Sanc­tu­ary’s Health Recipe

Better Health - - CONTENTS - By Leanne Tasher

"Care­fully rinse away all doubt. Mould courage into large chunks. Then, add a pinch of pa­tience and a dash of de­ter­mi­na­tion. Mix well and re­peat as nec­es­sary."

His de­ci­sion to be­come a ve­gan was in­tu­itive, but lit­tle did he know, this diet would later help him avoid se­ri­ous health com­pli­ca­tions.

Care­fully rinse away all doubt. Mould courage into large chunks. Then, add a pinch of pa­tience and a dash of de­ter­mi­na­tion. Mix well and re­peat as nec­es­sary. This sim­ple recipe has never failed Romell Ben­nett, a soca artiste bet­ter known as Sanc­tu­ary. That’s why great­ness is al­ways within his grasp, whether he is on stage or off. The self-de­scribed per­fec­tion­ist has come to be known as a dy­namic per­former, singer and song­writer. Dur­ing his re­ward­ing ca­reer, he’s whipped up hits like Switch­ing, Mega Mon­day and Pick Me Up, for which he was crowned the Star­com’s Net­work Peo­ple’s Monarch last Crop Over. He’s also writ­ten for pop­u­lar artistes like Mikey, Big­gie Irie, TC, Ali­son Hinds and Mr. Blood. In a re­cent in­ter­view, Bet­ter Health learned key in­gre­di­ents to his suc­cess – a healthy life­style and whole­some diet.

“I be­came a ve­gan when I was 17 years old. I had started to ed­u­cate my­self about the dan­gers of what we’re eat­ing and the dis­eases as­so­ci­ated with the foods that we eat. I started to get scared be­cause a lot of dif­fer­ent dis­eases run in my fam­ily – there is di­a­betes in my fam­ily, there’s glau­coma in my fam­ily, there’s pan­cre­atic can­cer in my fam­ily, and there’s obe­sity in my fam­ily. So I did not want to fol­low in the bad foot­steps. I dared to be dif­fer­ent. I am the only ve­gan in my fam­ily,” he re­vealed.

Be­fore age 17, Romell said he ate “every­thing”, lots of pork, beef, lamb, fried foods – you name it. Now, you could not pay him to eat that way again. For the 38-year-old, the sole pur­pose of eat­ing is to sus­tain his body: “I don’t crave food. I be­lieve that when you be­come a ve­gan, you eat be­cause you have to or you will die”. His de­ci­sion to be­come a ve­gan was in­tu­itive, but lit­tle did he know, this diet would later help him avoid se­ri­ous health com­pli­ca­tions.

For many years, Romell ex­pe­ri­enced an un­ex­plained dis­com­fort in his stom­ach, which started while he at­tended the Gar­ri­son Sec­ondary School (now Gray­don Sealy Sec­ondary School):

“I was in pain from sec­ondary school un­til about 33 years old. Doc­tors could not tell me what it was. Ev­ery­body was telling me it was air.

“I had al­ways felt dis­com­fort through­out sec­ondary school. Be­ing from the coun­try (St John), you have to get up early, skip break­fast and rush to school. But I fig­ured it was air so the first time I had the ex­treme stom­ach pain, I went to the doc­tor and they gave me an in­jec­tion and bar­al­gin (pain re­liever). I took it and went home but it was no help.

“I went back to the doc­tor and they pre­scribed dio­vol tablets. And then for years and years, ev­ery sin­gle night I would be in pain. The pain used to come on mainly at night – some­times dur­ing the day, but I would ig­nore it. It would be a nag­ging pain dur­ing the day but at night, when my body was rest­ing, I would feel that pain more than any­thing else.”

…I think he is the rea­son all of these songs come to me. It may be a crazy idea, but I know he’s the rea­son why I will never quit. This is why I do this. This isn’t for me. It’s for him.

Rinse away doubts

At age 23, Romell ex­pe­ri­enced im­mense pain of a dif­fer­ent kind; it was the trau­matic loss of his cousin Hen­der­son Col­ly­more, who had been in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent. The two were like brothers – when you saw one, you saw the other. Hen­der­son, who was also 23, was mu­si­cally gifted and dreamed of be­com­ing an artiste. When Hen­der­son’s life was cut short, Romell, a car­pen­ter by trade, dared to keep his vi­sion alive.

“…He used to write songs but I could have never got­ten a song writ­ten. And when he died, I de­cided that ‘No, I can’t let it die there. I have to carry on what he wanted’. So when I was 26, I started go­ing to voice lessons. It was some­thing out of the blue; when I told my friends, ev­ery­body laughed at me.

