I occasionally stumble across articles that really get me thinking (ok, by “occasionally,” I mean “every damn day”). This usually happens while I’m at work, so my ability to really ponder the contents and implications of any such article is usually ridiculously limited – unless it’s the sort of article that resonates with me so deeply that I know, instinctively and with every molecule in my body, exactly what I think about it.
Today I found one of those articles. In this New York Times “Room for Debate” series, a series of columnists discussed whether people need more advice about eating well. Many of the columnists presented totally valid and well-reasoned arguments (especially Marion Nestle, whom I now officially adore), and much of what they said totally reaffirmed my own stance on the issue:
in my social circle – which is made up of professional, highly educated, busy women – people don’t eat well not because they lack the knowledge, willpower or resources to do so, but rather because they lack time.
For many people the idea of cooking fresh, wholesome food seems incredibly daunting. Many people feel like it’s going to be either time-consuming or labor-intensive, and the fact that the term “slow food” is used so prevalently doesn’t help matters much. (Yes, I know it’s the opposite of McDonalds and other forms of fast food, but people who are pressed for time are seriously not enthralled with even the mere suggestion that dinner might take a long time to prepare.)
As a result, one tour of downtown DC at lunchtime reveals a huge swath of people who are eating lots of burgers and fries, lots of street meat, and a whole ton of vending machine fare.
This dilemma (food or time, time or food?) is one of the main reasons why I decided to start training to be a health coach.
The fact is, most people don’t need to be told what to do. A lot of people already know: they need to eat better and exercise more. Most people could list a litany of the things they know they should be doing – so what they don’t need are lectures and exhortations about how they ought to change.
What most people do need, however, are strategies. They need game plans and practical tips to help them implement those plans. They need support.
Around this time last year, I started to realize that I could actually help people with these things. I’ve been preparing dinner four times per week and bringing a fresh, healthy lunch to school or work every day for 15 years (this started when I was in high school, since I was given the task of cooking dinner).
During those 15 years, I've learned a thing or two about how to save myself time and effort during the week. I've learned how to whip up quick and easy dinners from fresh, healthy ingredients. I've learned how to ensure that I can pull together a wholesome lunch in under 10 minutes.
Then I realized that I could help people reach their health goals by sharing what I've learned and giving them the suggestions, strategies, and support they need.
When things started heading south at work last summer, I started thinking about this more and more. I wonder if I could make a job out of this, I asked myself. Could I actually do that?
Fast forward one year: I’m enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and I’ll be in training (which is all done remotely and after work -- it's awesome) until December.
I now feel certain that it's possible for people to eat well and achieve their health goals without losing their minds or losing time out of an already packed schedule -- and someday, I hope to help them do that.