By Brad Deiter
I spent a good two years reading and writing about the technical aspects of nutrition. I got so deep in the biochemistry and physiology of food and nutrition I forgot the most important part, the human element. From my experiences I have found that the human element is the most important aspect of having sound nutritional habits. If you have been following the last two posts you will notice I talk almost nothing about biochemistry or physiology, today is no different. Today I want to discuss the role of community and your nutritional habits.
“Food should be viewed as fuel, nothing else” is a quote all of us have heard and some, including myself, have used to show how strict our diets are and how hardcore we are about being in great shape. Unfortunately/fortunately we are all human and we have a relationship with food that extends beyond the “food as fuel” viewpoint. Think about holidays, favorite childhood memories, birthdays, or any celebration and I can guarantee food is a central component to these memories. Lets be completely honest with ourselves, we have emotional connections and relationships with food. Interestingly most of these emotions and relationships depend on the people around us. This is the foundation for why community is so important in your nutritional habits and why I want to focus on how to build a healthy “food community”.
Important Aspects of a Healthy Community
Stop and take a moment to reflect upon the following questions. What are your favorite things to do in life? What are your friends’ favorite things to do in life? Do your friends and family influence your decisions?
I would bet that there is a lot of overlap between the first two questions and that your family and friends do significantly influence your decisions. To me this means we need to build a healthy community and that we need to make sure we have specific aspects that make a healthy community.
I don’t care how strong you are physically, mentally, or emotionally, every human being needs support. In order to succeed in your pursuits in life you need support, more specifically positive support. Positive support provides you encouragement to achieve your goals when you want to deviate from the path to success. In terms of nutrition this might look like someone saying, “You’re decision to eat healthy inspires me, keep doing what you are doing as it helps me”. Find people that verbally encourage you and stay away from people who verbally dissuade you with things like, “Oh come on, eating healthy isn’t that important, you are young you can get away with it”. Even if you could get away with it, why should you let anyone dissuade you from your goals. Plus, I bet those people will try to dissuade you from success in other areas of your life as well. You need to build positive support systems.
We all have down days and get stagnant in our progress. It is in times like these we need people who inspire us to continue, either through their words or their actions. Personally, I have days where training hard and cooking all my own meals sounds difficult and lounging and ordering a pizza sounds divine; I get past those days by looking to my closest friends for inspiration. I know my best friends are in the same boat as I am and they make the conscious choice to train and prepare a nutritious meal even when they are tired and this inspires me to continue pushing and pursuing my goals.
Accountability; The Right Kind.
The last big component of a healthy community is accountability. It is vitally important that you find people who hold you accountable in the right way. What is the right way? Your community should not hold you accountable through fear, retribution, or using putative means. Your community should hold you accountable by helping you acknowledge your pitfalls, identify areas of improvement, and adopt strategies to improve. If you decide to indulge at a birthday and have cake or a few too many beers at the Super Bowl (Go Hawks!) your community should not chastise you or put in more strict parameters on your (most likely) already strict diet. Instead they should help you yourself ask, “was the indulgence really a big deal”? If it was, why did you decide to indulge and how can we learn and improve?
Get A Community
My community supports me in my quest to live the healthiest, happiest life possible and nutrition is a big part of that. Find people that support you in a positive way, inspire you, and hold you accountable. Your community plays a bigger role in your healthy eating habits than hitting your macros, eating clean, or going “strict paleo” ever will. Get a community and improve their lives as well as your own. It will make all the difference.
Brad Dieter is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Idaho in the Movement Sciences department. He is an athlete and nerd who is constantly pushing himself to be a better athlete, coach, and scientist. He is a nutrition wizard who also happens to love weightlifting and developing athletes. He and Mike Vaccaro run Evolutionary-Health.com and work hard day in and day out to bring next-level information and techniques to the health and fitness scene.