I, like many of you (no, all of you), see some pretty stupid things on social media. Most of the time, I just shake my head and continue on. However, 2 weeks ago, I passed one that I just couldn't resist. So much so, that I think it deserves further conversation because it touches on a huge issue that we all need to be aware of. It affects all ages and, unfortunately, it's affecting teenagers more than it affects adults. Before I dig into the real issue, let me show you what lit this fire in me. I have now seen this post in a giant forum of 22,000 locals here in Murrieta and individually on another individual's Facebook page. Here is the post:
First, let's be clear, very few people are ALLERGIC to gluten, but many people are SENSITIVE, or INTOLERANT to gluten. That's just a minor detail that the creator of this likely isn't aware of. Now, at surface value, this statement does hold some weight. It may make many people think, "Yeah! All these people are just following a fad." Here's the thing though, they mistyped the first part of the statement. It should read, "I've never tried to understand" or "I'll never want to understand" because this is as ignorant as not understanding how we can talk to someone halfway across the world on a hand-held device. Some may think I'm a bit harsh with this, and perhaps they're right, because this is my wheelhouse, but this speaks to a much larger issue than dietary issues with gluten.
We live in a world now where you can literally learn anything you want to know. You can find the answer to the most random question in about 5 seconds with this same magical hand-held device that allows us to talk to people halfway across the world. Incredible, right?! We have the ability to know the answer to essentially any question that wanders through our incredibly sophisticated but often underutilized brains. This is a huge convenience for us but it also swings the dial of responsibility. Since we have this ability, it is our responsibility to use it. For the most part, we don't have the luxury of saying, "I wonder why..."
It is our responsibility to pursue knowledge, especially if it pertains to information that may improve the lives of those around us, not to mention our own. We have no excuse in this matter. If we choose to not pursue information that can give us 5 more quality years of life with our loved ones, we are throwing away a winning lottery ticket.
Do you see why this is about so much more than gluten?
You will never understand if you never seek to understand. That goes for the picture above and many of life's "secrets". Unfortunately, I have known many people throughout my life who not only didn't actively seek to understand, but actively avoided to understand out of fear. Sometimes, people don't want to know. They don't want to know that something they enjoy may not be the best thing for them. Some might say that borders along addiction lines. In any case, it's a shame.
For those of you who are wondering about gluten and the pictured caption, I'll save you some time and give you 3 big reasons, but you should know that this is really just the tip of the iceberg. I highly recommend reading some of the books written on this issue such as: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter.
3 Reasons why gluten issues have exploded in the last 10 years:
Now that we've at least cleared that up, let's get back to the real issue here. We have to take responsibility for knowing and understanding for ourselves and loved ones, but we also have to do so for the sake of compassion. Many people can eat gluten and other grains without issue, but why does that often lead to food/diet shaming to those who do? I think the chances of that happening goes up exponentially based on us knowing why so many people do have these issues.
If you don't feel it yourself, know about it, or know someone who does battle it, you likely have no compassion for people whose lives are massively impacted by the food they eat. That needs to go. I've met people who can name fewer foods that they can eat without problems, than foods that they can't eat. I'm talking people who could only eat 4 or 5 foods without running to the bathroom. Do you realize how much that affects someone physically, emotionally, and socially? We gather around food! Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, dating, etc. We tend to celebrate with food. Do you know that people who have problems with gluten spend just as much time worrying about others viewing their avoidance of gluten just as much as avoiding the food itself?
We need to learn to have compassion for all diet related issues. If you don't fight them, talk to someone who does. If you don't know anyone, read about it, or ask us. We know countless stories of those whose lives are massively affected by the food they eat.
Yes, gluten has become a fad, but that's not because it's not affecting people. It's because of the food industry. And while sometimes I feel like exploding a bag of rice all over the grocery store because it is advertised in giant, bright lettering, "GLUTEN-FREE" (rice is naturally gluten-free so I hope you get the irony), it still helps many people who are just learning about how to navigate a gluten-free diet.
