"We all know we should be eating more vegetables---it's the advice given by every nutritionist and on every food pyramid. Becoming vegetarian, even if it's only part time, is a great opportunity to do just that." The Vegetarian BibleMost of us grew up with admonitions from our parents to "Eat your vegetables" while we stared at our plates piled with green peas, carrots, or green beans. The inevitable second part to that statement was almost always, "They're good for you." The problem with that justification, at least as I remember it, was that it did not work, especially with the green peas. Most of us did not eat them because we thought they were good for us; we ate them because they were on our plate.
Don't get me wrong, there were some vegetables that I enjoyed. I have always liked green beans. Black-eye peas were good too. I actually did eat most vegetables, except for green peas, which for some reason I did not care for.
Fast forward years later, and most would find it difficult that I have chosen to become a vegetarian. I have always been a heavy meat-eater. Give me a sloppy cheese burger, and I was happy. But times have changed for me, I have been a vegetarian for the past few months, and I am glad I made the change. I have never felt better and have more energy to boot. In addition to becoming a vegetarian, I also have been walking over 4 miles per day for exercise. This all came about because I realized I was not being very good to myself with what I was eating and with what I was not doing with physical exercise. I felt bad physically a large part of time. A visit to my physician and the scales was the final straw that convinced me I was on a crash course for obesity and bad health.
Three months later, I've lost 34 pounds and feel 100% better.
I won't try to convince you to become a vegetarian. One thing I've learned by choosing this course is American society is based on carnivorous eating. When you go to dinner parties, unless they happen to know you eat vegetarian, you are likely to find yourself sucking on a piece of parsley and sipping water. Restaurants are almost entirely based on meat-eating too, and if there are vegetarian choices, you either are relegated to choosing a dish and tell them to "Hold the meat," or there's a small section in the menu with three or four choices are labeled "Vegetarian." This is no dig at gracious hosts of these parties, nor the owners of fine restaurants who serve great food, but Americans assume Americans eat meat and that's the way it is.
Still, I can't help but wonder that we as school leaders, models of being good citizens, should also not be modeling making good choices about our eating and about exercising. We become quite adept at solving problems in our schools, but we ignore the problem that we aren't being very kind to our physical selves, and what's worse, we're modeling that for our students. I am certainly not advocating that we somehow mandate healthy eating and exercise for education leaders because they are "role models." Being a "role model" means you do things because they are the right thing to do, not because you have to do it, so mandates aren't going to solve this problem.
In the end, we all have to make the choices about how we treat ourselves. We don't have to be vegetarian, but we can be mindful of what we eat and avoid excess and eating things that aren't good for us. We can also get some exercise. The excuse of the busy schedule should not prevent this. You walk, run, jog, or swim as a part of normal everyday routine. Make it a habit as something you just do. If we don't take care of ourselves by with mindful eating and exercise, we will probably shorten our careers as school leaders, and we might not be modeling good decision-making in these areas for our students.