I have always had a passion for nutrition, perhaps out of my desire for self-preservation. I thought about majoring in it at college, but I didn’t think there was a market for it, which may say something about my age. Instead, I pursued a graduate degree in both History and Educational Sociology and became an Adjunct Instructor at NYU, followed by a public high school history teacher in NYC for 15 years.
While teaching a cultural anthropology class, my students and I looked at the diets of various older and modern tribes and compared causes of mortality. What we found was that one, we really weren’t the animal eating cave people we see in cartoons. Instead, many tribes lived primarily on nuts, berries, roots and seeds. In addition, we did not read about any deaths from heart disease or cancer.
What I observed in class was that the majority of my students drank orange soda and ate cookies and doritos for breakfast. I shrieked at this and began showing documentaries like “Forks Over Knives”, as a sort of anthropological look at diet, culture and health outcomes. By the end of the month, those same students began drinking water and eating fruit for breakfast. No joke.
On a more personal note, I was conscious of the way I looked in a bathing suit and even pants. I always felt that I needed to lose a few pounds. After working a full day, even with the best of intentions and gym bag in hand, I made every excuse to skip the gym. The classes were always too full, and quite honestly, I begrudged the thought of working out in a small room with no windows. Instead, I skipped the workout, ate dinner and promised myself I would do it tomorrow. A good night’s sleep, increasingly, became a challenge, leaving me exhausted and unenthusiastic for a full load of teaching the next day. My eating habits left me tired after lunch and dinner. I noticed bags under my eyes. Was I just getting older?
One day I was in Barnes and Noble and noticed a book on the table and began perusing it: How to look and feel healthy, making simple changes. I couldn’t put it down. It was reader friendly and made sense. I began incorporating some of the book’s suggestions, first, in my breakfast choices and then later in my daily menu. I also began exercising outdoors, starting with stretches in the morning. I figured out when I had the time to at least get 30 minutes of activity in, during my day. My motto was, even if it’s just 15 minutes, do it daily. While it was challenging to maintain a consistent menu of activity and healthier eating, I saw the results within a month. This encouraged me to become more active and incorporate healthier eating habits, while crowding out those foods that, usually, left me feeling bloated. Three years later, I am at a comfortable weight, regularly active, having even completed my very first triathlon, and have a new appreciation of nature’s importance for physical and mental stimulation and balance. If you told me I would do a triathlon, I would have said, no way. The significance of my story is that becoming the healthiest and happiest you can be is a process: one meal, one activity and one day at a time. It’s a holistic approach to health that considers not just diet and exercise, but also our emotions and their connection to our food choices and activities.
I also saw the difference, changing just their breakfast choices, in my students’ attitude, attention span and behavior. And then they began to influence their own families, many of whom suffer from diabetes, heart disease and other autoimmune ailments.
These experiences gave me the inspiration to pursue my certification at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a second degree in nutrition.
There is no better feeling than to watch someone transform his/her life through simple, yet effective changes. I hope to help as many people make that transformation as I can, and I hope you will join me.