Alan Green

Episode 3 - Nutrition, Energy, and Ag Teacher Wellness (Part 1) / Transcript

Blog Post created by Alan Green on Oct 5, 2020

www.naae.org/podcast

 

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our profession. Connect is a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host Alan Green, we are excited that you're here, so let's get started.

 

Alan Green:

Hey there and welcome back to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. We are excited that you are here and we invite you to visit www.NAAE.org/podcast to check out our previous episodes as well. I'm excited to welcome our very first cohost to the Connect podcast today. We're joined today by Mr. Parker Bane, who is an agricultural educator at Normal Community West High School in Normal, Illinois. Parker has long been a state and national leader in agricultural education and has served NAAE as the Region IV secretary, Region IV vice president, which has led into his current role as the president of the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Parker, welcome.

 

Parker Bane:

Thanks for having me.

 

Alan Green:

Yeah, no problem. Parker and I are excited to kick off this first podcast of a two part series. We'll be having discussions related to health and wellness in nutrition as it relates to the lives of agricultural educators. With everything going on in the world today and with most of our schools looking much different this year, we though that this would be a perfect conversation to have as agricultural educators ease back into the school year or get ready to start in the next few weeks. Parker, I'm sure you can attest to this but one thing that we clearly know about agricultural educators is that they're busy. It's a dynamic profession with a lot of moving parts and sometimes their busy schedules can make putting healthy food and lifestyle choices on the back burner.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah and another thing that we know is that being an agricultural educator isn't just dynamic in our sense of our schedules but it's a very cognitively complex profession. In the course of a single day, we make hundreds of decisions, we accomplish a variety of tasks, all of which use time and energy. And we want to help agricultural educators find what works best for them, so that they can maintain their energy throughout the day and help them fuel their bodies and minds with proper nutrition that will help them be the best for themselves, their students, their families and ultimately, all the things that they love back home. It's interesting because agriculture educators spend so much time dealing with nutrition. We deal with plant nutrition and animal nutrition, we can tell you how to feed a cow or a sow, we can tell you how to feed your plants, we can tell you how to set up the fertilizer in your greenhouse but a lot of times, we don't know how to feed ourselves.

 

Alan Green:

And before we start, just a disclaimer about our conversations. Everything that we're sharing on the podcast today is strictly for educational and entertainment purposes only. Any serious lifestyle changes should be made only in consultation with your physician.

 

Parker Bane:

On today's podcast, we're excited to welcome two agricultural educators who are passionate about nutrition and wellness and we can't wait to hear their stories and what guidance and advice they have for our members. Our first guest is Mr. Melvin Phelps, Melvin is an agricultural educator at Lowville Academy in Upstate New York. Melvin is a passionate NAAE member, a 2009 National Agriscience teacher ambassador as well as a CASE master teacher.

 

Alan Green:

And we're also joined by my friend, Miss Amanda Twenter, who is an agricultural educator at Eldon Career Center in Eldon, Missouri, where she actually co-teaches with her husband. She's an NAAE member and intern with NAAE in 2015. Amanda and Melvin, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Amanda Twenter:

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on. My name is Amanda Twenter and I am starting my fifth year as an agriscience instructor in Eldon, Missouri. So I've just recently transitioned districts and in a time of uncertainty, I'm really excited to get the year started. Along with being an ag teacher, I am an avid runner and a Beachbody coach as well.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome and then Melvin, if you'd like to introduce yourself to our listeners.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Sure, my name is Melvin Phelps and I teach in northern New York at Lowville Academy and Central School. I am starting my 22nd year, teaching agriculture in grades eight through 12. My wife is in agriculture as well and we have five children and a hobby farm at home. And very much in a rural area where dairy cows outnumber people in our county.

 

Parker Bane:

Melvin, you left out the part where you're also actually a legend.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Oh, I am? I didn't realize that.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah. Oh yeah, a Region VI and CASE and NAAE, so it's an honor to be on with you both.

 

Alan Green:

Melvin and Amanda, thank you so much for joining Parker and I today. If we just want to start off, if you feel comfortable sharing, what has been your experience and what has made you realize the importance of proper nutrition as it fits into our busy lives as agricultural educators?

