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Food And Mood - We Are What We Eat

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Food affects more than just how you look, it also influences how you behave

If you're putting a lot of effort into your workouts and supplements but still not feeling the rush of energy and joy you read about on the message boards, the reason might be your food choices. The next time you reach for "fast food" or decide to simply skip a meal, consider the effect your diet plays on the way you feel. After all, what good is having a beach body if you're not able to enjoy it?

In Appleton, Wisconsin, one of the most amazing occurrences in the history of education happened in the late 1990's. In 1997, Appleton Central Alternative High School implemented a health food program. The coke and candy machines were removed and the cafeteria quit serving standard school lunch: burgers, fries, etc. A company, called Natural Ovens (www.naturalovens.com), set up a program to serve salad, veggies, whole grain breads, fresh water, and meats using only healthy recipes. The results were astonishing. Grades went up, truancies went down, fights stopped occurring, arguments were rare, and the teachers were able to focus on teaching instead of disciplining students.

Junk food doesn't just make you fat, it effects the way you think, feel, and react. It effects your entire emotional state. Yet we, as a country, are eating more junk food than ever. The worst of this often goes to our youth. According to statistics sited in Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation, some of the worst meat goes to fast food restaurants, schools and pets, in that order. So it's no surprise that an entire school's population might benefit from better nutrition. What's surprising is just how much it changed.

The school cafeteria has a long history of serving less than palatable cuisine. Those of my generation probably harbor "fond" memories of such brain foods as Salisbury steak, corned beef hash, and soggy peas. The newer generation is fairing far worse. In the late 80's, soft drink companies started contracting with schools to place vending machines in school hallways. Schools, often desperate for money, caved in. Fast food companies followed suit and soon, soggy peas and processed steak were replaced by fries and coke. The trade off was going from poor nutrition to bottom-of-the-barrel.

Appleton Central Alternative School is, well, an "alternative school"; a place where problem students end up. Greg Bretthauer, the dean of students, was offered the job prior to the program and found the students "rude, obnoxious, and ill-mannered." The school had so many problems with discipline and weapons violations that a police officer was recruited to be on the staff.

The new program had an instantaneous effect. In the state of Wisconsin, each school is required to file a report each year detailing the number of students who have dropped out, been expelled, committed suicide, or got caught using drugs or carrying weapons. Since the start of the program, the numbers at ACAHS have been the same each year, zero! This would be a stat that any public or private school would be proud of. For an alternative school, it's nothing short of astonishing.

In the story A Different Kind Of School Lunch, published in Pure Facts, the newsletter for the Feingold Association of the United States (http://www.feingold.org), other schools in the Appleton district have made more moderate changes, such as eliminating candy and pop machines, and have also seen results. "I see the kids this year as calmer, easier to talk to," said middle school teacher Dennis Abrahm.

"If you've been guzzling Mountain Dew and eating chips and you're flying all over the place, I don't think you're going to pick up a whole lot in class," stated Mary Bruyette, a teacher at ACAHS who claims things are now different. "I don't have to deal with daily discipline issues; that just isn't a factor here."

One student may have summed it up best saying, "Now that I concentrate, I think it's easier to get along with people cause now I'm paying attention to what they have to say and not just worrying about what I have to say to them."

And how is the program working now, five years from its inception? "I don't want to say better than ever, because it's always worked," said Bretthauer, "but we've made minor revisions, based on experience, to improve it. We've incorporated flax seed and focused on the omega content of foods. Made fresh water even more available. We have monthly fruit smoothie days, and have really worked to incorporate more education about eating away from schooltrying to get students to follow through at home. We've found the diet does play a major role in increasing the ability to concentrate. And we haven't had any type of emotional outbursts, still!"

On why this phenomenon has been slow to sweep the nation, Bretthauer rationalizes, "The economics of past practice is one thing and people are always resistant to change, but it's coming. In the next two to three years, most schools will have major changes. It's starting to happen. I think LA is eliminating soda machines and any carbonated beverages from being sold in their schools."

"This year, we had a junk food day and served nothing but sugar-laced foods, caffeinated beverages, foods prepared with palm oils, etc, and it had a significant effect on the kids. They ran around like hyped-up squirrels, felt sick, couldn't seem to concentrate."

"Pleeease," they said. "Don't have another one this year."

The Beach Body lifestyle is about more than changing the way you look. It's changing how you feel and transforming your life. More than ever, this should validate the cliché "you are what you eat." What could be a better reason for changing you diet than improving your mental well-being? Give it a shot. You can be your own proof.

Since some people have told me that they wouldn't have believed this story had I not talked to Mr. Bretthauer myself, so here is some more info. You can read more about the school and the diet's effects on their web site at: http://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/aca/

THE ACAHS DIET

Hey, if it worked for them! Here's what the kids at Appleton Central Alternative High School eat. Give it a week, a month, or more. See how differently you feel when you wake up, when you workout, how you react to stress, and whether or not your quality of life has improved. You may be surprised at the difference your diet can make.

Business as usual will not work for a healthy nutrition program. There needs to be a champion for the cause. Appleton Central Alternative High School serves both a nutritious breakfast and lunch. There are no vending machines within the school and no carry-in food and/or beverages are allowed. In addition, ACAHS offers bottled water and encourages students to carry water bottles. Ninety-five per cent (95%) of Central students participate in the nutrition program.

The Breakfast Program consists of the following items:

  • Bottled water, 100 percent juice, skim milk, and a blended energy drink. The energy drink is made fresh daily with a variety of fruits, juices and Natural Oven's flax-based energy drink powder (with omega 3)

  • A variety of whole grain bagels, breads and muffins – all of which are free of additives, dyes, artificial preservatives, and saturated fats

  • Granola cereal

  • Fresh peanut butter, natural fruit preserves, Promise margarine

  • Fresh fruits including bananas, apples, pears, oranges, plums, seasonal fruits, etc.

The Lunch Program includes the following:

  • Bottled water, 100 percent juice, skim milk, and a blended energy drink. The energy drink is made fresh daily with a variety of fruits, juices and Natural Oven's flax-based energy drink powder (with omega 3)

  • A variety of whole grain bagels, breads and muffins – all of which are free of additives, dyes, artificial preservatives, and saturated fats

  • Salad Bar: dark green lettuce (no iceberg head lettuce), cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, sliced mushrooms, black olives, peanuts, sunflower seeds, broccoli and cauliflower spears, shredded carrots, diced boiled eggs, croutons made from whole grain breads, home-made apple sauce, shredded cabbage, peach and pear slices, pineapple chunks, and fruit salad

  • Hot Entrée: Central offers no al la cart items. Two on-site cooks prepare the meals daily, and no food is prepared by frying in a grease product. Meat products used include lean pork, chicken, turkey and fish (no beef). A variety of spices, soymilk products and tofu are used as natural flavor enhancers in many of the recipes. Because we participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), we need to offer milk; however, no other dairy products are utilized. In addition, we qualify for and receive federal commodities, selecting only offerings that are nutritious and not heavily processed.

For more on the CAHS nutrition program, visit their web site at: http://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/aca/nutrition.htm

The mission of Team Beachbody is to motivate you and to educate you about health, fitness and nutrition and the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Click here to learn more about Team Beachbody Coach Rich Dafter.


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