Nicola Ifill: Blog en-us (C) Nicola Ifill (Nicola Ifill) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:40:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:40:00 GMT Nicola Ifill: Blog 80 120 Fete ’Til You Sweat - But Keep an Eye on Your Drinks! Fete ’Til You Sweat - But Keep an Eye on Your Drinks!
By Dr. Nicola Ifill, Ed.D, MPH, M.Sc. 

The excitement is mounting in my household. In just a matter of days, I will board a flight in San Francisco and fly to my native Trinidad and Tobago to participate in Carnival 2020 activities. Although Carnival Tuesday is the quintessential pinnacle of the celebration, I suspect most Trinbagonians have long since been enjoying the carnival season by attending fetes. I certainly plan to attend a few fetes leading up to Carnival Tuesday and enjoy the season’s vibes (as we Trinbagonians call it) with family and friends. 

As I plan for my visit, I stumbled onto a sobering article in the online edition of the Daily Express, one of Trinidad’s newspapers.  The February 6, 2020 article, “Cops warn women: Drinks are being spiked,” (Daily Express) reports on a press conference held by the Special Investigations Unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Services. The unit spokesperson warned about the risks associated with marijuana and alcohol impairment, as well as the threat to women’s personal safety by the nefarious use of “date-rape” drugs to spike the drinks of unsuspecting victims at parties. The spokesperson posited, “As a preventative measure individuals can purchase ‘test my drink strips’ online. These test strips can be used to determined if your drink has been drugged…”

While the suggestion that testing drinks before consumption is somewhat useful, there is a certain impracticality in the context of Trinidad and Tobago. As far as I am aware, such test strips are not readily available there or in the wider Caribbean region. It is true that they are available online. But access to such strips by Trinbagonians is predicated on the assumption that the user has a credit/debit card with which the strips can be purchased online, or that the user has the technology to make online purchases, as well the tech savvy to navigate the online sources. It is not a bad idea at all. It is however not a pragmatic one. 

But there is more. These strips generally test for one or two of the most common date-rape drugs such as flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), and ketamine. (Source: USHSS). These drugs are often referred to as “club drugs” because they are used at parties and likely at events like our carnival fetes. Moreover, there are anecdotes indicating that the regular content of some alcoholic beverages can prevent accurate results from the strips. Most important, there is the matter of social behavior. In the excitement of a carnival fete I don’t think it’s highly likely that a woman would take out a strip for each drink, take a sample, wait for the test to produce results, then drink. It’s not going to happen. 

So what’s a girl to do? 

To be clear, women attend carnival fetes all the time and have a safe/enjoyable experience. But given the rise in use of the date-rape drugs, a bit of caution can go a long way in ensuring your safety. Here are three brief tips, apart from testing each drink. These are simple common sense ideas endorsed by law enforcement and public health agencies. 

  1. Rely on the buddy system. In other words, look out for your friends and ask your friends to look out for you. Not only should you do simple things like holding a friend’s drink when it’s time for a restroom break, but keep an eye on how much your friend has had to drink. Look out for those who approach them, particularly if they are impaired, and make sure they are safe. 
  2. Beware of strangers bearing gifts. At every fete, there will be that one person who appears to have been kissed by the gods. And he may offer you a drink. Be careful. That drink may contain dangerous drugs, or he may even have a co-conspirator at the bar. I am not suggesting paranoia, but I am really urging for an abundance of caution in accepting any food and drink from a stranger. One health source cautions, “ If someone offers to get you a drink from a bar or at a party, go with the person to order your drink. Watch your drink as it is poured and carry it yourself.” (USHSS).
  3. Get help right away. If you or a friend feel dizzy or have blurred vision, don’t assume it’s just the alcohol. Further, if you feel drunk and haven’t had any alcohol or if you feel like the effects of drinking alcohol are stronger than usual. Get some help right away just to be on the safe side. Begin by going to bright, safe, public area. Tell a trusted person about it. 

I know that for the vast majority of us Carnival 2020 fetes and parties will be safe and memorable. But we want to make sure that for that small percentage that may be at risk of becoming victims of drugs in their food or drinks, we do all we can to prevent it. Let’s fete and let’s do it safely. 

See you on the road!

** Dr. Nicola Ifill is a public health and higher education researcher and consultant living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She is a native of Trinidad & Tobago, in the Eastern Caribbean.


]]> (Nicola Ifill) 2020 Carnival date rape drugs date-rape drugs fete friends party safety tips Trinidad & Tobago Thu, 06 Feb 2020 21:07:08 GMT
Girls Will Shine… Just Let Them! Girls Will Shine… Just Let Them!
By Nicola Ifill, Ed.D., MPH, M.Sc. 