 

Melvin Phelps:

I guess I'll start out here. I think nutrition and just trying to lead an active life is really important. For me, it was about six years ago that I had my aha moment that I often refer to with people when I talk to them about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. I was 38 at the time and my father was 76. And at that point, I was right around 450 pounds and I realized, our birthdays are close, that if I didn't change something, if I didn't do something, I was exactly half the age of my father and I would not make it to 76. And so I needed to do something and so that was my aha moment, when I realized that I was half the age of my father and I needed to do something different and for me, that was gastric bypass.

 

Melvin Phelps:

So I decided that I was going to have the gastric bypass done and I did. That was in the spring, I had my gastric bypass in November, after six months and losing some weight beforehand and making some changes in lifestyle. And then from November to the following November, within a year, I had lost right around 250 pounds that first year. My lowest point, I had gotten down to 207, it was my lowest point and that was a year after surgery. So from 450 pounds. So that's my story and what I did, which I'm sure is a little bit different from other people, you know what I mean? But that's the route that I took. I did that because I felt like I lived an active life, five kids, hobby farm, teaching. I needed a jump-start, I needed to lose weight quickly and I felt like I lived an active enough life to help maintain that and so that was the route that I took.

 

Alan Green:

How about you, Amanda? Was there a pivotal point for you, either before you were a teacher or as you were an agricultural educator, where you realized that importance of proper nutrition?

 

Amanda Twenter:

Yeah, so whenever I looked at these questions, I thought this one was really interesting because you've specified nutrition and it wasn't until probably January of this year, that I realized the importance of nutrition versus just living an active lifestyle. So I'm going to split it into two parts. When I was in high school, my parents got divorced my sophomore year. And I was extremely active in FFA, I was president my senior year. And when a divorce or trauma happens in a family, divorce lasts a long time. So it was still into my senior year, there was still turmoil. And how I dealt with that was I started running and I wasn't running 10 miles a day, I was just running 10 to 15 minutes a day but it was freeing. It was a time that I didn't have any trauma, I didn't have any tragedy weighing on my life, it was just me and the rhythm of my feet. And to this day, running is a coping mechanism for me, it's why I do it.

 

Amanda Twenter:

And nutrition wise, I got to a point after I had my son, that I weighed the heaviest I had ever weighed. I was at 170 pounds and I'm five foot three and so it was a lot. I went from a 5K time of about 31 minutes to almost 40 and so I was like whoa, what do I need to do here to get better at this? I'm a very competitive person, I wanted to be good at running, I wanted to have a decent 5K time. I wanted to run a half marathon again and that's whenever I decided that I needed to do something about that nutrition piece. And that's whenever I had somebody who had been marketing to me for a long time, of you need to join Beachbody. We have these meal plans, we have all this stuff for you. And for me, as a new mom, as a busy teacher, it worked because I could spend that money and I could have that at my hands. Consistency is my word for 2020. January 1st, after the holidays, I realized that I needed something that would be sustainable for me. I think that's a huge deal when you look at nutrition, you can't be perfect all the time and being consistent and sustainable has really been my turning point in having a nutritious lifestyle.

 

Alan Green:

That's awesome. Congratulations on finding what's worked for you and for making that change in your life, that's great.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, I think that there are some interesting parallels here in your stories and I think the one thing that I can draw out of this is that there are a lot of tools that are available and each tool is different for the different lifestyles. I can relate to Amanda because Beachbody's been a part of my personal journey as well. But I also know people that have had great success with the gastric bypass. There are some people that have used hypnotism or yoga programs or the martial arts. So I think it's really interesting. So what was it specifically about the tool and what kind of process did you go through to figure out what it was that you were looking for to help get you that edge that you needed to get the process started?

