Persevering in Puerto Rico: A story of resilience

November 1, 2017 / Motivational, Nutrition
Persevering in Puerto Rico: A story of resilience

Photo Credit:

Guest post provided by Doranyi Figueroa Sanabria, RPh, PharmD, PN1, PN2(c), VPS(c)


  • The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape, also known as elasticity.
  • The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, also known as toughness.

Puerto Rico, Paradise Island, Borinquen or merely “Preciosa,” as we call it. (Preciosa means Precious in Spanish).

It is an island that when seen from above is an ocean of green, surrounded by an ocean of blue, where people are always happy and always create a song even about the bad things that surround us. As some of you may have heard or read, Puerto Rico was recently struck by not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes less than two weeks apart. The first hurricane didn’t affect our island, but seeing the chaos it left behind in the rest of the Caribbean it did give us a taste of what we could expect should we ever get hit by one. But, being the kind of people we always are, we got confident and cocky thinking “something like that will never hit us.” Well, two weeks went by, and Hurricane Maria blasted through us.

It entered our island at around 6 am EST, September 20th, thru the south-east end of the island, in a town called Yabucoa and left the island at around noon of September 21st, thru Arecibo, a village on the north-west of the island. We experienced steady winds of a Category 3 Hurricane and sporadic winds over 200mph, for over 24 hours, with the occasional tornado (even though they weren’t officially reported.)

The first days after the storm we were making lines of over 12 hours just to be able to get gas for our cars and our generators. We lost all communications including landlines and cell signals.

There was no electricity, no running water, and no internet. We were left uncommunicated from the world for literally almost a week. Houses fell, rivers overflowed, new streams were forming through existing towns, countless trees fell, bridges collapsed.

People got frustrated trying to reach their families in other parts of the island and not being able to. There were no supermarkets opened, half of the gas stations had stopped working, and the banks weren’t open.

It was chaos.

But why did I start this talking about resiliency? Well, because of the following:

Just a mere 24 hours after the hurricane hit, everybody started coming out of their houses and refuges and came together to clear pathways, gather food and water for their neighbors, and to help even the people they had never before seen in their lives. 48-72 hours after, some of us started working again very long hours at hospital and health institutions, military personnel arrived and began gathering around the island to help us out, and a mere week after the hurricane hit, we saw green again in our trees.

I will never forget the words of one of the military pharmacists that came to help us out told me, with tears in her eyes, before she left.

“I am amazed that this island and you guys can come together and keep going with everything that has happened to you.”

Resiliency. That’s what that is. The ability to jump back after the chaos and keep going. The ability to make the best of the situation with what you are left behind.

And what does this have to do with fitness and nutrition? Well, imagine you are an athlete who trains for hours a week and follows a strict nutrition plan and suddenly. You can’t train, and you can’t eat what you used to. All you have in your reach is canned foods loaded with sodium, barely two bottles of water a day (if you’re lucky), no fresh fruits or vegetables, and to top it all off, your gym has closed down. Do you give up? I would think not.

You make the best you can with what you got.

Canned foods? Loaded with sodium? How can you reduce the sodium? Try and rinse them off before you cook them, or get the low sodium version if you can. No fresh veggies? Use the canned ones or even better the crystal bottled ones. No fruits? Have you seen the packed ones in their juices? Just throw the liquid out and eat the fruits. Not enough water? Instead of grabbing sodas (which is what most people do) grab juices, that sugar is way better than soda’s sugar. What if the gym is closed and you can’t work out? Grab a shovel and start clearing pathways. Put on your sneakers and go for a run or a walk. Make up your little routine with or without weights and keep the body in motion.

I know this is not ideal by all means. Will your weight fluctuate? Yes, it will, but mostly from water retention because of the sodium levels. Will your strength diminish? No, but you will feel weaker because you’re not eating enough nor the proper nutrients in the right amounts. You will also not rest enough, and emotionally you will get drained.

Is it the end of the world? Of course not. This is merely the way nature uses to get stronger; this is survival of the fittest and the strongest.

Be resilient.

Remain strong.

Strive for survival, and you will make it through the storm.

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