Being a member of the Johnson and Wales women’s volleyball team consists of working out and training, therefore I have to be mindful about what foods I am consuming in my body. During the fall trimester of last year, I was testing a myriad of social media diet trends, such as paleo, vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free, to figure out which eating habits would be best for my body. However, I realized I established an unhealthy eating mindset to lose weight and to achieve the stereotypical body type of a “toned and fit” athlete. My strict limitations followed unrealistic lifestyles, such as the “Jennifer Lopez diet” of ignoring carbs and sugars. Beating myself up promoted a negative pattern of eating and I began to be self-conscious and afraid when I ate one bite of greasy french fries or a piece of bread. My obsession over calorie count and numbers developed around the delicious food that I loved, but had no self-control when I couldn’t stop eating.
Enough was enough! I was exhausted of fearing food, calculating my meals and being obsessed with counting calories. One of my motivational and influential teammates on the Johnson and Wales women’s volleyball team, who is majoring in Culinary Dietetics & Applied Nutrition, inspired me to play and experiment with organic and fresh colorful foods in my meals during the day. Her Instagram posts provide photos of her home cooked meals, which are extremely loaded with an array of fresh vegetables and fruit, and her substitutions of honey for sugar or almond flour for whole flour when baking desserts. Observing her methods of cooking and substituting specific ingredients for healthier options gave me the realization that there is no “right” or “healthy” way to eat as long as my lifestyle, body and mind are realistic, flexible, kind and also true. Rather than limiting and feeling ashamed of what I ate, I stopped myself, erased my knowledge of the different diets in society and concentrated on simplicity, such as intaking the essential nutrients. My restrictive mindset shifted into more about being a positive and mindful eater. I began to incorporate a range of micronutrients and colors of the rainbow in my diet, such as spinach, yellow corn, and red chopped bell peppers. By substituting greasy and deep fried ingredients for healthier ingredients, my everyday eating routine was now familiar and aware to incorporate fresh and organic foods into my meals.
According to my food log, there is a consistent pattern of integrating many organic foods into my home cooked meals. My meals contain a variety of vegetables and nutrients rather than eating a meal with unnecessary additive sugars or syrups. My home cooking has enabled my awareness and a better understanding to check what ingredients I’m consuming. In addition, since I needed to use my meal swipes, I had a spinach feta wrap and also a small 6 piece grilled salmon roll from Starbucks and the food market in Snowden. I use meal swipes for small and fast foods that I can easily obtain when I want to snack on satisfying food. Although I am not on the vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, or on the ketogenic diet, I absolutely love foods under each of the labels. The way and what I eat is not just eating healthy, but it’s a practice that I know the consumption of foods will increase my energy levels and my mood throughout the day. I continuously ask myself, “Am I enjoying the process throughout my food journey?” I have learned that eating food should be maintainable and delightful, not a continuous fight that creates guilt, shame or anxiety. Embracing the variety of colors has made me feel a sense of happiness and appreciation for this earth and her nature.
A common reason why I eat is because I understand I am burning about 500 calories during a high intensity volleyball practice and training and need to eat high volume meals with healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to replace lost energy. The time periods of when I eat are consistent and based on my volleyball practice schedule and also my sleep schedule. If my practices are from 4 to 6 pm, except Tuesday practices are from 6 to 8 pm, I would think of when is it a perfect time to not only eat and digest, but to intake the necessary carbohydrates in order to fuel up before my practices. Based on my food log, I am consistently eating around 1 pm, which is right after my 11:30 pm class. I don’t eat much breakfast at 9 am in the morning or before my classes because I feel heavy when it approaches my normal lunch time eating at 1 pm. In addition, after my practices, I’ll cook dinner around 8 to 8:30 pm and begin eating around 9 pm because I follow the idea of sitting in an upright position an hour prior to laying down or sleeping in bed will help digest the food in my stomach. Ever since my friend who constantly works out advised this theory, I became self-aware of my actions and have not been laying down after I eat. When I am waiting for my food to digest, I drink a green or turmeric tea every night in bed because many studies have proven a myriad of teas can promote overall digestion, alleviate acid reflux and reduce stomach pains.
My routine after class consists of cooking my lunch, sitting on the living room couch alone and scrolling through social media or watching videos on Youtube. For most of my time eating lunch, I am eating in my living room alone because all my roomates have classes at 1:20 pm. My routine is my comfort zone and what I call “me time” because I am constantly surrounded by friends at school who are in the same classes as me and I am also at volleyball practice or on the athletic bus for a game away with my teammates everyday. In high school, I believe eating or even being alone came from one of the norms of being comfortable with and accepting silence. However, I am always accompanied or talking with one of my roommates when I eat dinner because I believe it’s important to see how each others’ day went after our busy schedules of school and sports practices. This behavior of socializing during dinner I understand is a common ideal for many families in the United States. In my opinion, I did not realize I have been applying this consistent mealtime tradition and table manners to when I am with my friends. The mealtime tradition is about putting away our technology, showing respect, and having a person-to-person conversation about our whole day.