health and wellness

Health and Wellness: Self Care

By Tim VanLoo, CSFM

January is the time when many people join gyms and start fad diets that seem to rarely change to a lifestyle that leads to complete health. I also know I am not necessarily the person who should be talking about how eating healthy and exercising leads to improved leadership, mentorship and relationships. I am a turf professional in every sense of the phrase. Lucky for you, my beautiful bride, Amber, has immersed herself into learning about what food does to our body and how that affects everything the body does. Unlucky for me, she has forced me to contemplate what I eat and how it affects my body with every bite.

Please don’t think that this is an article on how I do everything I should and how I live this perfectly healthy lifestyle. That simply isn’t true. Also, we are all created differently with bodies that don’t all work the same. My hope is to shed some light on some things that may spur some thought on how small changes to how you approach each day can make big differences to your overall health. When your mind and body are working well together, then you may find yourself having more energy, fewer aches, and a clear mind to attack each day. This, in turn, could help you professionally. 

The term “metabolic health” is being used very often these days. It’s basically a holistic approach to health that includes time-restricted eating, optimizing sleep patterns, and eliminating or limiting processed carbohydrates, sugars, grains and vegetable oils. In today’s COVID-19 world, complete health has never been more in the news and media, and your health has been something you have likely thought about in the past year because of what’s going on around you.

If you are getting enough sleep, but still feel fatigued and lack motivation, then your diet might be something to look into. Do you have too much sugar, caffeine, alcohol or high carbohydrate in your diet? Anyone who knows me well knows I struggle with moderating my sugar and carbohydrate intake. I love cookies, pizza and bread!

It wasn’t until I learned the effects of my food intake on my body that I felt compelled to change. Let’s be honest, most of us can’t withhold everything that is “not good” for us, but we can limit or have built-in cheat days. Having built-in times or days that allow for you to enjoy some of life’s finer foods will make limiting yourself easier. Moderation is the key. How you reach that point is going to take an honest look at how your mind works with limitations. For example; I can go days, months, or even a year without sweets; but when I decide to eat a cookie, it will not be one – it will likely will be three, four, or however many are available. I need to be very specific in how I am going to limit my intake, or it doesn’t go well for me. Every year I give up something for Lent. It used to be Mountain Dew until I stopped drinking pop about five years ago because consuming four to six bottles a day seemed like a bad idea. Limiting myself to one never seemed to work. Lately, it has been sweets and high-carbohydrate foods. When I do this it’s amazing how much better my body feels. This usually forces me to say, “Honey, you were right.” You see, Amber is much more disciplined them I am. I watch her eat healthy and prepare meals for our family that have our health in the forefront of her mind. It is nothing I would ever prepare for myself or order from a menu, but it typically tastes wonderful, and leaves each of us in a better spot. There have been some meals that have not been requested again – not because of her cooking, but because the chosen ingredients were less than desirable for our Midwestern flavor pallets.

Much of our bodies’ inflammation is caused by our diets. When you eat fewer sugars, your body functions better, which leads to you feeling better and less sore. This allows you to be more active and motivated to do more with each day. 

Eating sugar or “feel good” foods makes you happy, but only for a short time. It leaves you craving more, because your body is craving the dopamine. The long-term effecs of this is a net loss on the path to full-body wellness – not to mention your aches and pains are exaggerated because of the added inflammation from your diet.

Time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting is something that is a very interesting concept. Sure, it takes some discipline, but once I read the science behind the concept, I was sold. It simply means eat for six to eight hours and don’t eat for 16 to 18 hours. What this does for your body is very simple. During the fasting period, your metabolic system can fully digest and recalibrate all your systems to reach a balancing point. It typically takes14 hours to reach that balance point. After the 14 hours, your body will start to want fuel. If you don’t eat, then it will tap into its stored food, fat. Allowing your body to feed itself for a time period allows it to be very efficient and burn fat. This will lead to weight loss in a very healthy and sustainable manner. The health benefits are well researched and well documented. In short, your body and mind will thank you and respond in only positive ways. 

Eating your meals for the day within six to eight hours is obviously the easy part. For most people, the struggle is basically skipping a meal. Most people that are committed to this eating habit tend to stop eating around 7:30 to 8 p.m. and not eat until lunchtime the next day. For me, skipping breakfast was an easy change. The challenge was not eating, drinking (other than water) or snacking while relaxing in the evening once my kids were in bed. Allow yourself a cheat day or two if needed.

Speaking from experience, the mind clarity in the morning while my body has reached its equilibrium has been the biggest benefit. The few pounds I have shaved off are the motivation to keep going.

Before I stop pleading with you to consider metabolic health, stress release is a huge part of equation. Stress is a huge health concern for many sports field management professionals. We put a ton of pressure on ourselves to have fields that play safe, look perfect and perform flawlessly. This obsession can lead to burnout and a bitter taste toward work for seasons of our career. Figuring out a healthy outlet can be key to sustained success in your career. This is likely the most personal aspect and an area that you will have to figure out for yourself. My advice, try something that you enjoy that is also physical in nature. Take golf, for example – walk the course if you are able. If you aren’t physically able, walk as much of the course as you can.  

Complete body health will allow you to live your best life. Restrictions on your diet, creating healthy sleep habits, and reducing stress while being active is something we can all do. This holistic approach will help you steady your moods, think positively, and have more energy to accomplish your goals. This, in turn, will improve your leadership, allow you to be more available for mentorship, and enrich all your relationships. 

Tim VanLoo, CSFM, is a sales consultant for D&K Turf Products. He recently served as director of facilities and grounds at Iowa State University. VanLoo received his B.S. and M.S. at Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Science with an emphasis on Turfgrass. He is a past president of the Sports Turf Managers Association. He has also served on many other board of directors in the turfgrass industry. VanLoo has taught sports turf and irrigation classes at Iowa State University and Des Moines Community College.