About a month or two ago, I started running regularly after a hiatus and started keeping a food log on MyFitnessPal (phone app) to keep track of my calorie intake. It wasn’t so much to lose weight (although if it happened I wasn’t going to complain!) but to be mindful of what I was putting in my body and how I was staying active. Being healthy and maintaining my weight has been a struggle for me since early college when my metabolism slowed considerably and I gained the very infamous “Freshman Fifteen.” I learned the hard way that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted with my body and assume it would stay the way I wanted it to. I would need to be active and conscious about it. Keeping a food and exercise log has helped me do this for the past several years. I see maintaining my health as something that can translate into being a better teacher. Since it’s pretty clear that “Exercise boosts brain power” (Rule #1 from Brain Rules: Twelve Principles for Suriviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina), it’s easy enough for me to suggest that exercise (and eating nutritious foods) makes me a better teacher. Teaching and learning rely on cognitive functions and if exercise is a key component of brain power, then I would say it’s imperative for me to be healthy! As far as being a healthy role model to my students, I would want them to see an individual that remains active for more reasons than health and having a “desirable” body. I’d want my students to understand and appreciate body diversity while seeing the not so visible positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise–brain power to teach and learn, stress-relief, fun and engaging way to interact with peers, or a way to challenge yourself both mentally and physically.
After reviewing my food log, I noticed that I tend to eat pre-made, processed foods. I’m a sucker for frozen chicken nuggets and easy to prepare meals from boxes. I made it my goal to cook more often from fresh foods and therefore reduce my intake of these processed foods. This was incredibly difficult for me because of two things: 1. I do not enjoy cooking and 2. I’m not willing to spend a lot of time cooking. So, in order to meet my goal, I would make an abundance of food whenever I cooked so that I would have leftovers for at least a couple of days. This worked out pretty well because I would not have to cook as often. For students trying to reach a goal, I would help them think critically about what might work and what might not work in reaching that goal. I realized, with my own goal, that I needed to find a strategy that would work for my needs and schedule. Meeting any goal requires a strategy and support. Students need access to both.
Other implications this assignment might have on my teaching involve using the log as a way to incorporate health and fitness into a curriculum that otherwise might not allow for them. I think it would be an excellent way to study the human body–students could research what doctors and experts have to say about diet and exercise, then use their journals to see how well they follow this advice. They could do a written or artistic reflection, much like the one I am doing this moment, to consider what health strategies work for them or what they could do better. I think a food log would also provide an excellent opportunity to blend math and science in studying food labels and the numbers and percentages and daily values represented there along with the numerous kinds of nutrients like fat, sugars, and fiber. For some students, it could be age-appropriate for them to keep detailed food logs where they keep track of their intake of certain nutrients and they could come up with goals based on those numbers.
Having students keep a food/activity log would be an engaging way to help students think about how diet and exercise are relevant to their lives. It certainly helps me be more thoughtful and caring about my own physicality.