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Food Journal Reflection

10 Jul

Remember the food journal we had to keep? Well, I did it, even though I was not excited about it. I knew it was a good exercise and completely saw the point, I just hate focusing on what I eat.

I didn’t learn a lot. I could stand to eat more vegetables, but we all do. When I have to be somewhere in the morning I can’t eat before I go, so I generally grab something – yogurt, a cornbread muffin, etc, to go with. When I’m not heading out the door I try to make a veggie omelet or fritatta. I drink a lot of coffee. I should drink more water. I should get more exercise and more sleep.

To make matters worse, I got sick in the middle of my journal-keeping, so there are about three days of “chicken soup, tea, water, ginger ale, water, tea, chicken broth, 2 hour nap,” etc… Not exactly demonstrative of my actual life.

In the long run, though, I feel like I am a healthy eater. I don’t eat processed food – because for the most part, I can’t. I don’t eat white bread and pasta – because I can’t. I cook a lot because I love it and because I have to. I eat more vegetables than the average American – according to many studies people eat three or less servings of fruit or veg a day. I eat whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. I don’t drink soda.

After the first week, one thing was apparent – I wasn’t getting much exercise. I have gone from: walking to  work (45 minutes each way); standing, walking, and lifting books and boxes for 8 hours while at work; then walking home, to: walking about 5 minutes; catching a bus; sitting on a bus; sitting in a classroom; sitting on a bus; walking home; sitting and doing homework. Suddenly I am VERY sedentary. Not good for my body or my psyche.

So I resolved to eat more vegetables and get more exercise. I signed up for Hot Yoga with a friend and have actually gone! Three times! Hot Yoga is HARD. But awesome. I got up early enough to make myself a spinach scramble… but then I felt sick because I don’t like eating that early – so I’m going to have to come up with some better way to transport a healthy breakfast to school with me.

I could have gotten more exercise if I wasn’t sick, and today I started a running program that I hope to continue… forever, I guess. I got my bike from my parents house and have started tuning it so I can ride with my manfriend. Am I doing all of this because of my food and activity log? I don’t know. I was already planning on running. Manfriend loves to bike so I already wanted to get started doing that. But maybe this activity brought it to the front of my mind. Maybe it gave me the little push I needed to really get going.

I think having students keep food an activity logs could be a great teaching tool – you don’t have to tell them what they are eating is good or bad, but you can teach them what foods are healthy (and why!) and let them draw their own conclusions about their diets. You can incorporate math and science by counting calories, discovering portion size, and even cooking. A nutrition unit could include creating a school or class garden (another passion of mine). There are a lot of really cool things you could do with a food and activity journal, depending on age.


What did you do last Thursday?

10 Jul

I held a human brain.

I also got to see samples of liver, lung, and two hearts. Some of the organs were cancerous or otherwise damaged (one of the hearts was enlarged – probably because of chronic high blood pressure) but the brains were normal. And cool. And heavy!

Our last day of our health teaching methods, we met in the science building and first heard a lesson about the human brain, complete with edible Jell-O models. I always knew that fish was “brain food” but never really knew why – it’s because most fish (like salmon) contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which help your brain function. Other brain foods: berries, nuts, eggs, broccoli, lean meats, and whole grains (for me that means brown rice and quinoa, for you non-glutards it also includes whole wheat and barley).

Then we moved to the lab. Some cool brain activities were done, but the main event was human organs. I was excited, then I got queasy and had to leave the room for a while, but I rallied and held a human brain in my (gloved) hands. I got to see the different parts, and feel how heavy it is – it’s much heavier than you would think!

What did you do Thursday? I’ll bet you didn’t do anything cooler than that!

Lets talk about sex, baby.

5 Jul

I honestly don’t remember having the “sex talk” with my parents. I’m sure we did, but I must have been so embarrassed I blocked it out. The thought of teaching Sex Ed to my students is… intimidating.

