On Monday, we had a presentation from nutritionist and fellow dancer, Ashley Lucas-Doyle. She said many interesting things, and the information she shared sparked much thought and an increased awareness about the necessity of healthy eating and wellness as young performers. Mrs. Lucas-Doyle was one of the few health personnel that I have heard from recently that has actually been in support of a low carbohydrate intake. In fact, she suggested that we as dancers ingest fewer carbs and more protein.
Over a year ago, my father began making some very different meal choices. He started eating more proteins, leaving out the breads, grains, corns, and potatoes. Growing up in the South, grits were a stable in our pantry, and one of my Daddy’s favorite meals; however, he stopped eating them. He informed us that he was going on a low carb diet. At first, I thought that he was crazy, but after observing his achievement of his weight-loss goals, and all the collective “ohh’s” and “ahh’s” of everyone around him, my mother and I decided to join the team.
My family prefers to call our eating style a “lifestyle change” rather than a diet. Many people are familiar with the well-known Atkins diet; as you know, once one starts eating low carb, to switch eating plans completely and start eating carbs again can cause weight gain exceeding one’s original weight. Mrs. Lucas-Doyle told us herself, “You can’t do it halfway.” That being the case, we made the change in our eating habits to benefit our livelihood. My father’s side of the family especially has a history of heart problems and diabetes stemming from being overweight and unhealthy eating which has led to two of my uncles passing away at early ages. My father wants to avoid that and to do everything he can now to live as long as possible in the future. As his daughter, I can only commend my Daddy for being strong and wise enough to make these choices; I want him to be able to stand and chase after his grandchildren one day.
I started my low carb life as a senior in high school. As both of my parents were doing so, and I was still primarily dependent upon them to provide me with my meals each day, maintaining was relatively easy. Now I am a college student living ten hours from home. My parents are no longer here to help me stay strong and provide foods that are low carb, eliminating any hard decisions. I will be honest – since I have come to college, I have slipped a little. One of the major things I struggle with is sweets. Some people say that they have a sweet “tooth;” I have a sweet head. I really don’t consider the lunch or dinner meal complete without some kind of dessert. Back home, I had access to a full kitchen, a grocery store, and parents that were often willing to foot the bill for the ingredients I needed to experiment with different, and often delicious, low carb alternatives to some of my favorites. As a Buckeye, it’s a completely different story.
I live on campus, in one of the few dorms that does not have kitchen facilities. I am also living on a college student budget, which makes buying sugar free and other typical low carb ingredients rather difficult as they are often more expensive than the regular high sugar, high-carbohydrate versions. I am also eating off of a meal plan, and let me tell you, Kennedy Commons (a traditional “all you can eat” dining hall on campus where I also happen to work) will be the death of me. Even back home, I struggled with my will-power. It is difficult to make healthy choices when you are 1. Surrounded with so many tasty, yet high-carb foods, and 2. Surrounded by individuals who do not care about the nutrition information on their food and who do not understand your own personal dietary decisions. I would say peer pressure definitely plays a huge part in dieting and nutrition in general. It’s always easy to do something when all your friends are doing it, but when all your friends go back and get ice cream covered in chocolate sauce and Oreo crumbles and a cookie (or two) on the side, it becomes a much more real decision to sit on your hands and wish you were back home where you had low carb ice cream in the freezer.
However, it is possible to maintain a low carb diet, even on a high-carb campus and with high-carb friends. I have learned to say “no” to KCom and “yes” to the Union Market where I can order a burger without the bun and get a salad and fruit on the side. I have also found that Jimmy Johns offers low carb versions of their sandwiches wrapped in lettuce rather than bread. While it’s not on the meal plan, I think it is a worthy indulgence every once and a while. After Mrs. Lucas-Doyle’s speech on Monday, I have renewed my personal decision to maintain a low carb lifestyle. I feel that it is the best way for me to maintain my weight and perform at an optimum level.