One of the most exciting things about the collaborative research project I’m doing with my students is that we aren’t just writing collaboratively; we’re actually learning collaboratively about an important issue in our society.
I chose to investigate the question posed by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, “Is Fast Food the New Tobacco?” As much as I wanted to give my students some stake in this project, I also wanted to have a schedule set when the class started. Fortunately, everyone seems at least mildly interested, and so far the readings have been thought-provoking.
So thought-provoking, in fact, that I’m engaging in my own critical reflection on my own health habits.
Cue yet another aspect of my quarter-life crisis.
In her remarks to the NAACP back in 2010, Michelle Obama explains the Let’s Move campaign as “a nationwide campaign to rally this country around a single, ambitious goal, and that is to solve childhood obesity in a generation so that children born today reach adulthood at a healthy weight.”
This is an important goal, to be sure. But what if getting Americans to “adulthood at a healthy weight” isn’t enough?
I actually think I am good example to consider this question. Growing up, I was fit. I was almost constantly underweight, but not enough that I looked unhealthy. I was active.
I did not have good eating habits.
An average high school day went something like this:
First hour dance team practice, spending anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and half working choreography or conditioning depending on the day.
Snarf down a quick snack because I didn’t eat breakfast. Usually this “snack” was a few Hershey kisses or something comparable that I could sneak in in passing, because, you know, food isn’t allowed in the school except during lunch.
Eat lunch more aware of goofing off and gossiping than what I was consuming. Freshman year, I had lunch at 11:15, which, at the time, seemed too early to me. There was also a horrible line to get food. So instead of spending $1.25 or $2.00 or whatever it was back in 2004 on lunch, I would buy a Mountain Dew and a Snickers. When I got home from school, I would eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese, even though I would be have dinner 2-3 hours later.
Later in high school, I grew more patient and starting taking my lunch. Although probably better than Mountain Dew and Snickers, I can’t say that the Lean Cuisine meals and popcorn I split with my friends were really more nourishing.
Senior year competitive team, ecstatic about being regional champs in pom and jazz for our division!
When it was theatre time, I would eat a ton of candy during practice. Three nights I week I would be at the dance studio, either practicing or teaching.
I would often swing by McDonald’s for a cheeseburger or two afterwards.
On the nights when I was home for dinner, I would pick through whatever my mom made, eating mostly chicken, potatoes, and noodles. I’ve never liked vegetables, and I always filled up on the junk on my plate before attempting to eat something I didn’t want.
I still managed to stay skinny and looking healthy. In fact, in my senior year, a friend of mine told me that I would be more attractive with a little more meat on my bones. Part of me still finds this funny.
While I was in high school, my dad found out he is Type-II Diabetic. This led to major dietary changes for my parents, but I struggled through their Atkins phase and usually resorted to spending what little money I had on junk that I would eat.
Senior Prom back in 2007! I love that yellow dress!
The TL;DR is that by the time I was 18 and graduating high school, I was in shape but not healthy. I looked and felt great, but if I had actually disclosed all this information to my doctor, he probably would have chewed me out. I know this because he lectures my dad sometimes. He is well-intentioned, I know, but we Martins are stubborn.
But things changed when I started college.
I kept up my crappy eating habits, but even walking across campus all day and dancing and coaching was not enough to balance out my calorie intake. If anything, I probably started eating worse food, subsisting during the week of burgers and fries, or, when I was feeling up to waiting in line, deep-fried Bosco sticks with marina from George’s Cafe.
Since sometimes around 2009, my weight (and thus my health) has been constantly fluctuating. I spiraled into depression after ending an engagement, and my body was the least of my worries. I worked long hours at two or three part time jobs to keep myself busy, sometimes being on campus from 8am until 2am.
Yes. You read that right: 8am to 2am. And then I’d sleep for 4 or 5 hours and do it again the next day.
Our family vacation to Las Vegas in 2010. We stopped in Utah on the way.
When I started graduate school, my sleep patterns and my schedule somehow got less hectic, but my eating did not improve. I would snack on a bag of popcorn to stay focused on my readings. I couldn’t go to a seminar without having some kind of a snack–or two. And I had to start my early mornings (and usually my late ones) with a grande latte. I was living alone so I often didn’t cook real meals. I would just grab something whenever I wanted it.
When I started college, I was probably a size 7. By my first semester of graduate school, I had to replace dress pants I had worn only two years before. The size six no longer fit; at New York and Company, I bought my first size 10 dress pants.
Kristen, me, and Nona, the night before grad school officially started.
It has been just over two years since that day my friend Katie and I went shopping and I realized that I was no longer the seemingly healthy person I used to be.
In my second year of graduate school, I stopped snacking. I tried to make real meals for my then-boyfriend and I. I wanted to become more adventurous in the kitchen. Shortly before I graduated last summer, I started this blog. I bought new dress clothes because I’m magically back down at a size 6. People who I saw consistently noticed, and commented on, my size changes. My friends who last knew me at 21 or 22 that I’m now able to see again because I’m living back home find it hard to believe that I had changed so much.
I don’t usually show them the pictures.
And here I am with some friends the night after I successfully defended my thesis.
Teaching at my alma mater this year, I started to fall back into poor habits. I would take some soup for lunch but decide I really needed a turkey burger from the Burger King in the Commons. On days when my schedule ended early, I would wait to eat lunch until I was completely done, so that I was starving and grabbing something like Wendy’s or Subway (the lesser of the fast food evils, I’ve always thought). But because I was so hungry, I was eating more than I needed, and at a bad time to be eating so much.
And now I’m not afraid to admit that I’m entering a quarter-life crisis. My life is not where I expected it to be at 25. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But I realize that I am at a point where I have to make conscious choices about who I am and what I’m doing, and my health habits are definitely one of them.
And so I’m extra glad now that I have thing blog and that I have you readers. I’m starting to realize that, at least for me, accountability is a big part of being healthy. So I’m making some changes, and I hope you’ll follow along and share this journey with me.
Tonight, I made dinner and forced myself to eat the vegetables. Tomorrow, I’m going to a Pulse Fitness class after I teach all day, no matter how tired I am. I will eat more colors, be conscious of the foods I’m putting in my body, and be more conscious of how I’m using the energy I provide my body.
This is not to say that I don’t love myself; my mom always says that I “certainly don’t lack confidence.” But I am realizing that I need to be a much more aware individual, and that being healthful now will make me a happier individual and a better person all around.