) are for me the most important things when choosing a pre-workout. I don’t want something that I have to force myself to drink. Many a time I have felt myself irritating a sales consultant when he recommends me the most expensive but also most useless supplement in relation to MY fitness goals. I would recommend always doing your research before buying anything. Go armed with facts because you cannot always trust what you’re being sold. These products were bought with my money, however should you feel inclined to send me vegan friendly products to review, I will gladly oblige 🙂

TASTE: NPL trumps USN in this round. The strawberry kiwi flavour that I bought actually tasted like strawberries, the kiwi taste I couldn’t pick up. As much of a sugar fiend as I am, these supplements are sugar free and are void of that sickly taste that some supplements can have. There’s a They do however contain a blend of non-nutritive sweeteners to enhance the flavour profile. The USN flavour that I tried is supposed to taste like raspberry flavoured rascals…it didn’t. It tastes like a watered down version of that horrid red version of cream soda. The one reason why I’ve been going on long runs is so that I can use up the 30 servings that I still have left. The blueberry rascals flavour from USN which I have also tried, is leaps and bounds better than the raspberry soda and I loved the way it turned the water a lovely blue colour…it’s the little things.

Overall score: NPL 5/5 USN 3/5

ENERGY: NPL recommends using either half a scoop (5g,) or a full scoop (10g) to 150ml-200ml of water. USN recommends one scoop (10g) to 200ml of water. They both contain caffeine and green tea extract as stimulants and are therefore not recommended after 16h (which I did once and suffered with insomnia.) Each 10g serving of NPL delivers 140.0 kilojoules of energy, while each 10g serving of USN delivers 26kJ of energy. I had to read the label twice as I couldn’t believe that there that there was such a discrepancy between the two. Per 100g, NPL delivers 1398kJ of energy, compared to USN’s 262kJ. You know how this round ends don’t you, NPL 2, USN 0. I have noticed that when I use NPL’s amino burn, my energy levels pick up gradually, stabilise and stay there. When I have used USN’s Amino Ener-G, it feels as though I have an energy spike that isn’t sustained. The inclusion of grape seed extract in NPL’s amino burn aids in focus and clarity which I have definitely felt on days when I have consumed it before work. Both products contain an amino acid blend, aka branched chain amino acids (BCAA, more on that in a future post) to aid in recovery, the most well-known (and one that I supplement on its own,) being glutamine.

Overall score: NPL 5/5 USN 2/5

OVERALL RESULT: Not a surprise, NPL. At the start of this review, I already had my (biased) opinion ready. It would have been a win for USN based on the fact that I’ve used (and loved) their products before and it seems to be quite a fan favourite in the fitness world. However, after analysing the labels and doing further reading on the ingredients contained in each product, NPL came out tops. One added benefit is that their amino acid blend has thermogenic properties which when combined with high intensity training is beneficial for your training regime/goals. It also aids in supporting lean muscle mass and hello, who doesn’t want to look leaner and meaner?

Faith, Hope & a Whole Lotta Love

I often ask myself what is the purpose of our lives and I conclude that life’s purpose is to be happy. We have no guarantee what will happen in the future, but we live in hope. That’s what keeps us going. Dalai Lama

Nothing hypes me up more than a compliment or two… from my siblings. Hang on, a couple of weeks ago I was in gym leggings and a top and my niece said I looked cute, so maybe it’s compliments from my siblings AND one very cute 3-year-old niece. If you’re lucky enough to have siblings and a niece or two, they should be your ‘hype guys.’ My sister Nadege or Ya Dena as we affectionately called her, always believed that I was stronger than I thought. She was our hype guy!

Her death was sudden.

No long drawn out illness that we knew of or had time to prepare for, it’s not to say that knowing in advance prepares your heart any better for a loved one’s death. The first few weeks after her death are still a blur. There is a void in my brain rendering me incapable of recalling how I survived those first few days; how I’ve survived these past few months. My heart still hurts, excruciatingly so and sometimes it feels as though I have to stop myself from thinking about her in order to not breakdown. It is a wound that seven months on, still feels fresh, one that hasn’t dulled in terms of the feelings of pain and discomfort that it elicits. I’ve heard from well-meaning people that it gets better in time… I’m still waiting on that.

We’re at the halfway mark of 2018, the warmth of summer has firmly been replaced by winter’s chill. Today I’ve given myself room to pause, ponder and reflect on all that 2018 has so far been and the lessons that I’ve learnt, i.e. how Jesus is holding me up.

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  1. You’ve gotta have faith, hope and a whole lotta love in your heart.

