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New Year’s Nutrition




We are a few weeks into the new year and chances are you’ve set some sort of goal related to eating better or weight loss. As a health coach, one of the biggest concerns people come to me for help with is losing weight. Usually, by the time they find me, they’ve tried lots of diets. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you have likely learned the hard way that those all-in diets just don't work long term. Here’s a discouraging statistic that will reassure you that you’re not alone. According to a meta-analysis of 29 long-term weight loss studies, it was found that more than half of the weight lost was regained within a few years.


But the great news is that as an educator you already have all the skills and strengths you need to create sustainable eating habits and reach your wellness goals! In this post I’ll talk about three simple ways to apply those skills and strengths so you never have to diet again.

  1. It’s imperative to have some understanding of nutrition. Hey, we don’t teach our kids shortcuts for doing math; we teach ways to help them develop a conceptual understanding so they can apply their knowledge and skills beyond an algorithm. Let’s do the same for ourselves!

  2. We’ve got to collect and analyze some data just like we do with our students.

  3. It’s critical to structure our environment to help us succeed. We do this for our students by setting boundaries and being clear with expectations. I’ll show you how we can do this for ourselves in relation to our eating habits.

In this post, I will

  • give you an overview of basic nutrition principles that are easy to understand, including a breakdown of macro and micro nutrients.

  • cover exactly how to track just a few meals a week and how to use that data to uncover patterns in your eating habits.

  • show you how to build on the good things you are already doing in order to get you on the road to achieving your wellness goals.


Nutrition 101: What are Nutrients and Why Do They Matter?

Nutrition is the study of how food affects your body’s health. Notice I didn’t say anything about weight loss. Losing weight is just a nice side effect of eating the proper amount of nutrients for your body!


You've probably heard people talk about the building blocks of nutrition: macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) which provide your body energy and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which serve critical functions in keeping your body operating properly. Phytonutrients (nutrients coming from plants) are a third part of the equation that you may not have heard much about, but they are no less important.


Macronutrients

Protein provides the body with amino acids for growth, development, and repair of body tissue. It’s not just for bodybuilders. We all need protein to repair tissue when it’s damaged and to promote our body’s immune system. We can get protein from beef, eggs, fish, chicken, seitan, tofu, beans, grains, and plenty of other plant sources.


Carbohydrates provide our body with energy. We need energy not only to move our bodies, but also to provide support when our bodies are at rest repairing, digesting, and performing other vital functions. Carbs have gotten a bad rap lately, but we need carbs like your car needs gasoline (or electricity or biofuel or whatever it is that fuels your car). We get those good carbohydrates from plants like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Carbohydrates are also where we get our fiber, which helps us maintain our digestive health, control our blood sugar, feel full, and manage our weight.


Fats provide the body with fatty acids, which we can’t make ourselves to help us absorb the micronutrients from the foods we eat. Good fats are our friend. They provide us with energy, help produce hormones, and are crucial for cellular function. We get good fats from whole unprocessed plants like avocados, nuts, olive oil, and seeds.


USDA guidelines are pretty broad but aim to get somewhere in the following ranges:

  • Carbohydrates: 45-65 percent of total calories

  • Protein: 10-35 percent of total calories

  • Fat: 20-35 percent of total calories

To determine the best ratio of macronutrients for your specific goals, talk with your doctor or a certified nutritionist. Many health care plans are now covering nutrition like this program at Jim White Fitness and Nutrition. For now, just a basic knowledge of macronutrients is a great place to start.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals in the foods we eat. They play a variety of roles in cell metabolism and have a host of neurological benefits. Though many people take supplements, there is no substitute for getting the real thing from real food whenever we can!


Phytonutrients

There are thousands of phytonutrients found in plants. Many of them are antioxidants, compounds which fight free radicals that damage tissues in your body. Phytonutrients are the cancer fighting compounds. They benefit your immune system and reduce inflammation to help prevent chronic disease. Researchers have found that these phytonutrients may play a more important role in our health than we ever thought. We want to eat a variety of plants every day!


Data: Why, How & What Now?


Why Should I Track My Meals?

Just like we collect and analyze student data to drive our instruction, we are going to need to collect and analyze data about our current nutrition intake to inform us about where we are and what steps we can take to get us to our wellness goals.