If you're on either side of this coin and just want to talk more please don't hesitate to comment or contact us.
I love being a dad. I've always known I would enjoy it, but I never imagined how much love I would have for my little boy. I grew up with babies constantly around me as I have a dozen nieces and nephews ranging from 2-20 years old. It's true what they say. You just can't understand the love until you have your own. Being in the health and fitness field, it always felt like my son would be my own personal experiment. I can finally take someone, literally from the first day of life, and implement everything I've learned to create the optimal human being. I think we all do that in some way or another. If not in relationship to our child's physical well-being, we often make vows to make sure our child is raised in a way that gives them advantages in other areas of life. Advantages that we wish we would have had. We make vows to make sure they never go through what we went through. To let them learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments.
I made it my mission to give my son the best possible chance of having a healthy physical body through the nutritional and fitness knowledge I've gained over 28 years of life. I'll have to write another blog on exactly what my wife and I have done and why we have done things this why, but that's not what I want to share this time. For now, I will just say that we have walked the perfect line (to our knowledge) in terms of nutrition and movement. And after 10 months, this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned:
You can never 100% control the outcome of another human being.
Here's what I mean. As health and fitness professionals, we strive to improve the lives of others. Sometimes that means helping someone lose weight. Other times that means helping an athlete reach peak performance. Yet other times, it's helping someone learn how to walk and feed themselves again. We fitness professionals pin our reputation, our self-worth (for right or wrong), our livelihood, and even our measure of life success (again for right or wrong) on helping others achieve positive outcomes. This, at times, is incredibly rewarding. It feeds our soul to serve others.
But the reality is, not everyone reaches their goals. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes commitment levels aren't high enough. Sometimes people can't afford the type of service or care that they need to truly reach their goals. Shoot, sometimes goals just aren't realistic. This is a true day in the life of every health and fitness professional you know. For various reasons, we can't always get people to their goals and it crushes us when we don't. It keeps us up at night. It racks our brains and drives us into hours of research searching for an answer. It causes us to question nearly everything we know and do at times.
But after 10 months of fatherhood, with a seemingly perfect setting with nearly every health related variable controlled, my son still battles regular skin issues and digestive irregularity. Now, there is of course the reasonable possibility that we are missing something. He's eating too much of this or not enough of that, or whatever. Say we're even off by 10%. Really? So 90% "perfection" isn't enough to keep his skin clean and his poos regular? C'mon! Herein lies the lesson; you can never control the outcome 100% and we should be okay with that.
We fitness professionals should be satisfied with the fact of doing everything in our power to help someone. That's all we can do.
I think this message is most valuable for every parent or future parent out there. Especially all you moms who often carry the heavier load. Please listen to me on this. Not everything that your child struggles with is your fault. Should we question our actions in the event of struggles? Of course. Educate yourself. Ask more questions. Try everything you can. But don't carry the burden of guilt or shame for your child's struggles. I can't tell you how many parents have come to me heartbroken because of various health issues in their children. You can feel when they blame themselves. They've tried to live up to a standard that they were never built to uphold. If you've done everything in your power and ability then you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Life happens. We must accept that we are not perfect and parenthood is quite an easy reminder of that.
In a day where every kid gets drilled in their head that life's success depends on a 4.0 GPA, a college athletic scholarship, or worldwide fame, we need to accept and teach the reality that: 1) Not achieving those things doesn't define you and 2) Achieving those things doesn't necessarily equate to the "perfect" life they sometimes envision. You can do everything you think is right and still not get what you truly want. It's not always in your hands.
Parents, health and fitness pros, children, and well, everyone; Can we stop beating ourselves up with impossible expectations? Can we strive for perfection while being prepared and satisfied with nearly missing the mark? Perhaps that's "unamerican". Or perhaps we need to redefine what it means to be American in this sense. I think the happiness and health of the younger generation may depend on it
If this has reached you on a personal level we would love to hear your thoughts!