“…I think he is the rea­son all of these songs come to me. It may be a crazy idea, but I know he’s the rea­son why I will never quit. This is why I do this. This isn’t for me. It’s for him,” he said, not­ing that he is also mo­ti­vated by his son Ak­ija, who was born in 2001.

Mould courage

In 2010, Romell closed down his land­scap­ing com­pany and fo­cused on mu­sic. He did not be­lieve that he had mas­tered song writ­ing or per­form­ing at the time, but he was con­fi­dent in his abil­ity. While work­ing with leg­endary bands like Xtatik (led by Machel Mon­tano) and Kros­fyah, he was able to per­fect his craft. It was not long be­fore word of his tal­ent spread, and his writ­ing skills were in high de­mand.

Due to his busy sched­ule, the Fete Loan singer was not al­ways able to eat prop­erly or on time. While on the go, he was sur­rounded by fast food es­tab­lish­ments that did not cater to his ve­gan life­style. Ev­ery once in a while he was forced to “com­pro­mise” and eat a few fries, for ex­am­ple. How­ever, mainly fruits and veg­gies made it past his lips. Despite this, he con­tin­ued to suf­fer from oc­ca­sional stom­ach pain. Ea­ger to find re­lief, he sought a nat­u­ral rem­edy.

“I went to a natur­o­pathic doc­tor and he pre­scribed gar­lic and gin­ger. It seemed like it was work­ing and then it got worse and worse and worse. I went to an­other natur­opath, they said I have some worms in my sys­tem. I took med­i­ca­tion for that and it made the pain even worse.

A pinch of pa­tience

“[In 2013] I went to the FMH Emer­gency Med­i­cal Clinic and the doc­tor told me ‘This is acid re­flux’. That time I had no clue what acid re­flux was. He told me to cut out cer­tain foods, all the acidic foods like gin­ger and gar­lic.

“I had a her­nia. The doc­tor ex­plained that although I tran­si­tioned from eat­ing meat, I was still cre­at­ing enough acid in my stom­ach to di­gest meat, which is too much acid. Meat takes every­thing out of a per­son to di­gest and it never all gets di­gested.

“He told me that be­cause it went so far, still take this tablet, I can’t re­mem­ber the name of it. The tablet lines the stom­ach and stops the acid from reach­ing the her­nia and caus­ing it to worsen.

“So the tablet he gave me lined my stom­ach and then grad­u­ally the pain went away. Af­ter the pain stopped, it never came back again be­cause I never ate any of that stuff again. The doc­tor said that if I used to eat meat with all the stom­ach prob­lems that I had, I would have de­vel­oped pan­cre­atic can­cer.

“I re­alised that eat­ing prop­erly would solve a lot of my prob­lems like my stom­ach prob­lems and my eczema. I started to re­search the foods that I was eat­ing, fig­ur­ing out what is al­ka­line, what is acid, what acidic foods do to you, and what al­ka­line foods do to your body,” he said.

A dash of de­ter­mi­na­tion

Now that he has grown wiser, Romell leaves noth­ing to chance. In ad­di­tion to meat and acidic foods, he avoids gluten, sugar and salt. Ev­ery day, he rises with the sun and med­i­tates. Then, he drinks wa­ter and eats a fruit, for ex­am­ple a ba­nana or raw plan­tain: “I find raw plan­tain is more fill­ing and more of a break­fast meal com­pared to fry­ing it and putting all the oil in it.

“For lunch, I cook and I usu­ally use a lot of len­til peas, a lot of spinach, a lot of beets, all nat­u­ral food. There are no fried foods in my lunch or din­ner.”

To en­sure that he eats healthily while work­ing, the en­ter­tainer be­gan plan­ning meals more care­fully:

“I started cook­ing and fo­cus­ing on my­self. Be­fore I go in the stu­dio, I would cook. I would take food in the stu­dio and put it on the fridge or take a stove in the stu­dio. I made the stu­dio like home to fa­cil­i­tate my diet.”

A ve­gan diet has worked won­ders for Romell; it has helped his stom­ach to heal and al­lows him to func­tion at his best. He be­lieves that self-care and con­fi­dence be­gins with what we put on our plates:

“We are what we eat. If we fo­cus on what we eat, we would be what we re­ally want to be. We would see who we re­ally want to see in that mir­ror. We would feel how we re­ally want to feel at a young age, at a mid­dle age and at an old age.”

The artiste has un­locked the recipe to a healthy life­style. No doubt, he will use it as he trav­els the globe, and of course, con­tinue to make his cousin proud.

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