Health Basics: What Are You Training For?


I only know one other person who's been health conscious as long as I have. Granted, we didn't do pushups and crunches to be healthy; our only goal and only health option was to be stronger; choosing healthy meals isn't really an option in the 7th grade. In fact, choosing healthy meals wasn't really an option for me until seven years ago.

From 7th grade though high school my meals were divided between the New York Board of Education and traditional Haitian cuisine — neither focused on providing healthy options only on food as fuel. Living on campus for two years while getting my A.S. degree gave me the independence to choose my meals more carefully. Although the meals were elevated versions from the Board of Ed, I still had options which is the true beginning for eating consciously. Once I graduated and moved back to New York to start my B.A. degree, I was working full-time and had steady income — this gave me more ownership over what I ate daily.

Slow It Down

In 2010, after being introduced to the concept of Slow Food, food culture changed for me:

"We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods."

I needed to slow it down; and so I did (mostly).

Once I began to educate myself on what agriculture and big business food culture in the United States truly was, I made the decision to eat more consciously.

Conscious eating for me involves constant awareness: when's the last time I had a fast food burger/fast food fried chicken/soda/juice/a sports drink/Chinese food/a salad that uses iceberg lettuce. I'm not anal enough to know dates but I know average time span: 2 months/1 year/3 months/2 months/4 years/3 months/1 month; respectively. I remember, and I have to remember because it keeps me conscious on when my next bullshit food experience will be — and all of this food is bullshit. It tastes delicious because of the chemicals and preservatives they use to keep people addicted and since I grew up on these goods, there is an immense amount of nostalgia that goes into every visit and bite.

Certain things I will never eat or drink again: McDonald’s (except for their fries), Burger King, Wendy's, any type of sports/energy drink (Gatorade, Powerade, Redbull, Rockstar), chips from the major brands (Doritos, Lays, Wise), Olde English 40's or any other malt liquor. Certain things I enjoy sparingly: cream soda/Dr. Pepper, Cookout, In-N-Out, Kennedy Fried Chicken (a real last resort). And certain things I just love and have them when I want: e.g. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Brownie (it is as good as it sounds).

I don't use the language "cheat day" when I eat any of the things I know are bad for me because that mentality is limiting. There is a reality in desire and cravings and I support fulfilling those desires by earning them. I can physically afford to eat a brownie because I exercise regularly, drink appropriate amounts of water, and don't eat or drink unhealthy items every day. I won't have a brownie and a piece of fried chicken on the same day; it's going to upset my gut and in turn ruin my day. A Dr. Pepper today, a cheeseburger on Friday; everything should be spread out and as long as I'm doing everything else right, "junk" food is OK — but I have to earn it. I'm always conscious, and by minimally eating and drinking things I know are bad for me, I lose the desire for them over time; I essentially train myself not to want them. They no longer become things I crave, rather it's: "I haven't had a cream soda in a while, let me try this."

Training Your Palate

When you’re used to filet mignon
It’s kinda hard to go back to Hamburger Helper
It’s your choice though baby
— Jay Z

This line isn't only about accessibility, it's about quality in taste. Once you understand what meat should taste like after years of faux meat, it's difficult to go back — or at least it should be. Filet mignon is served at restaurants that put care into the meals they cook for their guests. There is quality in taste, presentation, and experience. Hamburger Helper is a way to save time because you're conditioned to believe you don't have time to enjoy a cooking experience once you get home.

Learning about Slow Food introduced me to the "filet mignon" culture Jay raps about — the culture of quality meals and drinks at dinner tables with good company. Growing up in New York and working retail for over nine years, the majority of my day was spent on my feet. From walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, possibly not getting a seat on the bus, getting on the train, possibly not getting a seat on the train, to an eight hour shift where I had an hour break which included walking 10-15 minutes to get food and stuff my face before I went back and then repeating the whole experience in reverse until I got home. There were moments where I got lazy at work and sat on the floor when I worked stock or at my desk when I had more responsibility and a different job title — but I never took time to escape for a minute to embrace life.

When I write about filet mignon culture, I'm not referring to spending money on lavish meals, it's about understanding the difference in quality of food, life, and time. Around 2011 I began to deeply embrace Slow Food culture: getting my lunch early and walking to a nearby park to eat, relax, and enjoy the city for an hour; at night, dive bars turned into ale houses that provided upgraded version of bar food (I was still learning). At home I began my Cliff-Boyaredee life of cooking new and exciting meals — challenging myself, burning things occasionally, but enjoying every moment.

