I graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition just shy of a year ago. It was an 18-month program, but it's not where my nutrition experience began. Interestingly enough, I went to university for dietetics too and then switched out 2.5 years into the program, but yet here I am, 5 years later with a career unfolding in food and nutrition.
This is my story:
Up to grade 7, I wanted to be a teacher. My mom made standard home-cooked meals. I had "healthy" lunches with Fruit-To-Go as my dessert (not to be confused with fruit roll ups), but would hit up McDonald's once in a while (I'd get the cookies instead of the toy), and if I was lucky, I'd get a quarter from my parents at the arena for a baggie of five candies.
In adolescence, I wanted to be an athletic therapist. I was playing school sports and rep hockey, which meant a few less home-cooked meals and a few more drive-thrus. While I was somewhat nutritionally aware, I'd stop at Tim Horton's with my dad, ordering a 500mL chocolate milk (the ultimate post-exercise meal according to the 2007 Food Guide) and a box of Timbits to share as he sipped on his medium coffee, double cream one sugar. In university, I planned to be a Dietician, a government-regulated profession practicing in settings such as hospitals or health clinics. Many aspects of the program didn't align with me, so after a mid-college crisis, I switched out. At this point, I was playing collegiate hockey, which meant I ate some steak dinners, quinoa salads and veggies, but also the standard peanut butter, bowls on bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios and my fair share of Dunkin' Donuts coffee with flavour shots, cream and sugar.
But even despite these food choices growing up, here I am at 26 with a passion to change nutrition education, the food industry and the way we connect to it all.
Like you, I've been confused with what to eat maaaaaany times, but the more I learned, the more I felt deceived with the general knowledge that I had growing up and the food that was available to consume. While I knew granola bars weren't as good as vegetables, I didn't think they could be that bad. "Why would they sell anything that was harmful to my health? How could it be offered if it weren't safe?"
Looking back, real fundamental nutrition knowledge seems more like common sense than anything, but I didn't have it, and I know why many don't:
We are only a combination of our experiences that shaped us growing up, including the nutrition education that most of us didn't get, or still don't have. Unless we've learned differently and then care enough to change, we go to stores like our parents did to get the best deals. We eat at the same fast-food or sit-down restaurants that we went to as a child, and we savour the traditional family favourites like we've always done. It's our normal since then, it's what's accepted now, and it's what will continue - unless we decide not to.
Our health crisis and our food industry won't change until we impart better grassroots education and exist as examples for our younger generations. It won't change until we decide to reduce trips through the drive-thru, loaves of white bread and additives in our food. It won't change until we understand more about where our food comes from, and it certainly won't change unless we understand why we need to.
Food has been - and always will be - around us. It is our common connection. It's a major part of religion, culture and society. We do business over lunches, have family time over dinners and spend time with our friends on weekends with food in front of us. It is what fuels us for what we set out to achieve in a day and in our lifetime. It represents our preferences, our goals and our values as people, and it has a major effect on our physical, mental and emotional states.
Lastly - and maybe this sounds a little out there - but what we eat and how we eat provides insight into who we are. The relationship you have with food shines some light on your relationship with yourself.
With a better understanding of food, and therefore a better understanding of yourself, I believe you can become more confident in who you are. I believe you can have more energy to put into what truly matters to you. I believe you will have better experiences around food, and then feel better after eating it. I believe you can embrace healthy habits for yourself, your family and your children years down the road. I believe you are the front seat driver for your own health journey (...errr...rollercoaster), but together, I believe we can create change in the future of our food, our nutrition and our health.
From the beginning of my nutrition experience to now, I understand the larger picture a little more. Politics, sponsors, funding and money are clearly driving forces in business, but it shouldn't equate to deception and a lack of priority of people and their health. The farming, food and restaurant industry has a major influence on our decisions around nutrition and it's my hope that more leaders in the field truly grasp the potential they have to make a difference. I believe business can be done to benefit all parties - and I'm driven to make it happen.
With The III, I'm not just creating a business; I'm building a vision. While I'm still working on constructing the foundation, the blueprint is there: more connection with our food, more connection with one another, and more connection with ourselves.
I hope you come along for the journey (...errr....roller coaster) Cheers to a brighter future,
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
social media: @thethreewelllness