Most people would agree that healthy eating is important for a variety of reasons. We know we can all improve our energy levels, strength, cognitive function, disease resistance, and longevity, and decrease our chances of many chronic illnesses through simply making healthier food choices. We know we should eat more healthy foods – nutrient-dense foods with more vitamins, minerals, and fiber per calorie like fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and clean meats. We know we should eat less unhealthy foods – those foods high in saturated fat, sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates. When you’re on a healthy eating kick you feel great – you get sick less often, you have more energy, you do more things with your kids, you are happier at work, you have energy for your hobbies. But, let’s be honest – it’s hard to stay on that wagon. It takes willpower, and effort, and knowledge to feed yourself and your family healthy food every day. It’s very easy to fall off the health wagon, and once you’re off, it’s hard to get back on.
It takes willpower, effort, and knowledge to drive past that pizza restaurant, or to resist the temptation of mouthwatering take-out and make yourself a healthy meal at home. We are all bombarded with seductive ads for unhealthy sugar, saturated fat, salt, and simple carbohydrate-filled, nutrient-poor food all day long. And it’s an easy sell because these kind of foods taste AMAZING! While you’re eating a bowl of ice cream, or a plate of white pasta with creamy clam sauce, or a greasy cheeseburger on a white bun your brain can release dopamine that makes you feel euphoric. Our brains (and our children’s brains) are programmed to LOVE this kind of food (a relic from our evolutionary past), so it is very difficult to resist. Because of this programming it takes effort and energy to get a child to eat healthy nutrient-dense food and vegetables – they eat unhealthy food happily and without complaint. It is a very easy path to feed children the unhealthy food that their brains crave, and to avoid the tougher task of teaching them to choose healthier foods instead. That Euphoric feeling you get when eating sugar, saturated fat, salt, and simple carbohydrate-filled foods is temporary though, and we know that we (and our children) will have less energy overall, be less happy overall, and be more likely to get sick, if we eat these foods regularly. It is easier in the short-term to feed our kids the unhealthy foods they crave, but we may be doing them a disservice in the long run.
It is worth noting that it even takes willpower, effort, and knowledge to avoid buying unhealthy food and ingredients at the grocery store. Displays lined with candy bars, chips, sweet breads, sweetened drinks, frozen meals, ice cream, white pasta, boxed mac and cheese, sugary snacks, and other nutrient-poor foods are featured prominently. This food tastes amazing, AND it is easier to prepare than nutrient-dense whole grains, organic vegetables, and lean proteins…who could resist them? We know if we eat these foods regularly we will have less energy overall and be less happy overall, and more likely to get sick overall, but it takes willpower and effort and knowledge to avoid these foods…even in a grocery store.
Is there an easier way to stay on the health food wagon? There is.
Please forgive my somewhat obscure sports metaphor…Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya is the greatest marathon runner who has ever lived. He has won his last 12 marathon races and holds the current world record. His sport, and his training, is an ultimate test of willpower and effort. It takes extreme willpower and effort to continue running at high speeds when every part of his body is screaming for him to stop. His sport is an individual sport – often in his races he is running alone (except for the crowd) – but yet he puts a high value on training with other athletes, and completes most of his training in large groups with other like-minded runners. Even though he is a world-class athlete, he knows that he would not have the willpower, on his own, to complete the training necessary to race at the speeds he does. He feeds off the energy and community of the runners he trains with (and the spectators at his races) in order to push himself to run just a little bit faster. Eliud Kipchoge has said “100% of me is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team.” In short, were it not for his community of runners all striving to run their best, his coaches, nutritionists and trainers, the greatness he has achieved would never have been possible.
This so-called Group Effect has been documented by Sociologist John Bruhn who writes,
“When people work together, their brains release greater amounts of mood-lifting, discomfort- suppressing endorphins than they do when the same task is undertaken alone. Consequently, endurance athletes perceive less effort and perform better when training and racing cooperatively than they do alone. The group effect is not something that has to be acquired. It is a coping skill that exists latently in everyone, ready to be activated by the right situation.
What is the right situation? There are two – call them micro and macro – that are relevant to running. One situation (micro) is any type of group workout or team competition in which a number of individuals work together. The other situation (macro) is a broader sport culture in which numerous groups of athletes train and race together often.”
In other words, when attempting a difficult task (such as feeding your family healthy food), we can achieve greater success by working together with a community of others striving for the same goal. We don’t have to be professional runners to understand this effect, which Bruhn points out exists latently in everyone. I’m sure everyone can think of a situation when they rose to a higher level because of the Group Effect. But to a lesser extent, most of us actually experience the Group Effect every day when we show up at work with our coworkers, or go to the gym. When we have a community of people striving for the same thing in the same location – working for the success of the company at work, working to make our bodies stronger at the gym, we all go farther than we could ever go alone.
So how can you take advantage of the Group Effect to increase your healthy eating success? If you live near one of our distribution locations, you can join our CSA program. We have a one-of-a-kind CSA program, designed to take maximum advantage of the Group Effect, while also fitting seamlessly into your busy life. When you join Groundworks Farm CSA, you are not JUST getting a curated assortment of the freshest and highest-quality local, organic produce available. You, perhaps more notably, are getting to participate in the benefits of the Group Effect of the Groundworks Farm CSA Community (at no extra charge). But, instead of training to run world record marathons races like Eliud Kipchoge, we are practicing the daily willpower, effort, and knowledge battle of feeding ourselves and our families healthy food:)
Each of our weekly CSA pickups is a vibrant event where cooking tips and recipes are shared freely (although, if you are in a hurry you can be in and out in just a couple minutes). Everyone is happy to be there, and you can bet everyone you see around you is making the difficult effort to feed themselves and their families healthy food. We strive together to set ourselves and our kids up for success in whatever we do with healthy food every day. If you want to feed yourself and your family nutrient-dense healthy food – and stay on that wagon – you cannot make a better decision than joining the Groundworks Farm CSA Community. You don’t have to go it alone:)