I have made clear how much Saints football means to me, and I have made public my opinion of our dysfunctional relationship with food here. I even went as far as calling it “lethal”, which to some boarders on heresy, or at a minimum hyperbole. Even if we call it something less morbid like “normal”, facts like this exist: heart disease number one killer in Louisiana; 10,282 people in Louisiana died of heart disease in 2010* (how many of us knew one of these people?…); 42% of our adults participate in 150+ min of aerobic physical activity per week, when the national average is 51%. One could argue that it is borderline unLouisianan to be healthy and active. But I would take offense to that argument.
I love the game of football. I started participating in this game as a toddler in the yard in some of my earliest memories. It is a part of me, as it is for many of us, especially here. Football is an amazing game. It teaches young men how to put in hard work as a team to achieve incremental successes (first downs, three-n-outs, tackles, turnovers, making a crucial block, etc), battles if you will, in an overall big picture framework of a game. This game is very much a microcosm of life. For in the future, these young men will be counted on to play a team role in the real world. They will be called on to work with others to achieve what cannot be achieved without help, a team. I think team sports of all sorts do this, and it is why I feel they are so popular. But football has a special place in my heart. I can still feel the morning due-laden grass of three-a-days stuck to my face as I do grass drills. I can still smell the locker room. I can still hear coaches not-so-subtly suggesting improvements to one’s effort. I see and feel the Friday night lights, here the crowd and announcer, taste the mouth piece…
Football has a firm grip on my soul. I still think of the guys I played with as brothers. And my brothers and I, along with chest-pounding machismo, participated in a “manly” form of nutrition: meat is good, more is better; protein, protein, protein. I get it.
And now that our days on the gridiron are gone, we too easily and willingly relent to being athletic has-beens. We reminisce about days gone by, about how good we used to be, how we were once athletes. We concede that age is catching up to us. Boy, if could have it back: our youth, our athletic prowess, our team. We can, big men, we can.
We can reshape our lives and be even better than we were in our “glory days”. But this time around, it’s not grass drills and and tackling dummies. This time around it’s plants and running that will shape us. In that order.
Let’s address food. All we have to change is everything. So what? Besides the taste, how’s the way we currently eat making you feel? What’s it doing for your athletic prowess? How is it helping with your stamina? Food is good, don’t get me wrong. It’s what we deem food that is the problem. What we call food really isn’t; it’s really just bliss point-centric matter. In other words, it is merely something we put in our mouths for pleasure, not nutrition. That is (as made evident by the overwhelming amount of disease in this country) not a sustainable relationship with what we call food. Food should be an asset, not a liability. I don’t think anyone can make a cogent argument with the stance that how and what we eat today is an asset to us as a people. Rekindling a relationship between ourselves and the natural human food that has served us well for eons would be an asset to us as a people. And when I say human food I mean PLANTS. We have stigmatized the very diet that can offer us a beautiful active healthy existence. A diet that makes us more human. It does not turn us into spindly, pale, weaklings (I’ll spare you a bicep-flexing selfie, but I’m no frail little boy).
So, to my BIG brothers. To my athletic has-been brothers. Let’s make a change. I have always loved the phrase “don’t talk about it, be about it”. Well, I have been “being about it” on this front for while. I have figured out some things that have worked for me, and I want to share. With not just BIG, former lineman, but everyone. My big dawgs out there I’m talking to you, but the things I talk about work for all (just ask my cute little button of a wife:)). I don’t expect you to get it done in a vacuum. And that’s why I’m here to help. Let’s get started.
First, I just want share what have been some staples in our kitchen in this transition. I think transitional foods are important while letting go of some of the deadly loves we currently have. It’s nice to have a few things on the menu that closely resemble some animal product-heavy classics.
I’ll share a few of my faves I had that were crucial to me in the beginning:
1. Veggie burgers: keep in mind that want the least processed veggie burger we can find, with most natural ingredients, and that you can make them yourself. The one I found was Amy’s brand California veggie burgers. They have them at the Rouse on Canal Blvd. in Thibodaux, so I’m sure they can be found in most places. I get Ezekiel hamburger buns, and those burgers. I put a mixture of good organic salsa (green mountain gringo in organic isle, my fave) and ripe avocado in a bowl, mash it together, and spread the mash on the bun. Lettuce (or kale), tom, onions, bell peppers, grilled ‘shrooms, whatever…slap it all together, BOOM! A burger that is satiating and healthy. Hell, eat two.
2. PB & J my way: First, do yourself a favor and introduce your mouth to Madjool dates. Take sprouted grain bread, smear natural raw almond butter, smash some pitted dates into said nut butter…Smash dat, Bruh! With a glass of cold 30 calorie unsweetened almond milk? Boy, Shut Up!
