Breaking Family (Health & Fitness) Traditions

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Many times with my private clients, and even the youth athletes that I continue to guide in the weight room, the topic of nutrition will inevitably arise. I understand that with the mindset of work, it is often analogous to think of hard work, sweat, and coming into the gym day in and out to see results.

This is important, yes, but not as much hard workis done in the kitchen, nor is advising the emotional pathways that guide our nutritional thought process, along with the routine habits that ultimately guides what is being digested into our bodies.

Photo Credit: AB Chao

Prior to arriving at Cressey Sports Performance, I was living at home, working multiple jobs, and helping out my family when I had the opportunity. I would clean, I would cook, and I would do any errands that anyone needed to get done, other than my own responsibilities as a strength coach, personal trainer, and online writer.

Note from TG:  A man who cooks and cleans!?!?!? Miguel is single. Ladies??????

Needless to say, I was busy. However, I didnt let this stop me from living a healthier lifestyle, along with influencing others towards a healthier lifestyle.

Essentially, I controlled what I could control.

The purpose of the following is not to discredit any number of both cultural and individual diets, or devalue the traditions of one culture versus another, but to more aptly identify what is helpful and not helpful with respects to a community of individuals, also known as a family.

With this in mind, changing habits for yourself as an individual can bring about conflict in an immediate circle of individuals. If someone within this “circle” challenges the status quo, what happens? How can you bring about change in a positive manner without negative confrontation?

Identifying Your Culture’s “Diet” By Traditional Meals

My family is Filipino, and with that comes many of the traditional meals that are associated with the culture.

The Filipino diet is largely rooted with delicacies, soups, stews, and white rice.

This sounds great at first, especially if you haven’t had this type of food before, but the meals cultivated by our culture may not be the most advisable towards a healthy and productive lifestyle. For an insider look at what my typical meal selection looked like growing up, I typically had white rice with every meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner, including snack times throughout the day – along with a variety of meats, soups, and stews.

Two-four cups of white rice, at roughly four meals a day, for approximately 13 years (when I was old enough to eat rice at a decent clip, to when I began cooking on my own) is a lot of white rice.

Throw in a couple of eggs, SPAM, white rice and ketchup, and you have yourself a meal.

At a young age, I was fortunate to have the mentality to expand my horizons on food selection, along with improving a lifeskill (cooking) that would still guide me to this day.

At risk of calling my diet a problem, a better statement to identify with is: what can be improved upon within my own familys Filipino diet?

Or, any diet for that matter?

With that said, here are some things that you can implement and draw upon from my own experiences with bringing about changes in a traditional family setting.

Improvement #1: Lead by Example By Cooking Recipes On Your Own.

Begin a healthy lifestyle of movement and diet change on your own, and dont be overly confrontational about improving your loved oneslifestyle (unless you know they can handle it mentally).

With this in mind, learning to cook is a skill that Ive cultivated from a young age, and it has stayed with me to this day. About once a week I cook a large amount of food, in order to save time, and to minimize the stress involved with not having any immediately consumable foods nearby (which can lead down the path of snacking and raiding fridges).

One recipe that Ive mastered is one involving ground beef, potatoes, rice, veggies, and hardboiled eggs. This recipe is called, picadillo, and Ive adjusted it to include grass fed ground beef mixed with beef stock, chopped up sweet potatoes, green and jalapeño peppers, white rice, eggs, and sriracha sauce, among a variety of other spices. It is delish.

Often, I ask the youth athletes I work with if they like eggs, and if they do, if they know how to cook them?

Im surprised at the number that do not know how to cook eggs, let alone a full meal.

For what its worth, eggs are a staple in my diet and will continue to be a helpful ingredient towards my physical and aesthetically minded goals. Barring the personal dislike for eggs, Im of the belief that learning to cook eggs is a great first step towards a lifeskill of cooking – if you mess up sunny side up, or over medium, you can quickly turn a mistakein cooking into an omelette.

Note from TG: for those reading who have to fight the daily battle of people thinking eating eggs (yolks) are the equivalent of kicking a baby seal in the mouth have them read THIS and THIS.

That said, I have sat down with these athletes, YouTubed a 1.5 minute video on How to Cook Eggs, and made them watch this video with me in order to impart some knowledge.

Improvement #2: Encourage Small, Healthy Changes, Instead of Large Amounts of Change In a Very Quick Timeline.

Food selection can prove to be pivotal towards a lifestyle change.

