Are you an athlete, coach, or parent? Do you love yourself, your friends, and family? Do others love you? You have probably answered yes several times already and because you have, you need to read this post with an open mind.
In order to be the best athlete possible one must be in great shape. The best athletes are in the best shape. In order to be a good coach, one must have good health. In order to accomplish that you must nourish your body. This week we are going to discuss America’s problem with food and why as an athlete, coach, or parent we need to change our eating habits. This blog was inspired by the documentaries, Hungry for a Change and Forks over Knives. It’s longer than the usual post but please stay with me. I’m doing this for you, your athletes, coaches, children, and families.
We have a problem with food and dieting in our country. A big problem (pun intended). Our country spends over $60 billion every year in weight-loss products. If we want to improve our health care costs, let’s improve the way we eat. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 68% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. We have a major diabetes and obesity problem. We are raising our children with bad eating habits that set them up for a lifetime of health issues. Dieting does not work. When I say dieting, I am referring to fad dieting and counting calories. According to a University of California study, almost two-thirds of people who diet regain more weight than when they started. So if dieting doesn’t work, what must we do? We first must change the way we think and then the way we eat.
First ask yourself this question: do I live to eat or do I eat to live? There is a huge difference in paradigms between the two. We need to eat to sustain ourselves but we have become a society that is overfed and undernourished. Our problem today is that we are not eating food anymore; we are eating food-like products. We are overfed and starving to death. We need to understand the traps that are being set up by food companies in order to attack the problems that exist.
The number one thing we must do is eliminate sugar. If you drink soda, stop. The average cola soda contains 33 grams of sugar. You cannot perform at your best as an athlete if you drink soda. I don’t care what the commercials or ads say or who is in them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says we consume more than 150 lbs of sugar each year. All of this sugar turns to fat in our bodies. In the western diet (U.S.) we’ve programmed ourselves to store up for winter, well the problem is that winter doesn’t come. We are constantly hungry because our bodies are lacking the nutrition it craves. We eat too much sugar and too many calories, and do not get enough nutrition. This needs to be reversed. America’s problem began as we moved away from farms and into cities. Our bodies are not made to sit indoors under fluorescent lights and eat processed junk food. This led to our current obesity epidemic. We have started to forget how to eat and live. And if you think diet soda is better, think again. Diet soda contains artificial sugar, which has been linked to leukemia and other blood-related cancers.
I apologize to my wife for not fully committing to the lifestyle change I’m about to discuss prior to viewing these two films. She has been awesome in getting our family to change our eating habits. We have gone to mainly organic foods and all organic, cage- and hormone-free, as well as nitrate-free meats. You might say, “Well organic food is too expensive to buy.” I counter with, “Have you priced out cancer lately?” You see, our diets today are directly related to the growing number of cancer patients and victims. Studies have shown that our western diets are a cause for cancer and that by switching to a plant and earth based diet we greatly reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease. A plant and earth based diet (a diet based upon eating fruits, vegetables, plants, nuts, and seeds that come naturally from the earth) will even reverse severe medical conditions and reduce cancer cell growth.
I have been a 2% milk drinker my whole life but I am changing. Milk is loaded with hormones and sugar. We have switched to organic and almond milk. My diet used to be around 85 % meat and dairy, and around 15% plant and earth based. I am switching to 80% plant and earth (whole foods) based, and 20% meat and dairy. I am striving to eat at least 80% whole foods while still allowing room in the 20% for cheats that are good for you. I never used to check labels and even last week I bought Ketchup that had high fructose corn syrup in it. Fructose is a highly addictive and destructive additive in our foods. From now on I will be checking labels and ingredients, not the advertising on the front of a package. I will no longer eat processed foods. It was easy for me to make this mind shift and I am going to explain what led me to make this change.
As I stated earlier, we need to understand the traps that are being set before we change our line of thinking. First, why do most doctors not just tell us about switching to a plant and earth based diet? It’s rather simple. Doctors (not all) are influenced by pharmaceutical companies, who are influenced by food producers, who may influence the FDA. Rather than letting the FDA decide what is good for you, do your research. Look at ingredients. What does this all go back to? Again it’s simple. Money–and lots of it. Healthy people are not good business for pharmaceutical companies. Sick people who depend upon prescriptions are. The major food companies will say the additives are approved by the FDA and approved for human consumption, but independent research shows the harmful effects.
