Despite being a food blogger, I'm still learning about nutrition, just like the rest of us. Though some days I consider myself a preacher of health as I explain to everyone around me what GMOs are, in reality, I’m just like everyone else. I struggle, I fail, but I also have tons of aha moments and successes along the way.
At one point in my career, I managed forty horses for a top level training facility. I worked with veterinarians, clinicians, nutritionists and various other professionals who helped oversee our horses' care and well-being. Surprisingly, my observations from working with the horses there led me to many realizations about how I eat and treat my own body.
Here’s five things I learned about my own diet from managing horses:
1. There’s something to learn from those who are demanding.
I’m referring to a type of person that we all encounter. Whether that person owns a horse or follows all the latest diet and fashion trends, they tend to be completely obnoxious. For me, this person took the form of a horse owner armed with powders, oils, and a long list of directions and observations.
As frustrating as this might seem, deep down I knew this meant that they cared a whole lot about their horse, and knew things that we could never dream of knowing. We can take a page from their book and walk away with that deep level of commitment to our own diets even if we seem a little crazy to other people.
2. It's worth it to take the time to prepare healthy food.
Horses typically get a commercial feed in addition to their hay, which is the horse "needs" in one convenient bag. This method of feeding, however, has similarities to McDonald’s. It’s convenient and provides the horses with a quick meal, but what lies beneath the surface? There are tons of additives, preservatives and by-products wrapped up in that convenient package.
As with McDonald’s or any other convenience food, sacrificing our health to save a few minutes on an ongoing basis isn’t the answer to healthy living.
3. Everyone has specific dietary needs.
A good barn manager will watch for abnormalities in the behavior of a horse while managing their body condition simultaneously. They’ll watch what a horse is eating, or leaving behind, and adjust their diet accordingly, with guidance from the trainer.
What's good for one horse isn't good for another. It’s why every horse is fed differently from roughage, to concentrated feed, to supplements. We’re individuals too, and it’s why the same diet won't work for both me and my husband and the horses Skippy and Mouse do better with different diets, too.
4. Eating right means paying attention to the body's subtleties.
Food doesn’t simply add weight to the body. It supplies nutrients, fuels it, and helps the body run its many functions. If the body isn’t getting what it needs to function, or is getting too much of something, then you’re left with imbalances.
Little clues will tell you if you're not feeding a body properly. For instance, horses will sometimes eat dirt when they're lacking specific nutrients that are in the dirt, or they'll defecate less frequently when they're not getting enough water. If you notice either of these things, you'll make sure the horse gets more nutrients or has more water. Managing horses requires constant diet changes based on astute observation.
Isn’t it time we started noticing the subtleties in our own bodies, like how different foods affect us and what we may be lacking nutrient-wise?
5. Research, time and money spent on nutrition really does pay off.
The average horse owner spends countless hours researching diets and spending hordes of money on new supplements for their horses. In the process, they can see through a lot of the gimmicks, and learn what to look for in the long run.
Do we do the same and research our food choices, or do we simply hear about the latest diet trend and jump on the bandwagon? Spending some time, money and even consulting a professional can lead us to a broader understanding of food in general, but learn more about ourselves in the process.
What lessons in your life have affected the way you eat? Are there any take away messages regarding your diet that you’ve learned from other interests and hobbies you’re involved with?