At age 10 I remember my doctor telling me I’m overweight. Also my clothes became too small because of my fat. In school it was like every cell in my body carried a dark secret. “I’m ugly. I’m gross. Everyone knows.” I remember constantly checking mirrors. Monitoring micro changes and either hating myself for gaining weight or extreme relief from losing a millimeter off the waist.
I also remember being sick a couple of times every year especially winters. I thought it was natural. But I also hated being sick. For a while I became a “germo-phobe” to some extent, thinking that if I avoided germs then I wouldn’t become sick. That was a misguided understanding of health.
I don’t know how healthy I am. All I can say is I am in shape, usually feel full of energy, alert, and I haven’t been sick in two years at least.
There are many gateways through which I learned about exercise and nutrition in my lifetime. Sometimes it was googling “what helps a sore throat”. I would learn about certain properties of foods. Sometimes it was through P.E. teachers or my brother or friends or Google about weight lifting. About cardio. From sports coaches. Even music teachers. Little pieces here and there. “Drink water before marching band”. “Eat pasta before a race”. “Eat protein after a game”.
In high school I became very interested when I entered weights P.E. and my teacher was extremely knowledgeable. Some powerlifting kids told me things as well. And I would spend hours researching online. Not every day but every once in a while, which added up over years.
And through track and weights and other things I learned a lot about different exercises and how nutritional needs vary based on lifestyle (for instance protein is needed less for runners than powerlifters).
So part of my understanding came from doing physical activities with learned people. But part of it also came from doing certain things that were unsustainable without “food hacks”. One simple example is coffee. I was on speech team, which meant sometimes being on a bus at 5Am on a Saturday. I needed to know how to wake up, so I learned about coffee.
In my senior year I was at school most days until 7 or 8 PM and I needed to not burn out. So coffee wasn’t actually useful. I learned a lot about how I reacted to foods. Like I would eat fruit and vegetables to have more stable energy throughout the day (instead of food comas) and learned how long before an activity to eat. Protein would make me sleepy for about an hour.
Health is very complicated and nobody understands all of it. We see a diet one day that says “NO CARBS” and another diet that says “Eat lots of carbs”. “Lose weight”. “Bulk up”. It’s very confusing.
I can only share what works for me.
My diet is very precise. I plan exactly which nutrients I want my body to have and exactly when to have them. I plan to build muscle, to improve brain function, to have energy 2 hours from now, to fall asleep, etc.
Optimizing practice is my top priority. Practicing builds muscles and neurological connections, which protein is ideal to help solidify and help grow.
So 1st is get protein after practicing (usually some form of mixed nuts).
To have decent energy before practicing, I try to eat some vegetables at least 30 minutes in advance.
After one or two long practice sessions, usually I have a little time and a rehearsal or two plus more practice later. So I’ll eat a large meal with lots of vegetables and lots of protein.
I said my diet is very specific but the nutrients can come through many foods. Spinach, arugula, and broccoli are my favorite vegetables. Usually turkey or eggs give me protein.
I like to look for foods that aren’t very processed and are high in nutritional value.
Aside from vegetables, I also noticed that fat is a very interesting life hack. Usually the body burns sugar or fat for energy, and usually that’s sugar because of how much sugar is in virtually everything we eat in America. But by eating mostly raw vegetables and nuts, I’ve eliminated most of my sugar intake. And I started eating a ton of fat. I found a it had a great impact on my ability to think more clearly, concentrate, and I’ve actually slimmed down.
The high-fat foods like almond butter I usually eat in the morning before my first class.
That’s mostly my diet…Vegetables, nuts/meat for protein, fat as an alternative form of energy. Avoiding everything else is almost as important in my experience than eating those foods specifically. Little to no dairy, low sugar/low carb, mostly naturally grown foods.
It took me a long time to get used to these relatively bland foods. I eased into it through a combination of adding little pieces of healthy food and slowly reducing little pieces of unhealthy food. And now I actually enjoy pretty much everything I eat.
The results of a good diet might take several days or a couple of weeks to begin appearing. But in the long run they are incredible. For me, I have experienced
- 12-16 hours a day of high energy
- Improved mental focus/memory
- Rapid muscle growth (both facial muscles for sax and whole body)
- Easy digestion (no stomach pains)
- More regular sleep, easier to fall asleep
If you want to improve your own diet, just focus on improving 1% a day. Sometimes that means learning 1 new thing, sometimes it means eating 1 new thing or not eating 1 old thing. Better to take it slow and get where you want to be in a month than give up because you changed too much too fast.