Some Food For Thought

Some Food For Thought
Jeff Aker, CSCS
While my background and passion is exercise, I have had a great opportunity to reflect on as well as develop my education on nutrition as The ChangeLink Project came together. Since becoming a trainer, nutrition has always been a subject that I have been mindful of for both assisting clients, as well as for my own benefit. While my interest in exercise goes way back, I do feel that my appreciation for nutrition is still relatively new. For me, it started for my own superficial reasons. Like a lot of gym rats in their late teens and early twenties, eating was for getting big or getting lean. It has definitely evolved over the past few years as it is a common subject shared and discussed with friends and colleagues. It has only recently occurred to me how substantial food really does define our existence. The fascination with it started for me as the awareness of the epidemic of obesity that we are facing in the present day. As the understanding of why this was occurring developed it opened up a few different cans of worms. Food to me now raises a large number of conversation pieces.
-The dietary changes that have occurred over the past number of decades.
-The industrialization and monetization of our food supply.
-The effects of industrialized farming on the health of ourselves as well as our planet.
-Food as medicine.
-The medical implications of obesity and malnutrition.
-Food and our performance.                                             
-Economic implications of preventable disease.
-Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
-Organic vs. conventional.
It really has developed into an overwhelming subject but for all of the right reasons as the awareness of proper nutrition becomes a greater commodity and the call to action is becoming more and more mainstream. Education to me has been the biggest contributor to that list as it has been the biggest contributor to the consciousness of what I put into my body, as well as the biggest eye opener to what we eat. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents who were a little more mindful of healthy eating. While there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy what kids enjoyed, they were always pretty straight edge when it came to food. Going through school it was something that was really not relevant to developing. While we would learn about food guides the food that resonates with me going through school was vending machines, pizza, candy, and whatever could come from a freezer and be deep fried and ready to eat within minutes. While I was active and put some thought into nutrition I can say with confidence that my eating was far from perfect. At the time I didn’t know any better. Looking back at it now the common question that comes up is “What was I thinking?” While I feel lucky being able to recognize the implications of what we put into our bodies, the epidemic that we are facing tells me that this recognition has been overlooked. Especially going through the educational system and evolving into adulthood. I look at nutrition as a pretty vital component of what we become as people being left to discover on our own as other priorities make their way to the top of the to do list.
A person who I have grown to appreciate in this learning process has been Jamie Oliver. I was surfing through some TED Talks one day (which I highly recommend checking out) and came across his talk from 2010. He had won a TED award for his work with his Food Revolution and his food education campaigns. In his speech he laid out just how significant food really is as diet related disease is the number one killer in The United States today and is becoming an ever increasing epidemic in other modern nations. Diet related disease is costing the American healthcare system $150 billion and is set to double to $300 billion in ten years. He also highlights how this can be significantly changed for the better by providing the knowledge and appreciation of applying proper nutrition, within the family and within the educational system.
While I feel there is still a lot to learn when it comes to nutrition, but I now look at food as the most profound factor in our output physically and mentally. It influences our performance athletically and academically, in the boardroom and in the bedroom, and ultimately plays the greatest role in our survival and the quality of it. While I do not formally prescribe particular foods in particular quantities, I know that my role professionally is becoming more integrated with nutrition and rightfully so. What I do prescribe is taking the time to become more mindful of what you are putting into your body. Educate yourself and put it to use. If you have kids, start them young as it will have profound effects on their development.
It is becoming more apparent that the habits that we have developed over the past few decades have not been working and the errors are proving to be pretty catastrophic. Fortunately, education has made us aware of this and if we embrace it, education and preparation will be the biggest weapon in making things right.