A lot of folks get scared off about the idea of tracking their meals. It can seem overwhelming or restrictive at first. If you have a history of disordered eating, tracking can be triggering. But if we look at tracking food as simply collecting and analyzing data to make informed decisions, we quickly realize -hey, we know how to do this! Teachers, we’re great at this!


Meal Tracking for Beginners

Pick your method of data collection. If you’re a paper/pencil kind of person, just use a notebook or journal. Here is one client favorite you can grab on Amazon. If you’re an app kind of person, MyFitness Pal and Lose It! are consistent favorites that are both FREE.

  • Select a few days during the next week to track, at least one school day and one weekend day. If you’re like most of us, you probably eat quite differently on work days and weekends. Looking at both will give you good, honest feedback.

  • Put these days on your calendar and set aside 5 minutes in the morning, a few minutes at lunch, and 5-10 minutes after dinner to record your meals. Putting actionable items on our calendar increases the likelihood that you’ll follow through.

  • Don’t eat any differently than normal just to look good for the app. Seriously, people do that. This is for your eyes only. It’s for you to learn about you and what makes you tick. You'll understand yourself better if you just get curious.

  • You can add meals to your journal ahead of time if you know what you’re going to eat and adjust later.

  • Add a layer of accountability by asking a friend to join you in this little experiment! If you’re in the MyFitnessPal app, go to the bottom of the app and click on the three dots and the “More” button, then scroll down and click on “Friends.” Add a friend from your phone contact, Facebook, or email.

What Now?

Now we get curious. Similar to our student data, we look for patterns and trends. We ask ourselves questions. What do we notice? What do we wonder? Now that you know a little bit about nutrition, does anything stand out to you? re you falling within the USDA guidelines?


Environment

Just like we give great care and thought to structuring the environments of our classrooms for student success, we are going to give some thought as to how we structure our environment for our health success.


One of the most effective ways to ensure we are eating well is to shift our perspective from a focus on what we want to avoid to a focus on all the delicious nutrient rich options we get to enjoy in this new healthy lifestyle we are creating for ourselves. The Institute for Integrative Health calls this “crowding out.” We can begin by clearing out our pantries and refrigerators of processed foods, temptations, etc. and replacing them with whole foods, fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and foods with real ingredients. We can start small or go all in. Decide what will work best for YOU and get going!


A final way to craft our environment to set us up for success is to be sure we have healthy snacks on hand. Take stock of all the times and places you get hungry and make poor choices. For me it’s at school in the afternoons, or when I have to stay late for a club or an activity. Keeping a few cans of hearty vegetable soup and some beef jerky or fruit in my desk keeps me from running across the street to the Chick-Fil-A. Being proactive saves time, money, and my health!


It Is Not Easy, But It Is Simple

In my classroom we recognize that we are all in different places along the learning continuum. Instead of saying that something is “easy,” we say “I’ve mastered that skill,” or “That’s something in which I’m proficient.” So I’m not going to say that creating a sustainable healthy lifestyle is “easy.” It’s going to take some time and some practice. But the beauty of lifestyle over diet is that once you’ve learned how to cook, plan, and prepare your food, eating well becomes ingrained in you. It becomes a habit, and therefore, “easy”.


I found the sticker above on Amazon. It perfectly analyzes the qualities of almost every teacher I know. Remember how hard working, dedicated, patient, passionate, caring, and enthusiastic you are and apply those qualities to take care of yourself just as well as you take care of your students. If you want some help along the way, reach out at caroline@edjacent.org. I’d love to support you along your journey.


댓글 2개


ELizabeth Lane
ELizabeth Lane
2023년 1월 30일

This is an informative and very well done blog, Caroline! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and providing some motivation!

- Beth B

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Meghan Raftery
Meghan Raftery
2023년 1월 29일

"Don’t eat any differently than normal just to look good for the app" 😅 GUILTY! This is a big reason why I rarely keep up with food tracking and one reason why your suggestion of "crowding out" at a coaching session made a really difference in my mindset! It is not what is "good", but what is good for ME that makes a difference! If only we all could have our own nutrition labels with those percentages... thank you, Caroline, for filling this void between nutrition information and the life of an educator!

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