Growing up, Michael Trotter Jr. said his mother knew the turkey sandwiches, hot dogs and cupcakes he and his siblings were constantly eating weren’t good for them. But life in homeless shelters was traumatic, and eating a nutritious meal was not high on his mother’s priority list.
“When you’re under those circumstances, it’s a painful reminder that your life hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to,” said Michael. “So you’re going to search in every area of your life to get some sort of pleasure. Usually, the first option is food.”
After serving in Iraq, Michael returned home and from 2008 through 2009, found himself homeless once again. “I feel like, you know what? I’m not a hero anymore...I don’t have anything to do that shows you my value. No one wants to hire me,” said Michael.
Sleeping in friends’ hotel rooms and finding sporadic work playing the piano, Michael’s insecure housing and financial situation limited his food access, and exacerbated health problems that began brewing during an equally insecure childhood.
“I believe that I have lived with diabetes my entire life, and that overeating and indulging it really messes with you,” said Michael. “It plays on your mind.”
In 2010, Michael met a soulful singer named Tanya, and they formed a band called The War and Treaty. They soon married and together began touring the country, making money and giving back to their community. With career stability came financial and housing stability—as well as an ability to focus on making healthier choices.
“I don’t have to fight for a place to lay my head any longer. Predominately, it’s about feeling safe. Now we feel safer, and now I feel like that part of my brain can be dedicated to something else. Really eased a lot of the tension from diabetes,” said Michael.
Tanya and Michael are also ambassadors of the American Heart Association’s EmPowered to Serve campaign, an initiative that promotes cardiovascular health among African-American adults.
Michael said his goals go beyond promoting better health behaviors. By sharing his experiences of homelessness both as a child and when he returned from his Army service in Iraq, he wants people to understand why adults and children who don’t have a roof over their heads struggle to lead healthy lives.
Michael suggested that for people living through tough times, envisioning a healthier tomorrow matters “it’s very important that you see yourself healthy,” said Michael.
Learn more about the Trotters’ inspiring journey.