A few years ago I sat at lunch in a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant with a male family member. Professionally, he was a ranking government official who worked in the public policy arena. He was quickly recognized by a young man who was a public engineer and worked for the same public agency. After brief introductions, the young engineer began to engage my family member in a conversation about the structural integrity of a public works project he was overseeing. Then in what sounded like gratuitous condescension, the engineer said to me, “I apologize for having this technical conversation in the presence of a lady. I suspect this is going straight over your head. I should leave you guys to your lunch.”

Fortunately, my male family member did not allow this slight to go without rectification. He turned to the engineer and responded, “I’m afraid you’re making a mistake. Not only does she hold two graduate degrees, but one of them is from a faculty of chemical engineering. She does not only understand what you’re saying, but you may discover she understands it better than I do.”

I was very happy that my family member challenged the public engineer’s sexist assumptions. I might have been less than gracious in my response. Yet I seethed with anger at the greater issue faced by young women across the professional world every day. Men, and sometimes other women, assume that women are somehow bereft of the ability to think critically, assess complex problems, and make decisions based on facts. While I make no apologies for the unique sensitivity women bring to our decision-making, I take umbrage with the very idea that we cannot or should not excel in the sciences or quite frankly, in any discipline we choose. 

There is perhaps a cultural component to all of this. As a Caribbean native (Trinidad & Tobago), I have often seen the objectification of girls and women. Some people appear to be incapable of seeing beyond our appearance or our clothing. Some even offer justification for their bias with the suggestion that women “encourage” it by wearing provocative clothing in public. To accept this line of reasoning is to accept the flawed notion that humans are one-dimensional. As women, we have the right to look beautiful and feel beautiful without trading the right to be recognized for our intellectual capabilities. 

Now, since my blog generally focuses on public health and beauty, how does this relate? Well, mental health and well-being is as important as physical health. I am concerned about the long-term well being of little girls. In fact, I believe that as a woman who has navigated the complexities a world with social biases and a higher education system that often deliberately or inadvertently fails to push women to succeed, I must help the next generation of girls find their footing and confidently move forward understanding they they can shine. Yes, they can look beautiful. Yes, they can draw on their well-springs of emotional struggles. But these are not liabilities that cancel out their capacity to advance in any arena they desire and succeed at it. 

Girls will shine. We just need to get out of their way and let them. And for good measure, get behind them, as my family member did that day, and give them a nudge in the right direction, topped off with a vote of confidence. 

Dr. Nicola


]]> (Nicola Ifill) Empowerment Girls Leaders Success Women Mon, 21 Oct 2019 20:20:29 GMT
What I plan to wearing to Thanksgiving dinner? What I plan to eat at Thanksgiving dinner? What I plan to wearing to Thanksgiving dinner?  

For this year's Thanksgiving celebration, I reached for an outfit that's both fashionable and family-approved. 

Thanksgiving OutfitStylish, comfortable, and family approved. Thanksgiving OutfitStylish, comfortable, and family approved. The corset was a custom design from Van der Vlugt. The skirt is from Shabby Apple. This skirt was a part of their holiday collection, and it now out of stock, but they have some pretty cute ball skirt of similar designs 


What I plan to eat Thanksgiving dinner

  • Start with soup. Starting off my meal with soup helps me slow down while eating, and may even reduce the number of calories I consume at my main meal.
  • Go crazy with the right veggies. I will be filling up 50 percent of my plate with non-starchy veggies. This may include Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, or a green salad. I will stick with smaller portions of starchy (read: higher-calorie) veggies, such as corn, potatoes, green peas, and winter squashes.
  • Fill up on skinless turkey breast. The turkey itself is relatively low in calories if I stick to skinless white meat.
  • Scoop sides on sparingly. I will choose my favorite “special” sides that I only see around the holidays and keep servings to a half-cup. Stuffing? Worth it. A plain-old everyday roll? Not so much.
  • Practice portion control with my favorite dessert. Most 9-inch pies are meant to be cut into eight slices. If my pie is only sliced into six pieces, then my portion is probably too large. One trick I use also is sticking to only one variety.

Generally, I eat foods that you love and that aren't available at other times of the year, like homemade cranberry sauce, specialty sides, and pumpkin pie, and forgo everyday foods like chips, rolls, and mashed potatoes. 

Content was adapted from Diana Kelly, How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving Plate. 


]]> (Nicola Ifill) Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:59:21 GMT
What You Need For An Urban Stylish Picnic With spring in full swing, it’s the perfect time to plan a picnic. Spring is such a fantastic season. Not only do the flowers bloom and the grass turns bright green, the weather is simply gorgeous, not too hot and never too cold. This is the perfect excuse to get the girls together on a sunny afternoon and have a picnic. It is the perfect past-time and an opportunity to indulge your whimsical girly side, with floral prints, pastel colors and tulle.

