Martin, the son of a friend who I also used to work with, is a clean-eating teen who became inspired to change his nutrition after hearing me speak about it one evening. Since that time over a year ago, he has transformed not only his diet but his academic and sports performance as well. Below, he gamely answers my nosy questions about his clean-eating journey and offers advice for getting started on a healthier path to adulthood.
HH (that's me!) How did you learn about clean eating?
Martin: I first learned about clean eating from HOPE, a class I took in school that taught me that I should watch out for foods that are high in fat and cholesterol.
Then in November of 2010, I heard you speak about how to get through the holidays by eating clean so that we don’t gain weight. From listening to you speak I became more motivated to eat a cleaner, better diet.
I watched documentaries like "Food Inc.," "The Future of Food," "Forks Over Knives," and "Food Matters." These also helped me learn about clean eating, where our food comes from and ways to make a better diet.
HH: What made you want to try it? What did you want to accomplish?
Martin: I wanted to eat clean because I didn’t like knowing how awful I was eating before. I also started exercising more and I wanted to be able to give my body the right things so I could perform better and become better athlete.
HH: What did you do to "go clean"?
Martin: I stopped going to fast food restaurants, started paying attention to the ingredients of whatever I ate, and went to the grocery store with my mom to make sure we got better food (not that she wasn’t doing a good job but because I didn’t want any more food with ingredients labels that were practically essays!) [And I – his mother – will add … It’s great having Martin go to the store with me. Most of the time. We had gotten in the habit of getting boxed brownie mixes. But after Martin read the ingredients labels, he started saying no thank you. On the rare occasions we have baked goods in the house, they are typically made from scratch. Still full of sugary goodness, but not all the other junk that boxed stuff has.]
HH: What benefits did you experience as a result?
Martin: I have a lot more energy and I always feel great because I know that I’m treating my body right! I used to always crash at school right after lunch because I would always eat the greasy, nasty pizza they serve but now that I bring my own lunches, which usually is a sub I made myself, a Clif bar and a bottle of water, I have continuous energy from lunch to the next time I eat a meal.
HH: Were there any downsides to eating clean as a teenager? What struggles did you have or was any part frustrating?
Martin: There aren’t any downsides to eating clean as teenager! It’s better to start now when your body can adapt to a new diet than to start later in life and have to struggle to break the bad habits you’ve acquired over the years of being unhealthy. I haven’t come across any other teenager opposed to how I eat either so eating clean as a teenager doesn’t come with any sort of teasing. I was never frustrated either, eating clean isn’t all that hard.
HH: How has your view of food changed as a result and are you still eating clean? Martin: I will forever eat clean! I see food as fuel now and also as a mirror of how I’ll feel. If eat bad, unhealthy food then I’ll feel bad and unhealthy. Before my lacrosse tournaments, I make sure that I have all the right snacks and drinks to fuel my body throughout my games.
HH: What advice would you give to other teens - or anyone - thinking of starting a clean eating lifestyle?
Martin: My advice is to realize that it is a lot easier than they might think! I would also suggest that they get their friends and family to join them because once they realize how great it feels to give their bodies the nourishment it needs, they won't ever go back!
Martin is well on his way to a healthier life, avoiding the obesity and other health issues that plague many Americans. And, his mom just told me that he has chosen to spend his senior year externship working alongside a local sustainable gardener! I am so impressed (and jealous) and can't wait to hear more about that adventure!
Kids don't necessarily want to eat junk food. Stocking healthy food, providing access to education about nutrition and fitness, and of course living by example are all easy ways to carve out a new path for your family. Choose a food-related documentary for your next family movie night and see if Martin inspires your kids to follow his lead!
Get out there and get healthy today, even if you have to make your parents change their ways.