Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

Back in 2005, when I had started to eat right and exercise, I wrote:
As I go along, I find that nutrition is much more important than I ever imagined. Healthy eating more and more seems to be at the center of a fit life -- and I mean "fit" in a number of senses -- and yet, this fact also seems to be a bit of a secret. It's not the kind of point that's really stressed in advertising, media, entertainment, and so on.

It's funny. We get these fad diets that target one thing (e.g., carbs or fat). We also get pummeled with exercise routines, methods and equipment (e.g., Pilates, Tae Bo, Bowflex). But generally, healthy eating really seems to be more fundamental and important. Maybe it's the fundamentality that keeps it under wraps in our daily lives; it's just not that sexy.
These days, my family has begun a critical change in diet because we notice that we had gone off track. We had gotten in the habit of giving the kids chocolate milk in the morning. We were giving them sugary juices and Popsicles. We were giving them crackers and cookies. Picky eaters all, they weren't eating a lot of vegetables or getting a big variety in their diet. Our kids are pretty active, so they were not and are not fat, but on the other hand, I would not call any of them skinny.

We've changed our ways. I am ready to run a 10K this weekend. And we've started over with the family grocery list, cutting out a lot of the sugar and crackers while adding more vegetables and fruits. I'm really excited about this because I think the benefits will go well beyond nutrition, for all of us.

When I began to eat "clean" I observed that my mood, my energy level, my alertness, and even my resistance to illness--they all improved. Now, perhaps this improvement was to some degree a placebo effect. And I certainly don't want to overstate the claim. Nevertheless, some in the medical community see at least an indirect connection between nutrition and mood. From a blog at the Mayo Clinic we get this:
Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, tryptophan, folate and other B vitamins, low glycemic foods, and chocolate have all been studied to assess their impact on mood. The results are mixed but seem to show an association — though not a direct link — between these foods and improved mood.

Of course, these nutrients and foods are part of a healthy diet. And when you eat a healthy diet, your body reaps the benefits. For example, when you eat fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains throughout the day you keep your body fueled and your blood sugar level on an even keel. And you're getting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Combining carbohydrates and proteins enhances the availability of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter said to have a calming effect and to play a role in sleep.
I am quite gratified that many of the foods I used to buy only for myself, such as all natural peanut butter (just peanuts and nothing else!), are now back in our home as staples for all of my family. I love being able to model for the kids the kinds of behaviors that I think will serve them well in their physical, emotional, and intellectual lives. And in this way, my children give me the gift of living m life in the way I really want.

What are those lines by William Wordsworth?
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

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