 

Amanda Twenter:

For me, I was just at my lowest low and I knew that I had to have some help. So whenever I realized that I couldn't do this on my own because the past two years, my own way of doing it wasn't working. I needed something that would help me achieve my goals. I had somebody there who I could talk to about my goals and that was almost just another piece of accountability that I didn't have otherwise.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I think for me, like I had mentioned before, I needed that jump-start, I had tried before. Probably the biggest thing that I had to overcome with my surgery is that I was relatively healthy, even at 450 pounds. I took blood pressure medicine but I wasn't diabetic and so for me, my gastric bypass was the first surgery I have ever had and so I had to overcome that aspect. And actually, I was going to have it a few years before I actually did and I decided not to do it because I was scared of surgery. Found another doctor, probably four or five years later and decided that this was the right doctor for me. And really, like I said, I needed a jump-start. At 450 pounds, losing one or two pounds, I wasn't seeing those results and so by that jump-start and being able to lose that weight in a fast manner, really helped me stay motivated because I had so much to lose.

 

Parker Bane:

Awesome. You're moving on to another question. So looking back, as you're talking about your journey, that six years later... And Amanda, yours is somewhere similar timeframe I think, what's changed and how are you doing now? What's changed? What's stayed the same?

 

Amanda Twenter:

I'll start on that one. Whenever I was in high school and then even through college, I ran or worked out when I could. It wasn't a priority for me and as I've grown older and I have gotten more of a schedule, I have a little one at home, my husband and I are both ag teachers in the same department, time is scarce. And I have to be consistent and I have to really have a sustainable regimen that I stick with. And I think that's been my biggest change. As well for women, the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight and the easier it is to put it back on and especially after having a baby. I'm 27 today, actually. So as I get older, as I hit that 30 mark, this is going to be the most important decision I could make and that was a turning point for me. I don't need to lose 10 pounds every six months. I want to stay at a consistent weight for the rest of my life and I think that's been where I'm at now. This is a lifestyle choice and it's not just a right here, right now moment idea. This is going to be with me for the long haul.

 

Alan Green:

Well first Amanda, happy birthday even though in this air zone it won't be your birthday anymore. And then we'll come back to what you mentioned about making time for physical activity and the schedule question a little bit. How about you, Melvin? What has changed? What's stayed the same with you?

 

Melvin Phelps:

Well, it's interesting because as different as Amanda and I's stories are, there's a lot of things that are the same and much of it goes back to lifestyle. They often say going through the classes and things like that before having surgery, "I used to live to eat, now I eat to live." And so knowing what a portion is and knowing that you know what? I'm full after three bites of that piece of pie and I'm going to have that pie again later in my life, so I don't need to have two or three pieces, you know what I mean? And so it really is a lifestyle change and it's a mentality. I used to go into a restaurant and I would ask the waiter or the waitress, "What meal do you get the biggest portion?" And that's how I ordered, was whichever meal I could get that I would have the largest portion so I wouldn't walk away hungry.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Now, I go in and I order what sounds good. And very often, I split a meal with my wife or I bring half of it home and that's okay, I don't have to finish my plate. And definitely, I lost a lot of weight that first year and typically with gastric bypass, you get to a low and then you add some back on. And so right now, I'm right around 250, is where my stabilizing weight has been. And so to maintain that and to think to yourself, I'm going to have that again, I don't need to have the biggest portion. It's definitely a lifestyle and it's a change in how you think. And so staying on top of that, it's not just you lose it and you don't have to worry about it again. You've always got to be thinking and you've always got to be thinking, do I need that right now?

 

Amanda Twenter:

And I'm going to piggyback off of Melvin a little bit because his points are wonderful and I feel them in my soul too, as he's talking. So I think this is a big picture idea, it's not so much just it's all about food. It's about the idea of a longer lasting and healthy life. And for me, I'm addicted to food and I had to realize that. Being raised, after school, after elementary school, we'd go to Walmart and there was a McDonald's in our Walmart. Welcome to the Midwest, right? And I would go in and get a large order of fries and that became a habit. I would go to Casey's Pizza and get two slices of pizza after school. And those habits have lasted with me through college into my adult life and that's really hard to break that cycle. And on top of that, I have family members who are addicted to other things besides food and I know how easy it is to make that transition and I don't want that, I don't want that for my family. And this was my first step in saying no to that lifestyle.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, there's a lot. It's tough because I think one of the great evils right now that we deal with is we feel like we're all so isolated, even though we've had more tools to connect than we've ever had to connect before. And particularly in the arenas of health and nutrition, that's one of the things that seems to be really tough, so I'm really glad that both of you brought up those connections and also those connections to your prior habits. I remember in my own story, I had to count calories and one of the first things that I realized I was doing was, as a habit, I was stopping by the gas station on my way to school, buying two Hostess Pudding Pies at 800 calories each and a large Coke in the fountain that was 320 calories. So I was knocking out 2000 calories just before I ever really hit 8:00 AM. And I think the number of people that do that is really, really surprising. So I'm very glad to hear you share that because for those of you that are listening, it's important to know that we're not alone. There are a lot of people that are facing these things and these problems in their lives.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I think it's crazy you bring that up, Parker. Driving to state fair, we're close enough to our state fair that we'd go down for the day and come back, for contests and the CDs and that sort of stuff. So I would get a Frappucino before I got to school, so I'd have it driving down, we're about an hour and a half from Syracuse. And then when we left state fair, after having state fair food, I'd grab a Frappucino in Syracuse for my drive home, to help stay awake and things like that. And then I realized, those drinks are almost 1000 calories each.

 

Parker Bane:

Wow.

 

Melvin Phelps:

That was in two drinks, 2000 calories and that was just mind blowing when I started to look at those things. I think one of the greatest things is having calories posted when you're ordering food because that helps my conscious decision making, you know what I mean? Not that I necessarily go in thinking okay, I only have X number of calories. But if I'm not sure what I want, I'm going to lean towards something that has fewer calories in it.

 

Alan Green:

So Parker and Melvin, you talked a little bit about how your day started off prior to your experiences that you've had. How do you guys kick-start your day now? Now that you've had that revelation in your life about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the importance of proper nutrition, what does your morning look like and how do you develop that energy, get that energy up to last throughout the day?

 

Melvin Phelps:

Well for me, protein is a big thing when you have gastric bypass, consuming a lot of protein. And so I've maintained that, I used to eat... An omelet wasn't an omelet unless you had six eggs in it. And now, usually in the morning, I'll have a coffee and I have one egg, whether that's an egg sandwich but it's only one egg. An omelet, one egg makes a perfectly good omelet. This morning, I had a one egg omelet with broccoli and mushrooms and onions in it and some cheddar cheese. And so I feel sluggish if I don't have protein, so I try to consume as much protein as I can. And that's the other thing and we'll talk about this later, with the schedules of an ag teacher or anybody that is doing well in a career. It doesn't matter your career, if you're doing well, it's never a nine to five job, right? It's always extra time and it's busy. And so just the little things to help maintain that, like having just a one egg omelet in the morning or an egg sandwich or something like that. That's how I start my day because I definitely feel it if I don't have that protein.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, in my case, I have some very similar things. But what I'll do is I'll get up in the morning and the very first thing that I do is I take care of whatever chores I have to do and then I sit down and I have a routine of pre-workout stuff that I take. And that's my kick-starter for the day and then I'll go and I'll actually do my workouts in the morning. And when I first started on this journey, my workouts were typically in the evening. Now my schedule has changed as such and I was able to prioritize getting up in the morning and I've never looked back. But those products are helpful to me, you might be able to argue that it's perhaps a crutch but it's something that I think I feel better when I take.

 

Parker Bane:

And then what I end up doing is I also have that as my time, as I'm waiting for the pre-workout to kick in, that's my time to read and reflect. So I'll take care of some spiritual things, I'll take care of some devotions first thing in the morning and then I'll go take care of my workout and then I have a routine with my breakfast. I have a shake that I make and my shakes are very similar, just like what Melvin talked about a little bit. I think that that routine, while it sounds boring, I think that that's something that has helped keep me on track because I know what I'm putting in my body, I know what calories are there and I know what the nutrients are that I'm getting from those and I think those really help.