I stepped into 2018 semi-optimistic. Considering the fact that I ended the year, and started the year funemployed, the only expectation I had of this year was that I’d at least end it with a job. My hopes were not high, I was ready to take whatever came my way and not really fight for anything better. My sister would have told me off for that. In fact in the Bible, Paul writes to us and tells us that we should be prisoners of hope* and in the book of Romans speaks on how hope does not put us to shame.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the  Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-2 (ESV)

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I don’t believe that when Paul wrote ‘we rejoice in our sufferings,’ he meant that we get the tambourine out, beat the drums and express how delighted we are that we have this hard thing happening to us because ‘hallelujah Jesus, it’s going to produce endurance in us.’ That would be silly, and I don’t know about you but if silly were to denote a person whose word is to be taken as a joke, I highly doubt that Paul is in that league. This rejoicing I believe denotes a quiet spirit, perhaps one that has been or is being broken by the trials of life whether physical or spiritual, yet holding on to the truth and hope that things will get better. It is this kind of hope that fuels us and directs us into moving in the direction where great things can happen to us. It is this hope that brings opportunity to each new day that we face. Hope that today may not have been great but tomorrow will be. Apparently if you repeat that to yourself enough times, your brain begins to believe it as more than just a motto but accepts it as a fact of life. The more we look for good things, the more we find them. Of course there’s still work that needs to be done, the life you want isn’t earned by just hoping for the best. In garnering a positive outlook, you possess the drive needed to fuel your efforts that will get you to where you want to be. This is the attitude I adopted when I PROPERLY started looking for a job. Lo and behold 2 months into the year, I was employed 🙂 Having a positive attitude doesn’t make things easier but it does give you a better outlook on life and your current circumstance. It puts you in the right frame of mind to analyse how best to navigate the season that you’re in.

  1. If you believe in God, expect for your belief in Him to be shaken AND stirred!

I remember loudly (and proudly…pride comes before a fall no?) exclaiming to a friend that I didn’t feel any further from God since my sister passing, that was a month after she had passed and now that I look back on it, I realize that I had spoken in haste. I hadn’t yet felt the sting of what death can do not just to your relationship with others, but also to your relationship with God. The days leading up to my sister’s funeral were difficult, but being inundated with messages, as overwhelming as it felt, provided a distraction and gave me a break (albeit temporarily) from having to deal with my emotions. I comforted myself with songs and verses that stated God would never leave me nor forsake me. I lived on the memories of when Christ had been a tangible comfort in the midst of past trials and tribulations. I kept telling myself that it would get better. I wish I could pinpoint the day when I stopped believing that. Apathy starts off this way, a slow and gradual freezing of the heart. You tell yourself that you’re temporarily isolating yourself from the situation in order to preserve and protect yourself. Until that one day turns into a week, a week into a month et cetera. All the while, your heart growing colder by the minute. The interesting thing is that while we think closing ourselves off from feeling and emotion, protects us. What it serves to do is isolate us and further draw us away from God. I could no longer see things getting better and the more I saw how certain individuals behaved in disappointing ways following her death, the less I wanted to let anyone in. Choosing to ignore reality and the pain that was in every moment of it, led to me ignoring God and isolating myself from Him. I could feel the anger rising, disappointment creeping in, making itself comfortable in my heart.

I was disillusioned.

Had I believed a lie that God exists?

That Jesus exists and furthermore, that He cared?

It wasn’t until my boyfie sent me a book entitled 10% happier that I was able to identify the root cause of my moment of disbelief in God. The title alone had me questioning whether I’d ever again know what it meant to be happy, let alone 10% happier. As I analysed the causative factors of my unhappiness, I realised that I had begun to view people as accurate, wholly true representations of God. So when I had a number of friends withdraw when the dust had seemingly settled, I saw it as God withdrawing and no longer caring. When I saw someone behave in a way that filled me with disappointment, I viewed God as disappointing. Forsaken, disappointed and alone, I no longer felt like I needed God, especially if God was like these people that had let me down. There exists no perfect human model for the loving nature of God that I have in the past vividly experienced. As hard as it may be, a healthy relationship with Christ is only cultivated through focusing on Him and Him alone. He doesn’t need a plus one!

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  1. Better is not always better…at least not in the way you think.

Better isn’t better until it stops hurting, that’s what we’re taught to think. Better isn’t better until you’ve managed to run back in time (‘Flash’ fan here), and have managed to save your loved one. Right? Wrong. What we have to understand, what I’m learning to understand is that sometimes things getting better isn’t reflective of the physical, but the internal. How is your heart being moulded? How is your character being formed during this very crappy season? In the past few months as I noticed my heart growing cold, my faith in humanity feeling shattered, and my hope in God, seemingly nowhere to be found. I realise now that there is a different definition of what it means for things to get better, one that has greater defining power on my character than the definition that I know. This ‘better’ requires constant evaluation and introspection of your character, your actions, and your choices. This is echoed in the verse where Christ tells us to remove the speck in our eyes before we talk about the log in our brother’s eye. Environment does have a huge bearing on our emotions but the thing that is more important than our physical environment is the internal environment that we cultivate.

So here we are at the end of this post and if someone were to ask me if I’m hopeful of the future. My answer is a resounding yes, while the days aren’t always easy. The journey is often hard and feels littered with pain, I’m certain that Jesus is holding me up. How well you ask: like I’m in the palm of His hand. Securely.