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Living off the land

by Kimberley Cummins

Ital is vital.

lovingmerasileybirdThis mantra has worked well for veteran entertainer, Darcy Ras Iley Small’s health and physique for more than 30 years and this is the advise he gives to all those people wanting to live a healthy lifestyle also.

Standing at 5 feet 4″ tall, at his heaviest Ras Iley weighed close to 130 pounds. Readers, particularly those who have fought with weight issues, might shrug off his advice and “state he was genetically blessed with a small frame so he doesn’t have to work hard to maintain his size”. But Mr. Energy, as he is known on the entertainment scene, told LOVING ME that though blessed, his frame is due to hard work, dedication and a strong mentality.

Prior to 2008, Small was often spotted cultivating his field at Pine Basin in St. Michael or exercising but in that year he sustained an injury to his Sciatica nerve. This resulted in tremendous pain from his lower spine through to the bottom of his feet. He was restricted from engaging in anything strenuous or excessive bending since this could cause the disc to pinch the nerve, therefore he had to stop the farming and exercising.

After months of therapy Small is now getting back to a somewhat regular routine. Earlier this year, he returned to farming now concentrating mainly on the lettuce crops and more long term crops like cassava which do not call for much work. He has restarted exercising… some mornings walking to the farm rather than driving.

LOVING ME sought out his guidance on how persons can emulate his healthy way of life.

A farmer, a former top distance runner, jockey and entertainer, over the years he has kept an active routine. In addition, this Rasta man has not eaten meat or fish since 1981. Many of us may not be as strong willed as he was to give up our favourite animal flesh and may shiver if we are forced to but he was adamant that even for him it was a challenge, many times he had to “smell and don’t smell”. While this was his choice, he was still of the opinion, “to each his own”.

“In my time as a Rasta man we always used to preach ‘Ital Is Vital’ so I guess in that time they only figured it was a part of a Rastafarian diet but now you would recognise that everybody realise the more natural foods you eat the less chances of the chronic non-communicable diseases happening to the human beings. Once you eat more ground provisions, you find that…. everybody might not be small like me but your weight tends to be more stable. Once you balance your diet with greens and vegetables… you find most people that are vegetarians don’t have problems controlling their weight- it is because of all these fancy foods… at the end of the day them meats does pose a problem,” he said.

As opposed to the early years when he first became a vegan there was not much variety for a person wanting to eat healthy, so his diet comprised mainly a wide range of peas but now people have a wider range of vegetarian foods and he encouraged them to stop making excuses.

He charged: “Once you dealing with health you can’t put a price tag. I think what happen is because the health foods shops are more expensive people use that as an excuse to back off. The way I see it, any time you putting anything in your stomach and it is for your benefit, I don’t see price. If that is something I need to balance my diet, I just purchase it.”

In addition to a variety of peas which make up his diet, Ras Iley also enjoys Jamaican ackee, green banana and the normal ground provisions- you name it, he eats it. Eggplant is another tasty treat, he said. They were high in protein, when boiled they are most healthy but they can be stir fried or to be more palatable for the average individual, they can be seasoned and fried.

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