I read an article the other day about a study that found 1 in 3 eleven-year-olds have been in a “girlfriend/boyfriend relationship.”  Teens are also having sexual contact at young ages. It’s important for us as teachers to be resources for our students who may not feel comfortable talking to their parents about sex.

One of my classmates pointed out to me the difference in attitudes about age-appropriate sex-ed between parents and non-parents in our class. It seemed that those of us who have children thought that sixth grade was too young to talk about certain aspects, while those of us without children thought that we should talk about everything kids ask about.

It’s a protection thing, I know – humans are hard-wired to protect their children, and sex is a risky behavior – physically and emotionally. I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, and my views may change when I am one – but for now, I think it’s important to give children information, or they may attempt to discover things on their own, which could be worse.

I have a cousin with two beautiful children – but she’s younger than me, and had to drop out of her pre-med program because she didn’t know that antibiotics could interfere with her birth control pills. She grew up in Texas, with abstinence-only sex ed, and absolutely no talk of birth control in schools. She is lucky because she has a beautiful family, loving husband, and is now continuing her education. But her life could have been different with a little education.

Even if we don’t want to think about young teens having sex, they might be. Even if it is uncomfortable for us to teach young teens about birth control, they will most likely need it – if not now, then when they are older.

Isn’t it better to start a conversation, to let kids know it’s not bad or embarrassing to talk about sexual health, then to discover later that you could have helped?


Bullying has lasting effects

30 Jun

Thursday we talked about bullying in class, and when I came home I found this article on Jezebel about a Swedish study on lasting effects of bullying. The study followed almost 900 students from their teens to adulthood, and found that adults who had been bullied as youths were “more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

You can read the whole article here.

This is an aspect of bullying that I have never heard discussed. People often seem to think if you get past your school years, and make it to adulthood, you can put those times behind you and move on. However, this study shows that is not always the case.

Does being bullied or isolated make you unhealthy? We humans are social creatures. Our species would not exist without our social organizations and nature. We talk out problems, we divide tasks, we work together. If a child feels isolated, they are not receiving the benefits of our social culture.

As the article says, it’s incredibly sad that something like bullying, that children have no control over, can affect their entire lives and health.

On a side note, Jezebel has a whole section on bullying, and childhood body image, there are a lot of interesting reads.

Being sick

29 Jun

I’ve been trying to take good care of myself.

Washing my hands, drinking lots of water, eating my veggies. However, it seems inevitable that I will occasionally get sick. This time, it started with a sore throat. Friday, I was buying running shoes at REI (a very involved process) and I started to feel a pain in the back of my throat. I drank water, took Emergen-C, and told myself it was allergies, it would go away.

Saturday night I could feel my body aching. I went to bed early. Sunday I couldn’t breathe through my nose, I was coughing, and had a fever. Monday I felt a little better. Tuesday I took some cold medicine and went to school.

I hate missing school.

My head was foggy, my brain felt thick and clouded. It hurt to breathe. I’m so thankful to my friends and to my professor, who told me to go home and take care of myself.

Sometimes, I need to be reminded to take care of myself – I only have this one body, and I’m not doing anyone any favors by pushing myself too far.

I went home, and slept.

I’m finally feeling better, but it got me thinking – what about our students? They are often sent to school when they don’t feel well. Maybe they have a cold but no fever. Maybe they have a fever, but their parents can’t afford to take of work to stay home with them. What can we do when our students are sick? It’s nearly impossible to learn while you’re not feeling well, while you’re focused on your body and not on anything else.

What do you think?

First week, done.

22 Jun

Yesterday was exhausting. I didn’t get enough sleep, we had a class about abuse, a meeting at lunch, and then another 3 hour class. I took a walk during a break just to get my blood moving, but I felt like a lump most of the day. I feel this is an important thing to remember – if I, as an adult, can’t concentrate after sitting in a chair for two, thee, four hours, then how can I expect a child to?

Spending the morning talking about issues of abuse and neglect was heavy. It’s important, especially since as teachers we will be mandatory reporters – if we suspect abuse, we are required to report it. I found it sort of strange – I have been told in the past that, as a classroom or special education aide, I was a mandatory reporter. However, I have never before received any training on how to recognize signs of abuse.

