Ever since I was young, my parents have always told me to finish the food on my plate. This usually wasn’t a problem as I was a picky eater and was usually given only a few different types of food that I particularly liked at the time. However, this practice has become engrained in my eating behavior and even today, given my much broader food pallet food, I try to finish everything I put on my plate. While this habit is somewhat easy to overlook when we are given as much food as we want, I have fortunately had the experience where finishing all of your food became a necessity.
Before coming to Colby, I had the privilege of taking a gap year. One of the activities I got involved in was volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, Africa. This turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life, most notably for allowing me the perspective of living like a native Namibian for 6 weeks. At the sanctuary, funds were always prioritized towards the needs of the animals instead of the volunteers, which meant the 30 of us were living without basic amenities such as electricity and hot water. Additionally, the labor-intensive nature of our daily work made mealtime especially memorable, as there was never enough food to satiate everyone. The majority of our diet consisted of bread, local raw vegetables, and a stew of either kudu (a large deer) or horse meat. While several of their staple dishes tasted terribly, the volunteers always raced to finish their first helping as quickly as possible to get more food before it ran out.
Even while devouring as much food as I could find, the number of calories I was getting was well below the amount I was expending daily. As a result, I lost about 16 pounds by the end of my 6 weeks in Africa (about 8% of my bodyweight). I can only imagine how much more I would have lost if I was forced to consume a similar quantity of food for a longer period of time. I can almost guarantee that I was not getting the recommended daily amount of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals as well. I guess the main point I’m trying to convey is to try to keep perspective while selecting and eating food. I know trying to reach my fitness potential living in the conditions I did in Africa would have been impossible due to the lack of available nutrition, something that I will hopefully never have to worry about in the US. This experience makes me wonder how many great athletes are unable to succeed just because they were born into poor circumstances. I’d just like to remind you all to be conscious of and thankful for the food you have access to, either through the dining hall or the supermarket, and try to not let it go to waste by instead using it to become the best athletes you can be.