Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?

I want to preface this article by letting you know that I am not a “foodie.” Unless you define a foodie as someone who understands that you need to eat to stay alive. If that’s the case, I am definitely a foodie.

On a daily basis, I’m pretty laissez faire when it comes to food. We have to eat to survive, so it doesn’t make too much sense to me to get into the infinite variables about what we could be eating, should be eating, and enjoy eating. Everything in moderation, including moderation.

As a food agnostic, I don’t particularly care what your personal preference for eating is. If your approach provides you with the appropriate micronutrients and macronutrients to sustain exercise today, and life for as long as you choose it, then you’re good in my book.

My Food History

You see, my dad passed away due to complications from Type II diabetes, a disease that’s entirely manmade and preventable. A college professor once told me that I have an elevated risk for metabolic disorders because “diabetes runs in my family.”

“Nobody runs in my family,” was my response. “That’s the problem!”

I grew up in a Hamburger Helper household, where I’m sure I was more than a handful, and resisted eating basically everything that was put in front of me.

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?

We were about as nutritionally diverse as a predominantly white town in the suburbs of NYC. The culinary mecca of NYC was under an hour away, but I don’t think I was aware of any real experiences around food until my adult life.

As an adult, I’m less fascinated by food than I am by people’s relationships to food. The study of food? Eh, take it or leave it. Society’s relationship to food? Anthony Bourdain may be the greatest storyteller of the television era, and I am fascinated with how food brings different cultures together.

In modern digital life, I’m not sure how well food brings us together. Sometimes I think it actually brings us apart. The way we eat in 2018, at least if I’m looking at Instagram, seems to be more about identity than nourishment. Somewhere along the way, we switched from, “I’m eating this meal because it’s what my ancestors caught and gathered” to “I’m eating this way because of how I identify as a person.”

Each of us has our own food rules, regulations, and preferences, which guide our decisions to abstain or embrace different foods. Nothing is sacred, because it seems like everything is sacred.

Except for one food.

In Defense of Greenery

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?
One food that seems to sit (mostly) free of persecution and idolization. One that even the most dogmatic of nutrition gurus tends to agree on.

That food is vegetables.

Yup, that’s right, vegetables. It seems that even when people are ready to throw their gluten-free whatchamacallits across the table at that monster who’s eating animal protein, we can all break bread on the shared appreciation for including vegetables in our diet.

Okay, I’ve changed my mind. Vegetables are sacred, except on dictionary.com:

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?

Yes, plants as food… and dull people. A bit bland for most, including my younger self. And now, I see vegetables for what they are: The most efficient and effective use of high-quality nutrition that we can get. What’s the nutrition benefit of vegetables, you ask?

Well, I give you my decidedly non-foodie answer:

Vegetables fill you up with a metric-fuckton (scientific measurement for daily requirement of vegetables) of beneficial vitamins and minerals and, if you eat enough of them, you’re less likely to eat the stuff that’s been made rather than grown.

Down the Macro Rabbit Hole

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?
This is where most people tend to dive down scientific rabbit holes, learning about the macronutrients, the micronutrients, about eating certain foods together to maximize absorption of specific nutrients. If that’s your journey, great – have at it!

Honestly though, I’m not sure how important all of that is.

It’s useful knowledge, and I’ll take the wisdom of “eat more vegetables” and the habit of eating more vegetables, over the knowledge of what’s inside every vegetable. Knowing a lot about nutrition but not eating vegetables is like knowing how to make a computer but not actually having one. That’s not going to be very productive, is it?

Ironically, that’s where most of us struggle. Most of us know we should be focusing on vegetables in each meal, but that doesn’t always lead to the action of eating plants.

Instasaladgram

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?
A few months ago, I used the “Questions” feature built into Instagram Stories to ask my followers what they were struggling with the most. Nutrition came in as the overwhelming majority, and I began thinking about how I could better support this virtual community in making health-enhancing decisions.

The first guideline that I began to share was, “Whenever you go out, order a salad.” Simple and straightforward.

Perhaps you’re thinking that not all salads are created equally, and you’re right. We’ve all seen those fried chicken dishes placed on a bed of lettuce, masquerading as healthy. YES, and… that’s not the point. Our goal is to focus on including vegetables as much as possible, and sometimes that’s going to come with panko breaded chicken. Don’t worry about it – order a salad whenever you go out!

So I started sharing pictures of the salads that I ordered while eating out on Instagram, to share as “evidence” that it’s actually okay to eat vegetables. That’s when something started to happen; I was getting tagged in pictures by other people who were also ordering salads. It was amazing!

The exact date escapes me, but I believe that Ninja Julianna Rusakiewicz is the first person to use a hashtag to describe what has become a “daily salad challenge” on Instagram, now using the hashtag #SaladChallenge.

What’s the Salad Challenge? Well, it’s eating a salad. Then taking a picture of your food and tagging @Harold_Gibbons on Instagram.

In the past three weeks, I’ve been tagged in anywhere from 8 to 25 pictures of salads per day, and the participation is absolutely blowing my mind.

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?
Some people are tagging me two or three times a day and eating an impressive variety of vegetables. Others have tagged me from airport restaurants, when visiting family, or at midnight from their couch.

Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, I’d venture that eating a salad is almost always going to be better for you than not eating a salad.

Starting with vegetables is the general guideline that I’ve been using to make many of my nutritional decisions in the last few months, and the #SaladChallenge is evidence that a supportive (social-media savvy) community can come together to support health-enhancing habits. The participation that I’ve seen since the beginning of September is mind-blowing, and I can’t wait to see more people dive in as we carry on.

Green Sharing is Caring

Ready to Rise to the #SaladChallenge?
That’s where I need your help: I’d love it if you could participate in the #SaladChallenge in anyway that’s meaningful for you.

It could be ordering a salad the next time you eat out. Maybe it’s making a salad at home. Perhaps you’ll tag me in a picture, too. Why does that matter? When you share publicly, the reach of the #SaladChallenge grows significantly, helping the people who YOU engage with to make better health-enhancing decisions for themselves along with you.

Eating vegetables can literally be the gift of life for each of us, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving, should other people follow your lead!

Ready to dive in? GO EAT YOUR VEGETABLES, y’all!


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Harold Gibbons is the Steward of Strength at MFF, where he teaches classes & semi-privates, manages the program design team for semi-private training, is the director of the Trainer-in-Residence program, and the founder of the Motivation and Movement LAB. When not teaching, he loves cuddling up on the couch with his fiancée Katie, sliding through the woods on his mountain bike, and considering why Thestrals are the best.

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