There is so much hype these days about the best way of eating – Keto, Vegan or plant based diets and the list goes on.
Through my 25 years of coaching nutrition I will openly admit that I have hopped on board and tried many of the fad ways of eating. Some of them gave me energy and helped me get leaner and feel healthier, while others had the opposite effect. Some would even set my digestive system off right away and have me rushing to the washroom.
The one thing they all had in common, was that not one of them was sustainable for the long term. And here is why.
Good Foods Vs Bad Foods
Along with each diet is a list of foods that are deemed “good” and foods that are “bad”.
For some, bread is bad.
And anyone who could possibly eat bread isn’t very healthy.
For some, eggs are bad.
And anyone who could possibly eat eggs isn’t very healthy.
For some, meat is bad.
And anyone who could possibly eat meat isn’t healthy.
For some, alcohol is bad.
And anyone who could possibly drink alcohol isn’t healthy.
For some, carbs are bad.
And anyone who could possibly eat carbs isn’t healthy.
For some, soy foods are bad.
And anyone who could possibly eat soy isn’t healthy.
And the list goes on…and on…and on.
There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Food
Or at least very few…
The thing to think about is the nutritional value of the food and how the food reacts in your body.
For example, if you have digestive issues, certain foods may set you off. Before we fixed my son’s leaky gut he would get angry and his skin would break out from bananas, dairy, honey, peppers, tomatoes, and the list went on…. Since his leaky gut has healed he is now only gluten and dairy free and we are continuing to work on getting his body where he can eat them.
I, on the other hand, as I am writing this I am working on getting to the root cause of my digestive issues as to why eating a plant based diet – salads, beans and lots of raw vegetables has me rushing to the washroom.
When in Burnout . . .
When someone is in burnout and their stress management system is screaming for help, alcohol often will make them feel more tired, increasing irritability and messing with their sleep. Whereas, once the stress management system is supported, (and if you don’t have liver disease), a glass of wine a few times a week may be beneficial to your body.
If you have kidney disease, a high protein intake is probably really bad for you. However, if you’ve got healthy kidneys and you regularly exercise, a high protein intake is probably pretty good for you.
There are foods that do not add nutritional value to anyone’s diet. Like trans fats and other artificial foods, additives, and ingredients. Your body does not know how to process the chemical makeup of these.
Food is not good or bad
But in most other cases, it is not that the food is good or bad, but more of how the food reacts once introduced to your body and what your specific body needs.
Choosing healthy, whole foods, and balancing them out with all of the food groups sets yourself up for success.
When you eat natural foods that you are not allergic to in moderation, your body is pretty good at breaking down the nutritional value of those foods and sending them where they need to go.
The Real Problem
As you can see it’s not about a food being “good” or “bad”, but how your body processes it which directly results in how healthy your body is on the inside.
Let’s face it. As a First Responder (even those who started with the healthiest nutritional and lifestyle habits) over time on the job the stresses started adding up and along with them, health issues.
- Heart and Blood Pressure
- Nagging injuries
- Constant colds and flus
- Blood sugar issues (hangry) and possibly diabetes
- Weight Gain around the middle that you can’t get rid of no matter how hard you try and more…
And along with that healthy habits decreased
- Most of us don’t exercise enough.
- Most of us don’t sleep enough.
- Most of us don’t play enough.
- Most of us don’t relax and breathe enough.
- Most of us don’t eat the right balance of foods often enough.
- And most of us don’t stop eating before we’ve eaten too much.
It’s no surprise that eggs, butter, meat, bread, pasta, rice, and many other foods are getting a bad rap. In the bodies we are dumping them into and the amount we are dumping,of course they’re not helping matters.
It feels great at first
Diets like Keto and Plant Based are designed to decrease inflammation in our body, so they definitely feel great initially, but they are tough to incorporate into everyday life and sustain long term (unless your entire social circle at work and home revolves around that way of eating).
Also, keto is missing out on many key nutritional elements that our bodies need and unless you have someone teaching you how to eat plant based so that you are getting all of nutritional values that your body requires both diets can have negative health effects long term.
What if we stopped misusing our bodies?
Maybe we wouldn’t need to shun so many foods. Maybe we wouldn’t have to treat our diseases and disorders with a ridiculously high number of plant foods. Maybe we’d then be able to eat a more diverse selection of foods while achieving even greater health ends?
As you can see, you can eat as healthy as you want, but if your body is not able to break down the food and give your body what it needs, then you will not get the benefits from it.
The stress of your job can result in many health issues if you do not have the right strategies in place to manage the stresses placed on you from shift work and stresses that are out of your control.
Some health issues include:
Sleep struggles which don’t allow your body to repair while you sleep
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
Cancer and more…
Consider all 5 stress triggers and create a tactical plan that supports your stress management system and ensures that your body is functioning at it’s best so that you can get the most out of the foods that you eat.
- Look at life as a First Responder different from a Mon to Fri 9-5 less stressed job in order to take out a lot of confusion.
- Strengthen your stress management system so that it is able to support the needs of your job.
- Start adding in lifestyle changes that control as many of the 5 stress triggers as you can, so that your body can handle the stresses that are out of your control.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m not interested in convincing you to eat foods that you’ve deemed are bad. Nor do I want to convince you that you need to overhaul your entire lifestyle to heal your body so that you can digest food. I’m using this as an example.
Places a toll . . .
Your life as a First Responder places a toll on your body that most other careers do not. And from this one example you can see that healthy eating is not enough to combat it.
Fixing your sleep, energy, stamina and recovery time isn’t that complicated. Even as a First Responder. It just takes a little thought, decision-making, and perspective. And when you lose your perspective, that’s when you get overwhelmed.
- Convincing yourself that there isn’t a way to get to sleep without the use of prescriptions.
- Setting up a restrictive set of rules in your mind that doesn’t need to be there.
- Judging yourself harshly when you fall off after a tough shift, OT or life got in the way.
- Thinking in black and white without noticing and embracing the shades of gray.
But here’s the great news.
It’s not too late to make a change. It’s not too late to forge a more healthy and reasonable relationship with the way you live your life as a First Responder.
It is your time to sleep, gain back your energy, stamina and recovery time.
Most First Responders know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for staying healthy in your job. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of a First Responders stressful life.
That’s why we work closely with First Responders in our 911 Elite Performance Program, to help them gain back their sleep quality, energy and stamina, so they can peak during crisis and recover quickly after …even if they are already experiencing signs of burnout.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
About the author
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi has a background in athletics including a 25+yr career as a personal trainer, nutrition and mindset coach to athletes and stressed out high end executives.
Being healthy and active was what she lived for. Until her body started waking absolutely exhausted, workouts become something to push through instead of enjoy. A short fuse crept in, motivation left and injuries seemed to be a part of life. All of this added up to the point that she had to stop all activity altogether.
Doctors, specialists and prescriptions were never able to fix the problem.
Once Andi realized she had a genetic stress condition that puts her body into an increased stress response state all the time (similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day) was she able to figure out what was happening and how to reverse it.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to thrive when your body is always functioning at higher than usual stress levels. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Through her husband’s career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout, exhaustion and a tanked immune system that she knew can result from high levels of stress that are out of your control.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi created 911 Lifestyle once she realized the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and First Responders so they can peak during crisis, recover quickly after, have energy left over for their families and become the Elite First Responders that they were born to be.