The food industry has billions of dollars available and they use it to figure out what appeals to people because they know the public is not strong enough to say no. You see, they put this magic ingredient called MSG into our foods. It’s everywhere. I was amazed at how many foods contain the additive. According to Raymond Francis, president of Beyond Health International, MSG is used to enhance flavor in 80% of all processed foods. In Hungry for a Change, doctors and researchers discussed how fat studies are conducted on mice. In order to compare them to humans, scientists have to fatten up the mice. How do they do this? They use MSG. Go online and search “MSG obesity induced mice.” This is in 80% of our foods; does this not make you angry? It does me.
Let’s go back to soda quickly. The amount of sugar in soda is terrible but that’s not the worst of the ingredients. If you’re thinking you’re okay because you drink diet soda, you’re actually worse off. Diet soda contains Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that has been linked to many health concerns for people who consume it. Stop drinking soda if you want to be healthy. The food companies addict us to food much like tobacco companies do with cigarettes. Instead of using nicotine, they use MSG, aspartame, high fructose syrup, and processed sugars. These ingredients make us crave the food product and get us coming back for more.
The number one thing we must do is dramatically reduce the amount of sugar intake we have. In the 1900’s we averaged 15 g of sugar per day. Today, we average 70-80 grams. Our kids average 120-150 grams. This high amount of sugar has been shown to alter brain chemistry. Yet we sell soda, cookies, and other foods loaded with sugar to our kids every day. We must get this garbage out of our schools. If we truly care about kids, we will. By taking in these high amounts of sugar we make ourselves much more susceptible to chronic disease, depression, and mood swings. Remember that fat doesn’t make us fat, sugar does. Sugar is like a drug. The more we eat, the more we need of it to get the same effect. I’ll end the discussion on sugar with this. Is it okay to give kids cigarettes? It is okay to give kids alcohol? If someone were to do that we would say it is child abuse. Then why is okay that we load them up with these high amounts of sugar at home and in schools? It’s not.
Food kills more people than all other drugs combined. The number one killer in our country remains heart disease. Our bodies cannot support our eating choices. Why do we want to lose weight temporarily? Do we only want to be healthy temporarily? People in jungles and in the tundra are lean and live long lives. They rarely suffer from heart disease or chronic disease. The reason is that they eat a diet that resembles their natural ecosystem. What do we feed animals in a zoo? Foods that resemble their ecosystem. Why can’t we do this for ourselves? We are not feeding ourselves foods that we are biologically adapted to. We need to eat nutrient rich foods that sustain energy. This includes plants, nuts, seeds, fruits, and as much as I hate to say it: vegetables. I hate vegetables but I am going to learn how to cook and juice them. That’s another topic for another day.
We need to try to stay away from man-made foods. Go to your local farmers and get food without pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. We must go back to a diet that comes from the garden and not the lab. The simpler we get with our food, the healthier we get as people. What we eat is the last area of control we have. Only we control what we put into our mouths. Before you eat something ask yourself these three questions: 1) Where does this food come from? 2) What went into this? Any care? 3) What’s my intention? Is it to support and sustain or to comfort and entertain? Go from the mindset of “I want that but can’t have it” to one of “I can have it but don’t want it.”
The best teams and the best athletes are in the best shape. You cannot be in the best shape if you are putting processed junk food into your body. If you’re a coach, you need to lead by example. Set the precedent. I challenge you to really think about this with an open mind. In the week since I have committed to this change I have lost four pounds, feel great, and have more sustained energy. The key concept is do you love yourself? If you do, you can make the change. For me it’s simple. I want to look good, feel good, and live long. I want to see my son get old and meet my great-grandchildren. By switching to a whole food and plant and earth based diet, I am giving myself the best opportunity to do so. I hope you do too.
Remember to avoid processed junk foods, foods with MSG, high sugars, aspartame, hormones, antibiotics, fructose, nitrates, and fillers.
Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!