Decreasing the amount of white rice (carbs) consumed in favor of meats within the meal (protein) can prove to be a small change. Even adding one vegetable ingredient (green peppers, spinach, or even a salad as an appetizerto your main dish) can prove useful towards implementing a positive change towards a healthier lifestyle.

Improving health through the avenue of food is not the only way to decrease health risk factors – exercise is also a helpful beneficial activity.

Leading by example is one way to prove that big doors swing on small hinges.

To use a personal example, my mother was never really a gym person, and I never fought her on the issue of going to the gym. For a frame of reference, I started dancing and bodyweight training at the age of 14, and began strength training at the age of 21, so I also never truly began a gym associated lifestyle until a few years ago.

However, health and lifestyle issues decided to visit her instead of being proactive about it, and after many hard talkswith her general physician, she reacted by going to group exercise classes.

After a number of Zumba classes, she kept on mentioning to me how these Zumba classes werent all that good – not enough dancing, not many good songs, and not enough sweating.

After hearing this for a few months, I pushed her to become a Zumba instructor – be a part of the solution instead of solely identifying a problem.

She was hesitant at first, since she wasnt used to the idea of going to seminars and conferences, but when a conference for Zumba certification showed up in Philadelphia, I registered along with her and got certified as a Zumba instructor as well.

She loved it, and is still teaching to this day.

The point is to not identify how awesome my mom is at Zumba, but rather to exemplify that habits can be formed in multiple ways, not just through sheer willpower and grit.

Improvement #3: Dont Shy Away From Eating Traditional Foods at Family Gatherings, Social Events, Etc.

Avoiding meals at these social gatherings can lead to high amounts of stress for both you and the social parties involved.

Note from TG: plus, you come across as an uppity a-hole. “Oh, oh, look at me everyone…I brought my own cooler of prepped food in my own Tupperware!” Douche.

Stress for you because you have this constant animal on your back telling you to eat these foods that have been a part of your lifestyle for [x] amount of years, as well as your own inner voice singing No, no, no, no.

This is pure willpower at work, and often times it will not pan out the way you imagined.

Stress presents itself for the other parties involved because now they have this mental stigma that their cooking is no longer acceptable, their food is not good, or some other conjecture that is not fully realized.

Using the 90% rule from Precision Nutrition indicates that if you have all relatively healthy meals during the week, you can utilize that 10% in order to eat more traditional foods at that social gathering on Saturday.

This is particularly helpful, especially if you have JUST begun a new dietand you are aiming to navigate the social aspects of eating with this new lifestyle choice.

With all this being said, one big question that sticks out is What has happened now that you moved?

Im no longer there to help cook or help overall – correct.

However, Im of the mindset that fostering change should also lead to fostering independence. Sure, my exact recipes arent being used, but the positive notion towards a healthier lifestyle remains, and you can bet your behind that my mom is still Zumba-ing her way to a healthy and physically active lifestyle, along with cooking up a storm of awesome meals.

So hopefully I have also armed you with strategies that will begin a lifestyle of change not only for you, but also your immediate circle of friends, family, and loved ones.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo is the newest addition to the Cressey Sports Performance staff, with the self-acclaimed title of Office Linebacker. He enjoys breakdancing, lifting heavy things to 90s Hip Hop mixtapes, and guiding everyone towards their goals – whether it is sports performance, healthier lifestyle, or to get huge.

More of his writing can be found at www.MiguelAragoncillo.com and make sure you follow him on Twitter (@MiggsyBogues) … or else.

Contact him at ma@miguelaragoncillo.com if you have any comments or questions!

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  • Very good article, this is a frequent problem at our facility when giving nutritional advice to athletes. Thanks for covering the cultural part of eating–very underrated!

    • Thank you Eric. I felt that providing my some insight into my personal and cultural background would allow for others to understand and begin the process of change – something that may not be so easy, especially if you have the feelings of loved ones to take into account!

  • Michelle Kania

    Great article Miguel, I’ve added your blog to the ones I check on regularly (Tony & Eric are favs too). I agree that eating healthier causes a lot of social stresses but sometimes it’s more jealousy-based. For example, I started eating clean this summer and went out with my softball teammates to a bar and had fried pickles thrown at me. But as my friends have seen me lose weight they’re now more interested in what I’m doing and are asking questions. I’m not push, just proud of what I’ve done.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for sharing that Michelle!

  • Now here’s a guy who gets it. Cooking is a life skill! It’s a shame that people are losing sight of that. I was shocked at the amount of people I met while in college who couldn’t cook simple meals by then. Eating healthy tastes good if you learn to cook and especially use seasonings. Good stuff Miguel.

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