Full text of personal trainer Hether Crawford’s talk: You REALLY are what you eat at TEDxAntioch conference. In this talk, she shares her ideas for how we can change our lives via nutrition and committing to one small change in order to watch our bodies work the way they were designed to.
Hether Crawford – Certified Health Coach and Personal Trainer
I’m someone that does not like to waste time. I was married at 19, started my family at 21. And at the age of 25 had my second child.
We were your typical American fast food family. Always on the go, we very frequently went through the drive-throughs. And when at home we ate quick-boxed meals.
And like a lot of people, we lived on soft-drinks in the mornings to wake us up and sugary snacks in the afternoons to keep us going.
But none of us was overweight. So it couldn’t really be hurting us. Right?
Well, I had thousands of dollars in dental bills. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and my husband had severe allergies. But it was my children that finally made me look at and take seriously the phrase ‘you are what you eat’.
My daughter was struggling in school. Her mind would wander. And she often left her class work unfinished. Her grades and her self-esteem were tremendously suffering. It was so frustrating for me to not be able to help her get more organized, “She was so smart. Why couldn’t she finish her work?”
My son was pretty much born sick. He was diagnosed with asthma. He had chronic upper respiratory infections that required frequent breathing treatments, multiple ear infections that led to three different ear surgeries. We had his pediatrician on speed dial and we spent so many holidays together.
Not only that though, he was sick all the time, but he was also a wild man. Actually him. We got calls almost weekly from his preschool and he very rarely got smiley faces sent home.
Now, if you’re a parent, you know how hard this can be to hear. It was emotionally exhausting to not be able to keep him well, but it was just humiliating to not be able to control his behavior.
One day when someone in the school system asked if I was going to have him tested for ADHD, I felt like a complete failure, had it really come to this? This can’t be normal. Children should not have to be drugged to function. I thought back and I couldn’t remember a single childhood friend that was on daily medication.
And in that moment I decided to do some research. I’m not a doctor. I can’t stand up here and rattle off my credentials or my clinical research. I’m a mom.
And what I’m going to share with you is my research was come straight from my personal experience.
As a mom, I am passionate about growing my children to be the best that they can be and I just couldn’t fathom that medication was the way to do that. I immediately started learning from so experts, many who have shared their research on the TED stage.
I learned that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. And that food additives such as dyes are being linked to hyperactivity in children.
Dr. Feingold found that the artificial colors and flavors can trigger or even exaggerate learning disabilities and behavior disorders.
When I looked at the tubes of yogurt and the juice boxes and the candy that my kids were ingesting, food dyes were in all of it. And not only that, but the sugar content and these juice boxes and yogurts, were just as high as the software drinks that they were also having.
I also learned that right now in America, it is very normal for children to be medicated. They’re medicated to modify behavior. They’re medicated for diabetes, allergies, asthma and so on.
But this hasn’t always been the case. What has changed?
According to a study released in 2013, by the centers for disease control and prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. The prevalence of autism in US children increased from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2010. Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 5% per year from 2003 to 2011.
What was going on?
I found out that things were being introduced into our food system that didn’t use to be there. These chemicals and genetically modified organisms are being linked to things like allergy, asthma, autism, brain problems, heart problems, and even cancer.
Fast food is filled with this junk. But even things that I thought were good for my kids, like milk was full of growth hormones and antibiotics.
I was angry. I had been given this stuff to my kids their whole life.
Was I making them sick? Why didn’t I know any of these things?
We are being told that products are good for us when in fact they’re hurting us. Fast food companies are marketing to our children, things that are going to impact their health negatively for the rest of their lives.
I started watching several TED talks on the way the food system in America is deceiving us. And I got really fired up. I am so thankful for people like Robyn O’Brien, who has several TEDx talks on the way she’s taking on big food.
And Vani Hari, also known as the Food Babe, who’s raising up an army to go against these big corporations that are formulating their products in other countries without these harmful ingredients, but not doing so here in America. And they’re even refusing to label them here.
This was the last straw for me, but what was going to be my role in all of this? What could I possibly do? I did the only thing I knew how to do, and that was to share this information with my family. And once I had them on board, we changed the way we ate.
One of the first things to go in our house was soft drinks. And all this was not easy. I was very addicted and I went through withdrawals. But with just this one small change, we started noticing big changes:
Before, we needed the soft drinks to wake us up and keep us going. But now we were all experiencing better sleep and sustained energy throughout the day. I was amazed at the benefits of drinking water.
Feeling really encouraged with these results, we decided to no longer eat fast food. No, right. Now, that meant giving up some of the conveniences of a drive through like saving time and money, but it was so worth it.
And you know what happened when we started cooking our own food, we actually had more time together as a family. Being in the kitchen together, planning, preparing, cooking our meals, brought us all closer together that has never happened rushing through a drive through.
When we first started out, we didn’t have much money in our food budget and we only knew how to make a few things. But we found that we could still make those few things that we knew how to cook. And by just using better fresh ingredients, we were sparing in our bodies so many of those harmful ingredients.
And guess what? After just two weeks of cooking our own food, I got a call from my son’s preschool teacher with these exact words: “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it. He’s been an angel.”
Those words were magic to my soul. Maybe we really are what we eat. What if we eliminated even more of those harmful chemicals that I had read about? Would it make even more progress?
We started avoiding packaged foods as much as possible. Only buying things with ingredients that we could pronounce and staying away from those artificial food dyes. Now, obviously I’m not against all artificial dyes, just the ones in my food and drink.
But this is where it all came together. We were already experiencing better sleep, having more energy, performing better at school and at work. But now it was like we had all the pieces of the puzzle.
My daughter was no longer getting zeros for unfinished work. My PCOS symptoms were diminishing. My husband’s allergies were greatly reduced and my son has never used his inhaler again.
I’ve seen it with my own eyes: You really are what you eat. We were so encouraged by how just knowing what we put in our bodies gave us so much control over our health that we decided to plant a garden. My children are most definitely my inspiration.
Am I giving them the nutrition that they need to grow up strong and healthy? Am I giving them the tools that they’ll need to do the same for their children?
We don’t have a large garden, but just growing something helps us remember where food comes from. Getting our hands in some dirt is super therapeutic in our busy on the go lifestyles. And just planting something, getting to watch it grow, pick it and eat it is super fun as a family.
Jamie Oliver, another great advocate for real food, shared a disturbing illustration on just how far away from real food the generation behind us has gotten. In his show food revolution, he took a back skin of vegetables into a classroom with small children and asked them to identify them. These kids had no idea what vegetables were. They couldn’t identify a potato, broccoli or even a head of lettuce.
But you know what fixed that?
He spent just one hour with these kids, helping them identify the vegetables and teaching them some things they can make with them. There’s a lot of great people out there fighting big food, championing our rights as consumers to know what we’re putting in our bodies and demanding that harmful ingredients be removed from our food system.
But what can I do? What can you do? What can we all do to make a difference?
Of course, jumping on board with petitions and making our voices heard with our dollars every day is super important. But I think the most important thing that we all can do is to start with ourselves.
Our own families.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s overwhelming to try to do it all at one time. But we can all pick just one thing, make one small change this week, like buying a different kind of milk or drinking more water or cooking a meal at home that you might’ve eaten out, or even planting a pot of tomatoes.
And once these one small change becomes habit, add in another one. And you’ll see that just one small change can lead to one big lifestyle change. That one small change for my family was seven years ago.
My daughter is organized and focused and excelling in all honors classes in her high school.
My son plays football without the use of an inhaler. We only go to the doctor now for annual checkups. Those sick days are far behind us and it all started with just one small change. Your one small change can start today.
You really are what you eat.