"What we do not realize is that food is the universal language of the world."
Food. That is the one word that seems to unite the world together in every way possible. While that is true, it is also evident that we all share something in common when it comes to food. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, which can also be accompanied with allergies and so forth. I am a complete anomaly when it comes to food because I am a very picky eater that also has food allergies. In my personal life food has never been my favorite thing. Eating used to be the worst part of the day for me. I have just simply never 'enjoyed' food.
It really was not until I took a trip to Kauai, Hawaii -the same trip that influenced me to become a pilot- that I discovered the power of food. Let's first get into the thick of things by discussing food allergies. Yes, food allergies are the worst thing ever and the majority of people show a lot of sympathy for me. I can understand why they think that allergies can make life 'sad' or maybe even 'depressing.' However, in my honest opinion, I have to credit my food allergies to saving my own life. When I discuss what goes on my plate every meal of the day people are quite shocked at what I actually eat. My life is like a specific aviation regulation (those of you in aviation will understand this one). I feel as if I have a minimum equipment list (MEL) of foods that I can eat. Whenever someone asks me what I am allergic to, I simply respond with a simple list of foods I can eat. The list of foods I am allergic to is simply too long even for me to remember. With that being said, what can I eat?
Well if you ask yourself a basic question here: what should go on my plate? Well if you answer that question correctly that is most likely what I eat on a day to day basis. If you said something far out there like cake, you are wrong. When taking into consideration what you eat on a daily basis it is also important to note not just the caloric intake, but also the nutrient density. What should go on my plate? Exactly. Now you answer that question for yourself. I know what should go on my plate. At this point that shouldn't even be a question involving the word 'should.' That needs to be a question more formulated like this: what is on my plate?
Health is a big concern especially your future health. Have you ever stopped to consider how you feel everyday? What does it feel like to wake up in the morning? Can you physically handle the simple stress of everyday life? Well, this is actually something that plays a big part of our daily lives. Feeling both emotionally drained as well as physically drained is really life altering in some sort of way. Whether or not you believe it, food plays a huge part in our energy needed for the day. Maybe if you answered these questions with any form of negative adjective you need to reassess your diet. What am I eating?
See, as a college student, it is a huge deal to get all of the necessary nutrients needed in order to live at ease. Most college students will complain about how they feel everyday. That is an issue. Food really does affect daily performance and energy levels. Think of a plant. What happens when the gardener deprives that plant of nitrogen, phosphorus, and so forth? Right, the plant will wither away and die. Without food organisms cannot thrive. I love this little motto that I live by when it comes to eating and nutrition: 'live your life and thrive, not to survive.' What goes in my body is so important, and that goes for you too.
When we look at the typical diet of a college student we can find that it is far from healthy. How much vegetables and fruit is actually incorporated within their diet? Little to none. I do not need to do research to find this, I am a college student, who has seen this first hand. When we actually break this down and put this in perspective, food affects basic bodily performance. When an individual lacks nutrients, he or she cannot perform accordingly. Furthermore, mixing that with the stress of daily life and college makes everything worse.
As pilots we use the acronym IMSAFE to declare and decide whether or not we are safe to complete a flight. Your medical is never the answer to fly all the time. Just because you have that doesn't mean you are actually clear to fly every flight. The E stands for eating and emotion. Notice that both of those go hand and hand. When a human does not eat properly, their emotions are way off. Some people may bet really sad, some may get angry, and so forth. As pilots it is even more vital that we keep the right kind of food going into our bodies. The basics of aeromedical do not just cover hypoxia, spacial disorientation, and hyperventilation, they also include the basic concept of eating right.
"You are what you eat." Everyone has indeed heard that famous saying. If you have not you just heard it now. Most people would claim that it is nothing but an english idiom expressing an over-exaggeration. Honey, that is not true at all. Now, we really are what we eat. Think about someone who drinks tons of soda versus someone who drinks water. What is the difference? Yes, the person who drinks water will have more energy and be more healthy. In the long run, it is very important that we fuel our bodies with the right type of fuel. What type of fuel does your car take? What type of fuel does a Cirrus SR-20 take? What type of fuel to you take? These simple questions can help you analyze every meal that you consume. My car takes 87 Octane gas in order to get the optimum amount of performance while keeping the engine healthy. The Cirrus SR-20 takes 100LL aviation fuel for the same reason. Any other fuel will damage the engines. While our bodies aren't necessarily damaged by eating sugar once in a while, it is so important to monitor our 'fuel.'
As a college student and a pilot at the same time, it is highly important to keep everything in tip top shape. When I was younger it was not such a big deal to me. It wasn't until I hit my teenage years that I finally figured out that my current health will determine my future health. Is that important? Yes! It is very wise that you prepare now for what the future has to offer. What you do now will affect you 5, 10, 15, and even 60 years down the road. Back to the food allergies? So, you are most likely wondering what I have issues with. I am very proud to announce that I have been cocoa and chocolate free for 5 and a half years. That is a huge accomplishment in my eyes. While a lot of people don't believe it, I really have made that accomplishment.
I really do know that what you eat highly affects life and performance. What is on your plate? Think about that question before each meal. Now, what do you like to eat? Always reward yourself every once in a while. While I cannot do so, it is evident that there are other ways that I can reward myself. Dessert is never on that list, but a nice fruit salad always is. In the end, think about quality of life, goals, present, future, and what is on your plate. Live healthy, eat smart, and be happy.