A disturbing part of yesterday’s class was, while we were talking about signs of neglect, I thought back to a particular student I once worked with. This student exhibited nearly all the signs of neglect – and not a single teacher suggested it as a possibility. This student was identified with many special needs, which I suppose could also be the reasons for his/her behavior, but when a child has an extreme emotional disorder, discusses suicide, and is physically violent, shouldn’t we look for the reason, beyond assuming the child is “depressed” or otherwise mentally ill? It is possible that this was discussed without me, as I was not a teacher but merely an aide, but I am still shocked and disappointed that it wasn’t mentioned or explored.

With the statistics we looked at, I know it is likely that several of my students will experience abuse. It saddens me, and I hope I have the ability to recognize it and do something about it – and to make sure my students always know that my classroom is a safe space.

Meal planning

21 Jun

One thing about keeping a food and activity journal – I am thinking more about both food and activity than I usually do.

Before the quarter started, I made it my goal to plan my meals a week in advance. I have an Excel spreadsheet. So far, I’ve followed it pretty well, only deviating when I realized I had tofu in the fridge that needed to be eaten. There’s not much food sold on campus that I can eat, so I need to make sure I’m packing myself enough healthy food to make it through the day. I can’t do that if I don’t plan ahead.

Want to see my plan for this week? Sunday’s not on here because I needed to give myself one day off.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Breakfast eggs Baco-Cheese Corn Muffin, coffee, banana Baco-Cheese Corn muffin, coffee, banana Baco-Cheese Corn muffin, coffee, banana waffles coffee, muffins
Lunch Cottage cheese, veggies Black Bean Enchiladas, green salad Black bean enchiladas BLT Pasta Turkey Wraps BBQ
Snack Yogurt, almonds, granola bar apple, yogurt, granola bar carrots & hummus, almonds
Dinner Black Bean Enchiladas, green salad Fried Rice BLT Pasta Pizza Chicken Fajitas Date Night

I promise I wrote this before classes began, and I had no idea we would need to keep a food journal.

Partially because I was thinking about my activity log, and partially because it was a beautiful day and I was feeling stressed, I walked home from the U-district today instead of catching a second bus like I usually do. It was a beautiful walk, and I got home in about 30 minutes, feeling rejuvenated. It’s awesome what a little cardio can do for your outlook on life.

Health, Sanity, and Summer Quarter

20 Jun

I had some serious stress-dreams the past few nights. Like realizing it was finals week and I had forgotten to attend a class. Or that I missed the first day of school because it was actually Monday instead of Tuesday.

So I was pretty happy to start class today, maybe my brain can stress out about something else.

But, after the first day, I’m starting to feel stressed about all we’re supposed to accomplish this quarter.

And the food journal thing? I understand it, I feel like it’s useful, but personally, I’m really tired of focusing on my food.

You see, three years ago I got really sick.

Really, really sick. Couldn’t eat anything. Tired all the time. Painful stomach cramps. Tests were run. Ultrasounds of my spleen, x-rays of my digestive tract… My doctor couldn’t figure out what it was. I asked if it could be a food allergy or sensitivity, she scoffed. I decided to test it myself. And so I started a food log, and began experiementing. I took myself off dairy, and felt the same. I took myself off wheat and gluten, and immediately felt better. Immediately, as in, the next day. And the next day, even better. And so on.

I don’t go to that doctor anymore.

And I don’t eat wheat or gluten anymore. It’s tough, but I love to cook and try new things so I have fun with it. I’m also, in general, a lot healthier than when I ate gluten, because I tend to eat mostly “whole foods” like fruits and vegetables, and rarely eat anything processed.

But honestly, I’m constantly thinking about what I eat, and a large part of me doesn’t want to spend more time thinking about it and writing it all down. And then we’re supposed to come up with a way to improve it? I hope, at the end of this week, I can look at my food journal and clearly see something that can be improved, but honestly, I’m not sure.

We’ll see!

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