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Taking health seriously

by Latoya Burnham

ericdickeyMost people, women at least, know or have heard of Eric Jerome Dickey. If not by reading his books themselves, certainly from the popular tune sung by former Calypso King Popsicle in 2010.

Many also know of his passion for writing and telling the stories black people like to read, but perhaps few have thought about the man beyond what they see and read. And given his penchant for some of the hottest sex and love scenes in his writing, LOVING ME just had to ask him a few question ourselves.

In the food court of Sheraton Mall, Eric is sipping a health shake, while snacking on a Trini doubles. I know because I asked what it was he was eating and thus began my second ever interview with this man whom I just love to talk to. We started with food. What are his eating habits while writing? What types of food does he like? Little did I know that I would stumble onto a story about allergies and healthy living, which coincidentally is the point of LOVING ME!

Eric is allergic to a lot of things. Mind you, he doesn’t let it run or ruin his life, but has used his change in diet and other practices to get most of them under control.

Even as people pass by, some doing a double take, others showing recognition with a lift of eyebrows or drop of the jaw, he talks candidly about his battle to control his allergies – sinus, cat dander, actually animals in general, cheese or dairy products, nuts, grass… yes it’s amazing.

“For a period last year, I was strictly vegetarian, a lot of juicing; I hadn’t had meat from January right up until Novemberish, and the only reason I went back to salmon was because I needed more protein and I did not have enough protein powders and stuff like that. Then I went to work out and I had no energy. So it made me realise this is why I need protein,” he said honestly, as he continued to snack on his doubles.

Looking at him, the man is built. Not overly muscular, but by his hands you can tell he works out. In fact, he says he used to work out every day, but sometimes his hectic schedule gets in the way and he has to do a bit of cardio and stretching. On the road, there is a lot more walking and running now, though he says he used to do long distance running between six and 20 miles at a stretch. He’s got that kind of physique to prove it, and his health, he comments is something he takes care of whether he’s in the midst of one of this novels or not.

So he returned to salmon and fish, two or three times a day to build his body back to the point where he had the energy he needed and could not get from veg-related produce alone.

“It was funny because when you break the diet you kinda just ease over to other stuff. I wasn’t doing bread, I wasn’t doing sugar, I wasn’t doing any sodas, but since I’ve been here I’ve been doing a couple maubys, but I don’t do cokes and that sort of thing to get away from the super sugary stuff. I keep away from the bread. I was doing straight juicing and I would find snacky stuff to get that full feeling.

“I was just trying to feel healthier, and in the States, a lot of the stuff you are eating is just processed. So if you get fish, it has gone through the process and it has been frozen and dyed and you go like, there is no fish that colour. There are certain colours we see in our mind and think it’s good for us, but we’re looking at something that’s dyed,” he laughed.

“It’s just about being aware what you put into your body. A lot of people realise they have been feeling bad and then they change their diet and start to feel good because they exist in a comfortable state of discomfort. They think, ‘I’m supposed to feel tired if I walk up a flight of stairs’.”

And this approach he admits, has had a spin-off effect into other areas, like his allergies.

“The body just evolves and becomes something else. Actually, when I changed my diet, my allergies became better. I literally had to pop allergy pills every day because I would get really irritated, and when I changed my diet, the level isn’t so bad. I couldn’t go out on grass and stand on grass, right, or do something like that. Eyes would get irritated, I would get a sinus drip…

“They are a lot better now. I was at the point where the dermatologist wanted me to take two pills, and these are pills you are supposed to take like once a day, and he wanted me to take two pills twice a day. Now I’m down to a half pill. There are some days now that I don’t need or I forget to take it,” he adds.

So his food is something he takes seriously. Again honestly, he admits though that he and the kitchen, “we’re not friends like that”. Coming from the south, Memphis, he said he used to cook, but that used to be a lot of the more fattening and not necessarily healthy types of food.

“Some people go in and cook every day. I would get in and do something every now and then. I have friends who cook, so I just…” he explodes with laughter.

But we can’t let the interview end without asking about these sex scenes he writes that makes you feel like you are standing right there, blushing along with every movement. Does he know this from experience?

Here, it takes a little while to answer, but in a roundabout way he says writers write what they know, but he also acknowledges that a good hand at research and a healthy imagination also help.

Sex or lovemaking, he believes is something that is satisfying if all five senses are captivated – your sense of touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing all have to be involved.

It’s what keeps him returning to relationships book after book, because the beauty and the complexity of it, is something that can almost literally take your breath away.

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