Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time at a US Military base for our annual week of SWAT training. It was a unique chance to get a glimpse into the life of a soldier. We got to eat what they eat and sleep where they sleep.
Certainly this experience heightened my esteem for the men and women who sacrifice their lives to serve our country in this capacity. Taken from the multitude of lessons I learned during the week away from my family, I wanted to communicate a truth I bumped into in the mess hall (I’m sure there is an acronym for this that I’m forgetting) of all places which might help you on your wellness journey.
Each morning a group of us SWAT guys would saunter down to the mess hall, or a cafeteria as it would be best described, in order to share a meal with the US soldier. The parking lots and sidewalks were littered with various units conducting PT (physical training) in the early morning hours while we were still shaking the sleep from our weary eyes and feigning for a cup of coffee.
I didn’t know what to expect at these meals as my expectations had been molded by TV shows and movies. I anticipated stepping into line to receive my portion of a slop like porridge. I also expected to sit down to eat elbow to elbow amongst the billowing voices of Drill Sergeants with their regular cadence of disparaging remarks for their young soldiers to correct this or that broken custom.
To my surprise, these stereotypes disappeared as I entered the newly built structure and met those serving the food who were all pleasant and happy to help for the most part. The next surprise was seeing the plethora of food choices that were offered to the soldier. Each morning there were omelets being cooked to order, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, oatmeal, fruit, cereal, toast….you name it, they had it.
While making my way through the line, like a kid in a candy store, I noticed several small signs near the food choices. The food signs divided the food into three easy to understand categories; high performer, moderate performer or low performer. Each sign indicated how the food decision that you were standing in front of fit into one of these three categories. The boiled eggs and omelets were categorized as high performance while oatmeal and other grains were classified as moderate, and foods like pastries were labeled low performance.
What an easy and effective way to look at nutrition choices as we move through the food line of life. Instead of pushing our tray down the line of a cafeteria, we usually find ourselves traversing our cars down the main street near our work or home and seeing the various restaurant signs that we can choose from. For us, we can begin imagining that these billboards display in big neon lettering: high, moderate or low performance food. It is a simple way to understand that nutrition choices abound before us and just because we are on this new wellness journey doesn’t make those choices go away, but rather helps us to realize that each time we eat there is a decision to be made.
Are you in control of what you consume or is what you consume in control of you?
Looking at food with the view of performance categories is also a good way to look ahead at how these decisions will affect your day in the ways that you handle stress, interact with others, or overcome fatigue. The Intentional Encounter Wellness plan helps to teach you ways in which these foods are categorized to be sure we aren’t mistaking a low performance food for a high one and vice versa.
We try to simplify the high performance foods as follows: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” (CrossFit Journal, September 2002, “The Garage Gym”).
Making decisions between high, moderate and low performance food choices is a great training ground for your will. It provides practice opportunities in making a habit in choosing the good. This lesson in deciding between foods that result in high or low performance easily translates into the opportunities we choose as disciples’ of Christ.
I would suggest that daily prayer in which we are actively seeking an encounter with Christ or visiting someone who is suffering are high performance activities for a disciple, while perhaps the rote recitation of the rosary where your fingers are sliding across the beads but your heart is a 100 miles away would be considered a moderate decision as a disciple. Those low performance choices are when we ignore the prick of our conscience to help someone or decide to swipe away at our phone any time that there is a moment of silence which chokes out the voice of Our Lord.