Food as fuel: lessons from a soccer mom
There is a reason when a car runs out of fuel, it stops running. The car will not move until it has more fuel. The same goes for my body. When I do not have food in my system I can gracefully admit, I am not a fun person to be around. Food is my fuel.
What I put into my body affects how I feel, act and think. I owe my mom a thank you for preaching to me since my childhood days, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” And, “Everything in moderation.” When I eat a balanced breakfast, it sets the tone for my day and I am energized. As for everything in moderation, I am a sucker for dessert and have a hard time saying no to any ice cream. But, again, everything in moderation.
I was very fortunate as a child to have parents who valued eating a healthy, balanced diet and prioritized showing me where foods come from. We always ate dinner together complete with all food groups and a glass of milk. I grew up attending state fairs, going to dairy farms, gardening and learning the value of different types of food. Eating a balanced diet has always been important for me. I believe it is part of the reason why I was able to accomplish my dream and win two Olympic Gold Medals.
During my soccer career, I was constantly trying to be the best I could be. I was born with an intense competitiveness and pushed myself in every area of my life. Whether it was a pick-up game, in the class room or on the soccer field, I wanted to win. In order to win, I learned I had to try and control the things I could control to maximize my development. Fueling my body was something I could control. I made the decision to eat the proper foods and it helped me mentally and physically. I still remember eating tons of carbs the night before a game, eating my classic peanut butter, banana sandwich before a game and drinking chocolate milk for my recovery. Food matters.
At the top level, there is a thin margin that separates players and I was always looking to try and gain that slight edge. One memory I have is during Residency Camp before the Athens Olympics in 2004. We were doing double days and our afternoon session consisted of fitness testing two times a week. My body was exhausted all the time, but I focused on my nutrition, fuel, recovery and it helped me thrive during that period.
Fueling my body the right way helped me play well, recover and sustain my performance. I am a planner by nature and always carry healthy snacks, recovery foods and I eat every few hours.
Now, fast forward a few years and I am blessed to be chasing my 4 year-old and 2 year-old around. Motherhood is wonderfully challenging and I am trying to pass along the messages that my parents taught me. I appreciate showing my kids where food comes from and I am proud to say they know a Holstein cow. We go to a dairy farm every fall, pick fruits and veggies and attend farmers markets. My kids couldn’t be more different when it comes to eating and I have learned to embrace their differences, but still remaining true to the lessons that I think are important.
I care about what I put into my body and I am doing my best to share that message with my kids. I want my kids to fuel their body the right way. I will always encourage them to find their passion, work hard, and do everything in their power to reach their dreams.