Although I now love eating around others, there was a time in my life (many years ago) that I was very uncomfortable eating around others. I believe we are all on our own journey in developing a healthy relationship with food and finding out what works best for our individual lifestyles, in order to fuel for exercise and eat for health. Speaking from experience, no one likes a critic when they are eating. As I was trying to develop an appreciation for new food and new eating habits, I would often feel uneasy around the "critic" who seemed to have something to say about the way I was eating. Perhaps there was a time in my life when I didn't know how to put all the pieces together but I knew I was on a mission to find my own path in order appreciate the food that I put into my body as well as understanding my needs as an active, vegetarian endurance athlete.
Two of the most common comments that I receive now a day are "you eat so healthy" and "what does your husband eat since you are a vegetarian".
As a health conscious individual, I am always happy to give my opinion when asked. But as a professional, I understand my boundaries when it comes to discussing food, especially when around food. I believe food is a very sensitive topic for many. Although I get super excited to talk about anything food related (and I mean anything since I have no "rules" or "bad" food in my diet), I hope that people enjoy eating around me for a moment to feel inspired.
I cook all my meals and most of my meals are from foods with little to no ingredients. I didn't always eat this way and I am still on a mission to enjoy life and fuel my body with quality nutrients. I enjoy my choices and I feel confident about what I put into my body. I also believe that I make good choices, which are consistent on a daily basis. I would hope that if I were to ever order out or eat/purchase something not in my typical diet that people would not "assume" anything about the way that I eat. For I am the only one who is responsible for what I put into my body and I have learned to find foods (and a way to eat them) that work for my lifestyle at this point in my life.
I believe so many people spend entirely too much energy focusing on what others are eating. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking others what they are eating but as far as trying to educate/lecture others to change eating habits, it is important not to use your energy on others who may not have the same eating habits as yourself. Or, if you are a person who is working on changing habits, be mindful of your internal and external food dialogue that may be keeping you from reaching your performance or body composition goals. I have found that individuals who are working on changing eating habits and often repeatedly tell themselves that they are "bad" for eating x-food, find it difficult to be around others who are also on a journey of learning to appreciate food for fuel and nourishment. You must always work on our view of food for if you have "rules" in the diet, you will often feel pressure to be perfect and never truely recognize what works for you at this point in your life.
So, even though the "education" should be left to the professionals (ex. dietitian's) who are advised to abide by an ethical code and counsel in a motivational manner, you can still have an impact on how you inspire others.
Although you first need to believe in yourself that you are making balanced choices that will support your individual needs (aim for progress, not perfection), we can all do our part by using our own "creations" to inspire others. I believe eating should be an enjoyable time, a time to "break" from all activities and to appreciate the food that you put into your body. For every eating opportunity is a time to fuel and nourish the body. Rather than feeling uncomfortable around others because you are in the beginning of your journey, I recommend taking yourself away from the person who is conducting a "lecture" at lunch (or meal time). Surround yourself with people who give you energy and not take it away from you. If you are the person who is constantly telling others what to/not to eat (ex. if you eat x, you will get cancer, get fat, etc.) how about inspiring others with your food and using food to be the motivational tool.
As athletic individuals, I think we can all relate to the person in our life who is considering training for an event. As many of us our veteran athletes (I believe finishing time is not an indicator of your status in a sport when it comes to experience) we all get super excited when we talk about our sport of choice and it is really easy for us to offer advice. I also believe that our energy for training is contagious and we can inspire others to live a healthier and more active lifestyle by demonstrating that any person, at any age and any weight, can be an active individual and train for an event (ex. swim meet, running event, triathlon, etc.). But I think we would all be careful and suggest that you have to start slow. Whereas the Ironman athlete would not tell the newbie to sign up for an Ironman for his/her first event or for the marathon runner to tell an inexperienced runner that he/she should start running an hour a day. Because we all have to start somewhere, we recognize that we must start slow and respect our body as it gets faster, stronger and more efficient.
I think we should take this same mentality when it comes to eating and helping others change eating habits. I see it all the time that people are quick to tell others exactly how and what to eat to lose weight but if only it was that easy. Rather, how about thinking back when you started to change your eating habits. Whether you went cold-turkey or did the recommended way of replacing and not eliminating, I ask that you take a little time every day and develop appreciation for the foods that you put into your body and take that same energy and inspire others to learn to develop a healthy relationship with food.
I am really enjoying my time at Baptist Medical Center Beaches. Because I have lot of responsibility as a Clinical Dietitian, who is also training for the Ironman World Championships, I make sure that I use every opportunity to keep my blood sugar balanced, provide my body with quality nutrients and create habits that don't involve feelings of restriction, guilt and obsession.
After I finish my morning training, I enjoy a recovery protein drink (milk or whey protein) with a handful of whole grain cereal and a wasa cracker w/ PB. This holds me over very well and helps me refuel and recover post-workout. Once I get to work (an hour later), I have my "real" meal of Oatmeal w/ some kind of fruit, nuts and cinnamon.
Here's my inspirational lunch - Salad w/ pineapple salsa and a black bean and egg pita. And a snack of peanuts in the container (sliced peaches not pictured)
What will you make for your inspirational breakfast and/or lunch?