Tag Archives: health

Health & Fitness: Food Journal Reflection

Health & Fitness Methods comes to an end.  Now comes the time for me to reveal to you, all my readers, the very embarrassing thing I’ve been doing for the past 2 weeks, the details of which I’ve kept from you, in an effort to preserve the dignity of my online self and persona.

I have been keeping a food-and-activity journal.

Let me give you all a moment for that to sink in.  For those of you who don’t know me personally (of which there are more than a few), this might not seem like such a big deal.  Food and activity journal: how normal and average of you!  Isn’t everyone doing that these days?

No.  Not everyone is doing that these days.  I certainly wasn’t.  I was probably the very last person among my circle of acquaintances who would have any motivation whatsoever to let the world know what I eat and do on a daily basis.  Right now, you’re going to find out why that’s true.



-1 chocolate & peanut-butter pancake, syrup & butter, 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 3 strips bacon, 4 pieces toast w/jam, 2 glasses orange juice

-1 scoop strawberry ice cream, fries, 1 Coke

-3 slices pizza, 1 bottle champagne w/orange juice, 2-3 beers

Activity: walking – maybe 30 minutes total

Sleep: 8 hours



-the other chocolate & peanut-butter pancake, 2 eggs, toast & jam

-chips & salsa, indeterminate amount

-3 apple & gouda sausages w/ketchup, mustard, guacamole & salsa; 2 chocolate cookies; 2 glasses wine & 1 beer

-3 beers

Activity: ran 2 miles & 30 minute ab & chest workout

Sleep: 8 hours

I think that there have been times in my life when I have justified my vices & excessive eating with an abundance of physical activity and sleep.  This may be one of those times.  But if I’m honest, these times are rare: bad as it is to say: “Yes, I devoured all that fat, but I also ran 2 miles!”, it’s worse to say “…I ate until I fell asleep.  Then I slept some more.”

More of the same follows, with a lot of entries like “Starbucks breakfast” which usually contain donuts and sausage-egg-sandwiches, and at least one entry of “steak burrito with everything”.  In the midst of the course, we were required to make a “plan for change” – change, I assume, for the better.  Here’s what I wrote:

-less beer (max 3/day) – less soda!

-less fat, more fruit/veg

–fruit in the morning, veg w/dinner

–smaller portions; more home cooking

-more sleep (8 hours every night!)

-more activity

–if can’t run – still attempt 30 minute ab workout 1/day?

Reasonable?  Yes.  Ambitious?  For me, yes.  I forged on.  It took me a while to gain momentum, but eventually I got to my last 2 entries, and here’s what I wrote:



-1 biscuit, gravy, bacon, OJ, banana

-1 bowl beef/bell pepper curry w/rice

-2 burgers, 32oz coke, fries

Activity: 30 minute walk

Sleep: about 7 hours

Okay, the burgers were a (severe) moment of weakness.  But:



-1 bowl sweetened cereal w/milk, 3 cups coffee, OJ, water, banana

-1 bowl beef/bell pepper curry w/rice

-3 small steak enchiladas in mole, black beans, small salad, 1 coke

Activity: none

Sleep: about 7 hours

So: my improvement is still rocky, but I feel like it’s at least proceeding.  For a guy like me, that’s significant.

I’m left wondering what significance this has for my teaching.  Some prompts from the rubric: “What are implications of the journal for teaching about health and fitness?”  “How could you fit this into your teaching, even if you did not have dedicated time to teaching health?”

Hell.  The main implication for me is that living healthy is HARD!  It takes time, effort, and will.  In our society, it is SO easy to do nothing, and eat crap.  That is definitely a learning objective I may have in future lessons with my students, though I’m ignorant at the moment as to the lesson which might convey that.

As to fitting an activity like this into my teaching: looking back, I’m very aware of the degree to which this assignment has illuminated my life for me; I’m sure it would do the same for students of any age from middle-school on.  Knowing that, I could see this activity being applicable in many contexts.  One of the great illuminations this caused in my mind is how well I eat, compared to other humans in Earth’s past – maybe a food journal could be a useful tool for students studying periods of history like the Dark Ages or the Great Depression – they could compare the calorie content of their weekly eating with that of average Europeans in 930 AD…or their grandparents or great-grandparents in 1934.

