By Crystal McCullough, MSN, RN, CSCS, USAW, CFL2

What kind of relationship do you have with food? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Is it sustainable?

The only good ‘diet’ is a sustainable one.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a sustainable diet is “a diet with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.”

Morgan and I spent the week in Miami amongst some of the fittest human beings in the world. Wodapalooza is a sanctioned event that sends the winners to the CrossFit Games. This isn’t the first time we’ve spent time in the presence of some of these athletes. Almost 2 years ago, we spent the weekend in Nashville sharing our time between the CrossFit Central Regional and the hospital. My father was supposed to have major heart surgery that weekend, but he wasn’t able to. His blood sugar was too high and the doctor said they couldn’t safely perform the surgery and provide a positive prognosis for his outcome. They sent him home with instructions to get his A1C down and blood sugar under control. Fast forward 6 months and he was able to have the surgery. In October, my father celebrated his one-year anniversary of having major heart surgery and he is doing great!

These athletes and my father are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The athletes are trying to be as fit as possible, while my father is trying to maintain some quality of life. Neither are healthy per say. Any professional sport comes with health risks and takes an extreme toll on the body. What they do have in common is nutrition plays a huge role in their goals. In the United States, we have access to more food in a day than people in other countries might see in a month, even a year. We walk into a gas station and candy bars are staring us in the face, sodas are on the end aisle, and Little Debbie’s scream our name. There is a fast food restaurant on every street corner and a rainbow colored Frappuccino the size of a small dog. Social gatherings and family get-togethers are centered around food! With all of this access, no wonder we are facing an obesity epidemic in this country. And there IS an epidemic.

The National Council on Aging reports that upwards of 92% of all older adults are suffering from one chronic illness and around 77% have at least two. Heart disease and type II diabetes (both of which are often preventable) at the top of the list of chronic illnesses that are responsible for up to two-thirds of deaths in older adults each year. More shockingly, according to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity has tripled since the 1960s, where, now 1 in 3 children and adolescents are considered obese. It has become the top health concern among medical professionals. This is crazy!! We are doing our children a disservice!! What do you think will be the quality of life for our already obese children when they reach senior status? Stop the madness!!

I will use the analogy of a car. Petroleum is the fuel that we use to run our cars. In order to keep our cars in top working condition, they require quality fuel and maintenance. They also have to be driven regularly in order to keep them running. Now, think about that. Food is our fuel. We need quality food, maintenance, and regular exercise in order to stay in top working condition.

Am I saying don’t enjoy food? NO, that isn’t what I am saying at all. What I AM saying is, on a regular daily basis, put food in your mouth that will support your goals and promote health and well-being. This will look different for everyone. What the professional athlete can and needs to eat to perform at the top of their sport will look much different than what my father needs to eat in order to maintain quality of life.

What you put in your body on a daily basis will have an affect on your performance AND your health. Not taking in enough calories can cause loss of muscle mass, fatigue, moodiness, slower metabolism, and the list goes on. Taking in too many calories can lead to weight gain and ultimately to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure. With excess calories, normally come excess refined sugars, which are a huge contributor to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases.

So, how do we reverse the already deteriorating future of our obese youth as well as give quality of life back to our older adults? Here are some ideas I have that might help:

  1. Realize where you are on the spectrum – what I mean by this is, if you are an athlete, you are fueling your body for performance. You can eat quality foods most of the time and indulge every once in a while with no issue. If you are suffering from a chronic illness, those indulgences can be detrimental. You won’t have the same luxuries as the athlete.
  2. Be an example – as a parent, our children mimic us. They are watching and we can teach them so much. Providing our children with quality food is step 1. Teaching them about quality food and how to prepare it is step 2. Showing them how to exercise self-control when we do indulge is step 3. They will carry what we teach them into their adult life.
  3. Exercise self-control – when we do indulge, maybe get the Like It size at Coldstone rather than the Gotta Have it. Put it in a cup rather than a cone. Eat two slices of pizza rather than a whole one by yourself. This list can go on.
  4. Exercise! – obviously athletes will exercise. It is part of their sport. I’m talking to my kids and my average adults. Get moving!!!

Additionally, here are some steps you can take to keeping your food intake in check on a daily basis.

  1. Have a Prep Day – Decide what you want the bulk of your protein to be for the week, pick a starch (rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa), and vegetables. Pick a day and spend a couple of hours pre-cooking you’re the majority of your meals. This will give you go to meals even on the go and in a crunch.
  2. Have snacks readily available – Have protein bars for on the go. My favorite kinds of bars are Oh Yeah! One bars and Fit Joy bars. They have a great macro breakdown. Also, I love rice cakes and peanut butter or an apple/banana and peanut butter.
  3. Track It – Use an application such as MyFitnessPal to track your macros. It helps to know everything you are eating and drinking. A lot of times, we don’t realize how little or how much we are consuming until we track it. Also, if we know we have to track it, we might be less likely to deviate.
  4. Pre Plan – Don’t wait until the end of the night and go back in to track the current day’s food intake. Put everything you plan on eating into your app the night before or the morning of so you can make adjustments as necessary. Waiting until right before you go to bed to only realize you are short 75 carbs doesn’t do you much good.
  5. Research Food Establishments – If you know you are eating out, research the menu of the restaurant and decide what you want to order prior to getting there. This would tie back in with number 4 by pre-planning. If you know you are going to be eating more carbs when you go out, you can be sure to save enough if you plan properly.
  6. Forgive Yourself – some times, if we don’t preplan or prepare, we end up overdoing it and guilt normally follows. With guilt, one bad meal turns in to two bad meals and then three. Instead, forgive yourself and move on.
  7. Moderation – The great thing about counting and tracking macros is it is sustainable. Pick high quality, nutrient dense food to eat most of the time, and enjoy your favorite treats now and then. I refer back to number 7 when I say that indulging once in a while is ok and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

The only way we are going to turn this around and become a more fit society as a whole is to target our kids. They are the future and if we don’t teach them how to be healthy and the importance of wellness and exercise, we are doomed as a society. We can create such bright futures for them!! Let’s GO!!

Saturday Feb. 9th we are hosting a Clinic at our facility here in Lewisville, NC. Tommy Bohanon, starting fullback for the Jacksonville Jaguars will join me for a day of education. If you’re interested in attending the clinic, email us at and we will get you the information. 

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