I experienced food differently and the filet mignon culture became a staple for how I experience food to this day. Instead of going to a bar, club, or lounge I rather go to a restaurant and enjoy an amazing meal with a group of friends. Unfortunately, dining out consistently is expensive and most people I know don't embrace the filet mignon culture, so instead, I enjoy it at home or when money is expendable and when great company presents itself.

From 2011-2012, I was training myself to eat and live differently for my today. In fact, I was training for a lot of things during this time period: a marathon, a healthy lifestyle, career success, better cooking habits, and an alcoholic lifestyle.

Quit What Doesn't Work

The marathon fell through because I lost interest when it was vacation time — I wanted to party and drink instead of run. I found career success but left to start on my own path. The alcoholic lifestyle fell through three years ago because I saw there was more to life. I quit training for the marathon and alcoholism, and I began training differently for my career. Regardless of the reasons, I stopped training and either removed or adjusted these aspects of my life. I looked into the future and decided those things were'n't what I wanted for myself down the line. 

And in retrospect this is what I did with junk food. There is no denying that excess sugar and its fake variations, excess salt, pesticides, GMOs, BPAs, stress, unhealthy relationships, and lack of personal development take a toll on our health. We don't see the results immediately, but allowing these things into our life daily is a form of training. 

Consider training, as we mostly know it, using NBA All-Star Steph Curry. No one is born knowing how to dribble, shoot, or maneuver on a basketball court — you have to train your body and mind to become who you want. He made a conscious choice to train to reach a goal he set for himself. And by committing to his training he became a great athlete.

What billions of people do, is unconsciously train and commit to a goal they don't want. Who would willingly train to have the following:

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Heart disease

  • A stroke

  • Cirrhosis of the liver

  • Cancer

  • Alzheimer's

  • Arthritis

  • Chronic Pain

  • Periodontal disease

I imagine no one, but with the way people eat and drink, the constant environmental stressors in life, and the lack of overall self-care, we are unconsciously training our bodies, physically and mentally, to be sick in our older years. Granted all bodies are different and the Universe can be cruel (30 year smoker never gets lung cancer while a non-smoker does), but why not take as much control as possible and put life in your favor?

Everything you eat, drink, do, or don't do is part of your life training: if you drink excessive liquor every day, you're training towards Cirrhosis of the liver; if you drink sugary drinks, eat fast food, or excessive processed snacks every day, you're training towards obesity, heart disease, and a list of other diseases; if you don't drink enough water, you're training towards damaged organs, muscles, and joints; if you don't exercise in any capacity, you're training towards a long list of diseases; if you don't educate yourself, you're training towards ignorance, if you don't practice compassion, you're training towards hatred.

We train children to be healthy and productive members of society. From Pre-K to 12th grade they learn respect for elders and they learn history, math, science, and English, all to be trained and well versed once they are old enough to be part of society and make an impact. We were once children who were trained, but for so many of us, training stopped.

It's easy to grow when you're part of a system, guided through everything, and spoon fed knowledge. Jobs have training classes so you can learn more about your role to be better at it once training is over. People who have hobbies take classes to improve their skills. A goal is set for you that someone else has established — they tell you what is in your best interest and they tell you who you'll become.

But we grow up and we eat and drink the same things we did as kids — the things our parents and the school system trained us to eat and drink. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a kid is not having options: you have to go to the school your parents say, you have to go to church on Sunday, you have to wear shoes for the dance. You're older and have a whole world of options at our disposal, why would you want to eat Lunchables, fast food chicken nuggets, Cheetos, Pop Tarts, or Lucky Charms? Why would you want to drink Danimals, Capri Sun, or Hawaiian Punch? You have to train your body to be better.

Where we fail is not taking the initiative to train ourselves. Yes, we're constantly distracted, which makes us lazy. And yes, Big Gov, Big Ag, and Big Everyone Else has power and control over our life. But what about Big You?

Master Of Skills

Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.
— Malcolm Gladwell

This quote has been revamped into the view that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master in a skill set. Ten thousand hours is about one year and give or take 2 months. If you're 30 and you've been practicing bad habits since childhood, you've reached a level of enlightenment. You've trained and conditioned your body up to this point and as you continue to train, your unknowing goal for illness and disease are only a few years away. 

What are you training for? Open your fridge and kitchen cabinets, look at your expenses, think about how you spend your free time. Are you training for a diseased life? Are you training to never have but always spend? Are you training to be complacent and a constant consumer of other's success?

What are you training for?

Train for health. Train for success. Train for growth. Train for love. Train today for everything you want tomorrow.