January 26, 2015

Keeping it Real- Food as Fuel

Happy Monday. Here is a post I wrote on Saturday. I hope I don't regret "Keeping it Real".

As I write this, I am on a plane en route back to Portland from Orlando where I spent the last 48 hours for a Junior League Leadership Conference. While this post isn't really about the Junior League (an incredible organization), it plays a part in my story...

We talk about food here on C&C on a regular basis: our favorite recipes, restaurants we've tried, food from our travels, etc. We've shared our commitment to healthy eating through things like the barre3 challenge and Katie's recent reboot, so it's no secret that we like to fuel our bodies with good, whole foods.

Despite years of "healthy" eating, this past year my +1 and I have really made a commitment to eating vegetables, to cutting out sugar (not all) and to fueling our bodies with the best quality of whole foods possible. In these last 48 hours I have realized just how much of a change I have made in my life, in my eating and in my preferences. My purpose in this post is not to judge anyone or to alienate anyone who chooses to live their life in a different way. My hope is just to bring awareness to a topic I feel quite passionately about, food as fuel to energize your body.

Let me start at the beginning...

Last Wednesday at a Junior League General Membership meeting we screened a TED talk by Jamie Oliver about food and the obesity epidemic in children. I highly recommend watching it (here). The screening was a part of a program the League has called "Healthy Habits Healthy Kids (H3K)." We are in the process of ramping up this program and showed the talk as a way to educate and excite our members. As a part of H3K, we hope to roll out something called "Kids in the Kitchen."  This program was created by the Associations of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) and is a critical element of their ongoing commitment to teach kids and their parents about the importance of eating healthy foods and involve them in the fight against childhood obesity.

Fast Forward less than 36 hours from the screening of Jamie Oliver's Ted Talk to my arrival at the AJLI Leadership Conference in Orlando. My day started at 2:30 a.m. Portland time after a terrible night's sleep. My motivation for an incredibly early wake up....exercise. Lucky for me, barre3 has partnered with AJLI, so barre3 workouts were included as a part of our conference agenda, including a early morning pre-conference workout and 5 and 10 minute workouts through the day. I dragged my roommates (somewhat willingly) out of bed for a 6 a.m. barre3 workout. Afterwards we rushed back to make ourselves decent for the business of the day.

Now here's where the "Food as Fuel" comes in. Let me start with breakfast, arguably the most important meal of the day, and especially when you will be sitting in a conference room trying to stay alert enough to retain important information... No small task when you've had maybe 3 hours of sleep.

The breakfast buffet included a croissant egg, ham and cheese sandwich, English muffins with a fried egg and ham, fruit, and a variety of cereal and sugar filled yogurt. Now that doesn't sound terrible, right? I suppose it could have been worse, but I'm used to fueling my body with filling and nourishing foods like oatmeal with nuts, flax and hemp seed and some almond milk or a smoothie with kale, carrot juice, banana, Greek yogurt and frozen mango. I finished breakfast with a stomach ache (thanks to jet lag and a cold and hard fried egg), feeling nauseous, unsatisfied and sluggish.

Let's move on to lunch. After a long morning of meetings we sat down to a plated "luncheon" of Cesar salad, a chicken pasta with heavy cream and garlic sauce and a gigantic piece of chocolate cake. I struggled to eat the pasta dish given the richness of the sauce and the dryness of the chicken. Needless to say I skipped the cake. Nothing about the meal was nourishing. Nothing about the meal was going to give me the "fuel" or the energy necessary to stay alert in my afternoon meetings, but it was in front of me, so I ate what I could. Once again I finished with a stomach ache, feeling nauseous, unsatisfied and sluggish.

Day 2 was more of the same. Breakfast was slightly different with an offering of fruit, eggs, bacon and a selection of sugar, oil and butter loaded muffins and breads. Again, not the "fuel" I was looking for to get me through the day. I tracked down some plain oatmeal and fruit and called it good. Lunch was a slight improvement over day 1. They served a green salad that actually had tomatoes and cucumbers (hurray for veggies), mixed vegetables of carrots, squash and zucchini, a small serving of orzo, a GIGANTIC piece of chicken Parmesan and a piece of key lime pie. Again, I skipped the dessert. While slightly better than Day 1, the meal was still rich and heavy and left me with a stomach ache, feeling nauseous, unsatisfied and sluggish.

The intermittent 5 and 10 minute workouts throughout the day lifted my energy, but never did I feel at the top of my game. Never did I feel energized. Isn't that how you would hope a group of women leaders would feel during a leadership conference?

Through all of these meals I couldn't help but think about Jamie Oliver's Ted Talk, about our H3K program and about AJLI's "Kids in the Kitchen". How is it that we as an organization educate kids and communities about healthy eating, yet we are not able to put these principles into action ourselves? How can we fuel our leaders with the same junk that they discourage kids in their communities from eating?

Putting on a large conference and feeding hundreds of people is no small task. I pass no judgement on the Junior League.  If anything, after this weekend, I am even more motivated now to help facilitate change not only in our own League and community but also throughout the whole organization.
Because we are an organization of smart, talented, caring and motivated women, there is so much opportunity to make a difference in the health of our members and our communities.

Interestingly enough, the lack of good "food as fuel" over the last 48 hours has fueled me to find opportunities for improvement. Big shifts in behaviors take time. They start with small steps. I'm hopeful that in our own League we can use H3K to make a positive impact on both the health of our members and of our community. I'm hopeful that with the help of barre3 and some amazingly open minded and motivated people at AJLI that there is an opportunity to make a positive impact on other Leagues and subsequently in their communities.

Start small. Dream big. Maybe Jamie Oliver wants to help?

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