3. Delicious smoothies: I get the frozen mixed berries in the big bag. I use this kinda as my ice. I buy the ripe bananas (that means brown specs on the peel) if I can. Get em home, peel em, freeze em, also acts as ice. I use Sunwarrior raw blend plant based protein from the Carrot Patch here in Thibodaux, but I know this is a product Whole Foods carries. Play with different combinations of fruit (dates, strawberries, nanners, melons if you like, etc), raw oats, chia seeds…you get the picture. No need to sweeten, the fruit has plenty sugar. Add raw almond butter from time to time. Almond milk based of course. Nutra bullet is awesome. We have a ninja, but my brother and mom have bullets. We’ll have a Vitamix soon.
4. Breakfast: I always was a cold cereal guy. I loved Cheerios, corn flakes, and Special K…thinking I was eating healthy, I’d tear these up! But these are pas Bon (this means “no good” , for the non-coonasses). My fave now is merely a bowl of raw old fashioned oats, and a little Red Mills muesli. I put in a half-scoop of choc sunwarrior, mix while still dry. Add almond milk. Mix to the consistency you like. Top with walnut pieces, berries, grapes, nanners, etc.
5. Hale To The Kale: As I spoke about with Rich Roll, kale was one that took me a while to become friends with. Me and kale were kinda eyeing each other up, no one really made a move. Until I read Chef AJ’s book Unprocessed. She schooled me on “messaging” the kale, as well as a dressing that was like WHOA. Get her book for the exact recipe. I’ll give you my memory-committed version…
In a blender put about 8-10 ounces of water. Drop in and index finger-sized piece of ginger, juice of a lime, plenty red pepper flakes (I like shit hot), about 5-6 pitted Madjool dates, and a giant scoop of raw almond butter, blend.
Pour it over your chopped kale (use 3-4 bunches of kale. Also, I bought a sink liner-you know, the big square thing that fits in the sink to hold water and dishes?-just for messaging kale. Any huge vessel will work), and message your dressing quite vigorously into the kale. This will reduce the volume of the kale and it can be then transferred to a less gigantic vessel than what is needed durning the message phase. Once kale is dressed I add raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds. Each time I eat a bowl of it, I top it with broccoli and radish sprouts.
These are just few of my favorite eats. But these alone do not a healthy diet make. Having kale, and a colorful array of natural raw produce in large volumes is where the corner gets turned, in my book. The foods I mention here are a few examples of the new “comfort foods” we eat (along with delicious, fresh fruit) when kale, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and the like seem to leave you wanting something.
Here are a few cookbooks we used along the way: Engine 2 Diet; My Beef With Meat; Unprocessed.
I’m purposely vague about exact amounts of stuff. I want you to play with the ingredients in the kitchen. Use my framework to guide you but you “exactify” it yourself, then you own it.
Big men, little men, ex-lineman, cute little girls, huge-bellied defensive coordinators (yes I did), I got love for you all; let’s get some traction on the issues that are robbing us of matriarchs, patriarchs, aunts, uncles, parents, peers, H.O.F. NFL legends, and beloved pop icons alike. I got your back. Let’s get it!
WHO DAT!!! (I had to)
4 thoughts on “Football and Food”
“This time around it’s plants and running that will shape us. In that order.” – Love it 🙂 Totally agree – I’m trying to get into it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas; its inspirational.
Keep trying, friend. It is worth any effort required. You got this!
Hey Josh, I’m a big Rich Roll fan and have re-listened to a number of his podcasts, but yours I have probably re-listened to the most. You have such a gentle, humble, real way about you, and you just lay in on the line that way. I’ve been doing the plant-powered thing for a few years now but am working on re-inventing my athletic self at 52 yo. I feel it is SO MUCH about how we’ve defined ourselves in our minds, and I appreciate your sharing your experience with that. How we set goals to gain traction wherever we’re at on our path, and that the goals shift and refine as we go along, reflecting new lessons and realizations. Thank you for sharing and continuing to share your story, you are helping to change the world.
Hi Ann. I’m so glad my story has resonated with so many people. It makes me feel very good about sharing so much.
It sounds so cliche, but we really can do anything we decide to put the full force of our mind and spirit into. That has been a life changer for me. I remember standing in front of my mirror grabbing my belly with both arms. Two overflowing armfuls of belly, and a very sad face looking at me in mirror, I’d often tell myself “look at this. What have you done?” And the sheer volume of weight that needed to be lost was overwhelming. It didn’t seem possible.
A few years later, and a brand new mind, my life has completely changed. It feels amazing! It doesn’t matter if we’re losing fat or gaining athleticism, our mind has to be tweaked. Because our mind can either be our best asset or our biggest liability. And that’s why I share so much; to show that is not “I can’t”, but “I won’t” as in will not. Fix the food, fix the will, fix the world (sounds grandiose, I know, but I truly believe fixing the world starts with fixing the self).
Thanks taking the time to write. I truly appreciate it.