The Location

While you can have a picnic practically anywhere, your choice of setting will set the tone and determine what exactly you bring along. Nothing beats a great picnic in a park. Usually parks have a special shaded picnic area for the public. Try and find a park with a lot of grass area so once everyone is done eating you can play some fun outdoor activities.

The Menu

For a picnic, foods that travel well are a must. Think perfect mini picnic sandwiches, pasta salad, or hearty greens like kale that don’t wilt in the heat. Fresh fruit is another good choice, along with a selection of cheese. And don’t forget a thermos full of floral infused lemonade or iced tea. Oh and the wine for the girl talk!!

The Gear

While your picnic spot will determine exactly what you tote along, there are a few items I recommend having in your picnic arsenal.

  • A chic all-in-one picnic basket. Sure, you could tote along an ice chest or cooler… But there is just something so sweet about packing your picnic the old-fashioned way.
  • A soft blanket or oversized towel. Look for something that has a large enough surface area for everyone to sit on, but is lightweight enough to fold down and fit in your basket with ease. In a pinch, an old bed sheet will do!!

The Extras

There are a few extra things that can make your picnic an even bigger success. One is a portable speaker to blast your picnic playlist. You can also bring along a fun activity like supplies to make flower crowns or a your own jewelry.

XOXO Nicola

]]> (Nicola Ifill) Fashion Food Picnic Sun, 12 Apr 2015 18:12:58 GMT
Color Me Pink - Breast Cancer Awareness Color Me Pink - Breast Cancer Awareness


October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During this month survivors and supporters get the word out about this disease. Despite all the efforts being made, the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website reports, “While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same.”


There are many ways through which you can encourage and support breast cancer awareness. I did my part this month through fashion. In other words, I used an avenue that’s already a part of my professional life to bring about awareness. My passion for pink will help fund breast cancer campaigns, programs and research. 


Last weekend I worked collaboratively on a project with international photographer David Fraser of PhotoSophistry. Called “Color Me Pink,” the project aims to help raise awareness about breast cancer by photographing models just as passionate about the issue. I will be showcasing the images from the project on the website by the end on the week.  


The collection was shot with models who volunteered to lend their voices to encourage breast cancer awareness. I chose to participate because this is something that can potentially affect every woman.

]]> (Nicola Ifill) Awareness Cancer Fashion Photography Pink Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:01:08 GMT
Skip the diet, just eat healthy!

As a female, I understand that there are so many unrealistic expectations in today's society for young girl. The media tells us that we need to dress a certain way, look a certain way and even eat a certain way. If you look through fashion magazine, there is a great likelihood that most of them will have some raving new articles with titles like "How to Lose Fat Fast", "Kim Kardashian's New Diet (or insert other celebrity name)" or "Tips on Getting That Summer Body".  All of these expectations and 'standards' create so many body image problems and it is so sad to see that it affects negatively in so many young girls.

As a result, many young people go through unhealthy eating cycles and habits in order to try and achieve the ultimate ‘ideal’ body and feel good about themselves


This is WRONG.

Fad diets come and they go. How many of you have ever tried crash dieting where you starve yourself? Or cut out having every type of food except a salad or something along that line? And how long did that last? Not very long right? People binge. People vomit their food. People starve. People over-obsess about their body. They diet in such an unhealthy way that they don't realize that it's not helping them at all, physically or mentally. 

This is where nutrition comes in. As a nutritionist, I believe that the most important thing is to be  H E A L T H Y. It is not about being skinny or being the most built person. Everyone is unique and we all have different body types, so it is not always possible for everyone to be six feet tall and a size two or four. I believe in counting nutrition, not counting calories. Although it is important to an extent, however, in reality, we as humans eat food. We don't just eat one protein, or carbohydrate or fat. We eat breads and meat, fruits and vegetables. Foods can and should be eaten in moderation. We are supposed to ENJOY food. Food brings people together and they can define cultures and backgrounds. Most importantly, they are essential for our lives, our health and well being. That is why I believe that being healthy is a lifestyle and it is all about balance! 

Yes. ONE meal will not make a difference

However, by putting in consistent effort to have a balanced lifestyle by staying active and eating healthy meals everyday WILL. As they say, "Old Habits Die Hard" - which is why it is a lot easier to make small and gradual lifestyle changes instead of just jumping on the bandwagon and then relapse one week later.

Adapted from Healthy - The New Slim.

]]> (Nicola Ifill) Diet Healthy Nutrition Tue, 15 Jul 2014 16:22:02 GMT