10 Resolutions for Arab Americans in 2018
By: Kameron Dreher/Arab America Contributing Writer
Many Arab Americans have heard the saying, “New Year, new me”, but how often do they actually quit unwanted and hurtful Arab habits that they promise would fulfill? Is 2018 the year to finally take action, live a healthier lifestyle, try new things, and make serious changes? Which one resolution would you pick out from the following ten?
1. Quit Shisha
Hookah smoking can be as damaging, addictive, and dangerous as cigarettes because the tobacco is no less toxic in a water-pipe. In fact, a habitual shisha smoker might breathe in much more poisonous fumes during an hour-long session than a typical cigarette smoker inhales in a few days. Obviously, this can cause a wide array of long-term health risks, including cancer, heart, skin, and gum diseases. The nicotine in hookah tobacco is as addictive as the one in cigarettes though, so completely quitting shisha might take some strong will and time.
2. Quit Cigarettes
Arab Americans, a growing population in the U.S., tend to have high rates of smoking and low rates of smoking cessation. Arab Americans and their families are at a high risk for poor health outcomes related to smoking. But by quitting smoking, they would introduce multiple health benefits that are immediate and substantial for all the following: heart, lungs, circulatory system, lower risk of diabetes, oral, skin, and senses (taste and smell). In addition, quitting cigarettes would provide family and friends a cleaner and a healthier environment free of smoke.
3. Cut Back on Sugar Intake
Arab Americans have a high burden of diabetes and poor outcomes compared to the general U.S. population. In Dearborn Michigan, which has the second largest population of Arab Americans in the US, one study estimated the prevalence of diabetes in the Arab American population there to be at 18 %. Eating foods high in refined carbs and sugar increases blood sugar and insulin levels, which may lead to diabetes over time. Cutting back on sugar may help reduce the risk of getting diabetes – and yes this includes baklava!
4. Cut Back on Meat
Although it’s hard to imagine giving up kibbeh niyyih, mashawi or shawarma, switching over to a plant-based diet can have health and nutritional advantages. In many cases, Arab Americans can improve their risk factors for a variety of diseases and health problems by simply reducing the intake of mashawi, lamb legs and chops, and shawarma. For sure cutting down on such meat is more achievable give it up entirely. Sticking with Arab meatless dishes is highly recommended, such as lentils, beans, spinach, and all other vegetable dishes that are essential in the Arab cuisine.
5. Stop Eating and Socializing After Midnight
It’s known that some Arab Americans work late hours and that they love to socialize with family and friends; however, that would impact eating, sleeping habits, and weight gain. A new study has suggested that snacking late at night could increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Evidence shows that poor timing of meals can affect cholesterol levels which can increase the risk of heart disease or suffer a heart attack. According to American researchers, snacking late at night could negatively affect your memory. Another study from the University of California found that eating at irregular hours – such as late at night – had the potential to impact cognitive functions. Also, staying up late not only cuts into the amount of sleep each night but that exposure to light at night could also have effects on the body beyond expectation. Having family and friends over at late hours and going out late would prevent one from getting a restful night’s sleep which could lead to difficulty with fertility for women, affect academics, cancer risk, and stress hormone levels.
6. Quit Postponing Vacations and Relax!
Arab Americans, more than other nationalities, do postpone immediate gratifications while building their businesses and careers. They keep promising themselves that they would do it after their goals are achieved, but it’s time to say: “enough is enough” and learn to put personal and emotional needs first. Taking time off is good for the mental and physical health; one can come back more productive and effective. It’s a win-win. A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety. Several studies have highlighted the cardiovascular health benefits of taking a vacation. Even missing one year’s vacation was associated with a higher risk of heart disease. What’s more, frequent vacationers were significantly less likely to leave the workplace. Researchers say that vacations can help interrupt the habits that disrupt sleep, like working late into the night or watching a backlit screen before bed.
7. Stop Delaying Hajj
Every year millions of devout Muslims answer the call to Hajj following in the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in answering the call of their father Abraham. Unfortunately, many Muslim Arab Americans delay performing the Hajj until the latter part of their lives simply because of convenience. They wish to postpone the trip until they feel they are financially ‘stable’. Some people hold back out of fear of a new Islamic lifestyle they will be obligated to embrace when they return. The reality is that many do delay Hajj until it’s too late. As the years pass by, some of them fall sick with debilitating conditions, others become financially stricken and so the great opportunity is lost. It is advised to all Muslims who know that they can perform Hajj without great difficulty to do so before they lose this unique chance of attaining this pillar of Islam.
8. Learn Arabic
By studying Arabic one also learn about the culture and better connect with the land of their forefathers. By knowing Arabic one will gain a deeper and more nuanced perspective of the Arabic-speaking world than the typical themes found in U.S. mass media. Proficiency in the language would provide more balanced perspective and identity with the family, friends, and peers. Knowing the language would encourage a greater understanding of the Arab culture in U.S. society and more trusting attitudes towards Arab Americans and Arabs living in the Arab World and everywhere. Learning another language; especially Arabic, would improve the chances for jobs opportunities, promotions, and even would slow down dementia.
9. Visit the Homeland
Arab Americans yearn for their homeland. They refer to their life there as “the good old days”. Some of them visit it annually in the Summer for a few weeks; they renew their love for its people, culture, and the land itself. However, many Arab Americans talk about the homeland but postpone their visit for numerous reasons: economic situation, busy with work, or for the political instability.
10. Stick to a Mediterranean Diet
Arab Americans vow to lose weight starting January 1st. This should not be difficult at all. As mentioned above: Cut back on meat and Arab desserts like baklava and Knafeh. Increase the use of olive oil, lemon, and garlic/onions in all your salads, such as the tomato cucumber one, beans, lettuce, parsley and burghul (tabbouleh) fattoush, baked chopped eggplant, and cauliflower. Reread food recipes in Arab America log.
Since there is no guarantee of continued good health or even living, it’s time in 2018 to fulfill your life dreams. Make some of the above recommendations your 2018 resolutions!