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What Do You Value

June 20, 2011

I was listening to a discussion between two strength coaches the other day talking about the excuses they hear from people regarding exercise and nutrition, and it got me thinking.

What are your priorities in life and where do exercise and nutrition fit in all that?

One of the most often used excuses is, “I don’t have time”.  But this raises an interesting counter-question in my mind: don’t have time for what?  Everyone is dealt the same 24 hours in the day, and it is really a matter of how your prioritize those hours.  Some will tell you that family comes first, or that work must be a priority, and those things are ok.

But everyone also has to eat.  Why not make those meals good ones?  Food has taken on almost mythical properties in our culture, purported to assist in any and all that ails you: Ice cream heals a broken heart, wings and beer make watching the game more fun, vegetables cure cancer, rice and sprite calm an upset stomach, chocolates and oysters help to set the mood.  I think you get my point.

In reality though, food’s primary role is to fuel your body and mind from day to day.  That is not to say that there aren’t better (and worse options).  My approach to food has always been to eat foods that are either of the earth or on the earth, and as close to their natural state as possible.  Examples you ask…

Vegetables, fruits, tubers are all OF the earth.  Animals, of course, are ON the earth.

The question I used to get from the high schoolers I worked with was about the natural-state clause: Grilled chicken thighs with the skin on are much closer to nature than those deep-fried and breaded wings you just gobbled down.

So what foods are the better ones?  In a recent nutrition seminar I attended, I heard the most succinct qualifier for which foods one should eat – those that move you closer to optimal health.  While there are health claims made about almost any food under the sun (twinkie diet anyone?) there are obviously more nutritious and healthful foods out there; there are foods that while superficially benign, are actually responsible for all sorts of negative consequences under the surface.

Shouldn’t we all be trying to provide our bodies (and brains) with the best foods we can?  Maybe that means forgoing the pizza because it’s quick, and instead spending the extra time to grill the steaks and veggies you have sitting in the fridge?  It might take a little bit of planning on the front end, but the benefits will be much more long-lasting (UC-Berkeley journalism professor and food writer, Michael Pollan, has spoken at length about the hidden costs – medical, environmental, etc. – of quick processed foods, and that spending more time and money preparing healthy foods will actually be cheaper in the long run).


So I bring you back to the earlier question: where do you place your priorities?  I know for myself, a good meal is only a great meal if it actually makes me healthier for eating it.


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