Either of these activities might inform my future students of A) how lucky they are to live when and where they do, and B) different perspectives on what is “normal” for human nutrition and activity.


Health & Fitness, Day 7

Today’s highlight was small-group discussion and round-robin presentation on The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Downsomething I’ve been looking forward to throughout this course.  My table-group and I entered into the discussion slowly, a few of us tentatively throwing out some of our most-remembered moments from the text, until we eased into a theme for discussion.

At its core, this book is about a collision or clash between two very different cultures – sub-cultures, even, because the focus is on the differences between Hmong ideas about spirituality and health, and the American medical establishment.  What became apparent to me as I read was the degree to which American medicine really is a culture all its own – with its own language, hierarchy, assumptions and beliefs, all of which are strongly held and considered superior to most of what’s beyond the bounds of that system.

I couldn’t help but draw a parallel with the American education establishment.  There’s a great chapter in The Spirit entitled “Fish Soup”, which starts with an anecdote about a Hmong man who was a student in a French class at an American university.  This man was given an assignment to teach his class how to do something, in French.  He decided to teach his class how to make a Hmong fish soup.

Now, to most American educators – and, I’d hazard to say, most American standardized-test-making companies – what we’d expect to happen when a student says “I’m going to teach the class how to make fish soup” is that the student would perhaps write down a standard-format recipe on the blackboard and walk the class through it step-by-step, while in their rows the other students would throw spit-balls and pass notes.  But in this man’s case, the lesson ended up being 45 minutes long, and progressed gradually and smoothly from an outline of the problem to a lesson on making fish-hooks to commentary on where and how to find fish, what kind of fish are best, and how to catch them, and, very gradually, onto the process of actually cleaning and cooking the fish and making fish soup.  The lesson concluded with the man expressing his sincere wishes that he’d conveyed enough knowledge for the class to be able to catch, clean, and cook their own fish soup, should the need ever arise.

This made me think: just as in American medicine we live by certain assumptions, certain codified rules about what is medicine and what is not, I think that in American education sometimes we only count as “knowledge” the little compartmentalized, easily measurable chunks of data that we can test for with multiple-choice assessments; we are sometimes in danger of only counting what we “like” or “expect” as knowledge, as thinking.  There is an education “culture” as surely as there is a medical “culture”, and I believe we need to stay very much aware of that.

A classmate of mine and I were looking together at a poster another table-group made, illuminating the thoughts they had in discussion.  I wish I could remember off the top of my head what the poster said, but what I definitely remember is my classmate saying “In medicine, they’re very good about acknowledging or defining the ‘placebo effect’, but they tend to think of it as something that’s only relevant to clinical tests of new drugs; if the belief in a treatment’s effectiveness really can be powerful enough to provide real benefit to that patient, why isn’t that something we can just go ahead and use to help people?”

Why not indeed.  You might as easily say: “If having fun helps children learn, why isn’t that just something we can use to help them learn?”  Or something to that effect.

Health & Fitness, Day 6

Only 2 days left in the quarter, and my head is spinning.  I seem to remember that at some point, when I was browsing for teaching certification programs, one of the primary things I was looking for was one that was quick.  That seems ironic in hindsight – now I feel like I can’t cram everything in.

Saw some more microteaching today, and a lesson I’m definitely learning through this process is that running out of time during a lesson is something you can definitely count on happening.  Part of that is because we have so little time to present our lesson plans; but I’m sure, and I’ve seen with my own eyes, that time does run out in the classroom.  I imagine a way to solve this is to install “crumple zones” in your lesson plans – i.e., designate the most important learning goals, the ones without which you absolutely cannot proceed, and be willing to sacrifice others if necessary.

Also got to hold a brain in my hands today – professor brought in a bunch of organs.  (Yes, I wore gloves.)  It was surprisingly heavy.  Also got to play some mind-games with myself – reading color-words that were in a different-colored font from the color the word described, for instance.  The whole idea was to show us the tricks our brain uses to make perception easier – the way it makes some processes automatic so they don’t need to be “thought” about.  This was both creepy and fascinating when combined with the experience of actually holding a human brain.

I’m left wondering what’s the best way to teach a lesson like this in my own class.  Obviously the best way would be to get to know someone who has their own brain in a jar (you know what I mean), but short of that, maybe I could buy (or make) some sort of brain-replica…

Health & Fitness – Day 5

Day 5 was a welcome break from the established routine.  We had some micro-teaching groups present their lesson plans, and I was very impressed with their work, especially a lesson on bike safety for middle-school-level students – the presenters did an excellent job of fielding questions and adapting their instruction to the class conditions.  I see that as a skill which every teacher needs to cultivate – I’ve unfortunately seen many instances where this was not the case, and it’s just sad.

Then we went to a dance studio on campus and spent a long time playing with hula-hoops and jump-ropes.  The chance to experiment with these implements, and work through lessons designed around them, showed me a side of instruction that I don’t often encounter, and gave me some valuable insight about how physical education can serve classroom education and vice-versa.  My favorite part was when we had to come up with a jump-rope rhyme themed on a topic pulled from a hat; my group won the competition with a rhyme about a forest ecosystem which I can’t precisely remember.  Something about bears and bees and flowers – we scaled it all the way from secondary consumers all the way down to natural resources.

What this did for me was show me in a concrete fashion exactly how health and fitness instruction can relate directly to more academic disciplines.  That’s a bad way of characterizing it – more accurately I’d say that these activities helped me demolish the mental wall between “PE” and everything else.  I’m looking forward to helping my students do something similar.

Health & Fitness, Day 2

Today featured lesson planning – a necessity in this class, as we’ll soon be crafting our own lessons to present to the class.  This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with lesson planning in a class during my teaching certification program, but I would call this my first formal, lengthy, step-by-step introduction.  It was immensely valuable and exciting.

There is something exhilarating about creating a lesson plan, in a way that is both unexpected and completely makes sense to me.  It involves creating, writing, planning contingencies, seeking inspiration, relying on my feel for what people will respond to.  Few may understand exactly what I mean when I say this, but lesson planning is a lot like planning a Dungeons & Dragons session (I was a DM for some years, and may take it up again someday).  In both cases you’re giving yourself an aid to keeping people engaged, conveying information & helping people retain it; in both cases, you have to plan endless contingencies (or not, depending on your experience with the process).

At the same time, not everything is comfortable.  As demanding as my erstwhile D&D players were, they were not as demanding as my professors are likely to be, nor as demanding as the needs of my future students, their parents, my administrators.  We had the notion driven home in class that our lessons must always be crafted with the learning of students primarily in mind, that all decisions, strategies, and tactics must be employed to that end, that we must never lose sight of what our students are doing, and whether what we’re doing is creating the right conditions for their learning and growth.  It was sobering – in a pleasant, waking-up way – to see these realities presented, in the form of a running critique of our (very rough) practice lesson plans.

Health & Fitness: Day One

This past Thursday was my first day in my health & fitness methods class.  It’s going to be intense – both in terms of subject matter and in terms of schedule.

I’d say the most eye-opening experience was our attempt to make group-produced concept maps in answer to a prompt which was something to the effect of “what are the essential elements of health and fitness education?”  This led to furious brainstorming, followed by an attempt to link all of our brain-stormed ideas together in some way.

The result of this project was a definite sense that the idea of “health” is bigger than I often think about.  Our concept map included such ideas as “Sex Ed” and “Substance Abuse”, but also “Self Esteem”, “Identity”, and “Development”.  Finding connections between these things was also complex.  I came away thinking that, if you really are being careful to include everything, you could really say that health is an all-encompassing idea – everything relates to it, and it relates to everything.

The implication for me is that I need to think about health concerns no matter what I’m teaching.  Maybe not every lesson needs to be focused on disease and healthy eating habits, but I should definitely include implications for health – say, when I’m teaching biology or anatomy, and I point out details of how fat is stored, or when I’m teaching literature, and point out details of a character’s psychological well-being.  Health is much more than an awkward class which we begin teaching in middle-school; it’s a cultural concept, one which reaches into many other topics.

I’m looking forward to sounding out my professor and my cohort-members about ways to turn the above ideas into practical applications.