 

Amanda Twenter:

Yeah, I agree with everything that's already been said. My point of view is a little bit different because I've got a little one at home that I have no clue how long it takes to get those guys ready and get out the door. And that, it's so hard, it's still a challenge every day, of how can I fit everything in without having to get up at 3:30 in the morning to get my run in? And I'm really lucky, I live in a small town, that we actually have a run club. And so I try really hard to make it twice a week, early in the morning, to go on runs with my friends in that group. And I think it's important for me to get those done in the morning. Most of the time, I workout in the afternoon or in the evening, just because it works better for my schedule and I don't wake my whole household up.

 

Amanda Twenter:

When it comes to food, I always drink a shake in the morning. And before I started the health journey, I guess we'll call it, I used to make shakes that had probably close to 1000 calories in it because I didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't realize I only needed a quarter cup of fruit and I didn't need the sugary yogurt in there. So having a protein shake has been a wonderful experience for me, it's just like what Melvin said, that protein really keeps your energy up through the day. I actually have gotten to the point where I'll do my protein shake in the afternoon sometimes, just as a pick me up to get through the rest of the evening as well.

 

Parker Bane:

We all know that agricultural educators work long hours, sometimes they're irregular hours, sometimes there can be a lot of stress involved, especially seasonally. So how do we keep our energy the best for our students and even more importantly, our families, when we get home from our long days at work?

 

Alan Green:

So I'll actually start off and share my answer. So I don't have kids at home, it's just me and my wife but we actually went to a chiropractor for the first time a couple months ago and one of the problems that I was having is the energy. I would have a lot of energy in the morning but it wouldn't last and so that was one thing that I shared with her. She actually recommended that I increase the amount of vitamin C that I take each day, simply because I didn't have enough vitamin C to really maximize the iron that I was intaking. My iron was fine but that vitamin C is important in carrying out that process. And I think that's a very specific example for me but I think it goes back to the conversation that we've been having so far, that it's different for everyone. There's different products, there's different resources. Something as little as taking vitamin C pills, to something as big as joining a running club. Everyone's going to have that different answer and it's important that our listeners determine what that is for them. To do some research, try different things and see what works for them.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, absolutely. And the ability to look at something and say yeah, this is working for me, this is something that I want to make a part of my daily routine. And also, the ability to look at things because supplements in particular are really expensive and there's a lot of marketing, a lot of hype that goes through them. But it is okay for you to look at something and say yeah, this makes me feel better. And it's also okay to look at something and say you know what? I can do without this. So I can relate to that supplement journey. So Amanda, Melvin, how do you feel?

 

Amanda Twenter:

I think mental health is extremely important and during COVID-19, I realized how draining it can be to sit and worry about things constantly. And I think being able to have an outlet for that is so important on keeping your energy up day to day. And whether that's starting your day out with prayer or devotion, going for a 30 minute run, working out, I think by the end of that day, it gives you energy to do those things. So keeping your mental health in check is so important, especially right now.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I think for me and I guess this is the great thing about this because I think Amanda and I have a lot of things in common but I'm sure our lifestyles are completely different. So for me, having animals at home, it doesn't matter how long your day is, you still got to do chores, you know what I mean? So I don't run, I don't necessarily go out for walks but I try to make conscious decisions every day and so for me, those animals. And that's time that I spend with my boys, the two boys that we've got at home right now because everybody else is graduated and gone off to do bigger and better things, are going into eighth and ninth grade. So we have animals at home, so in the morning, that's part of the morning routine, is getting up and helping do chores and doing chores at night.

 

Melvin Phelps:

No matter what time you get back or how tired you are, those animals still need feed, they still need water because they rely on us. And so I think that's huge, is that routine and doing things that are nonnegotiable. And so maybe that's taking care of your animals, maybe that's going for that run, you know what I mean? So that's what I do, is try to make sure that I fill some of my schedule and to be honest, it's okay. Sometimes, if I'm getting home at 10 o'clock at night and the boys have gotten home before me and chores are all done, sometimes I don't get to those things and sometimes you just don't have energy because that's the life that we live. I'm lucky, my wife is an ag teacher so we run similar schedules and sometimes it's very crazy and hectic but I have a great support system at home that understands that too.

 

Alan Green:

Melvin, thanks for sharing that. One thing that we as NAAE recognize is that the first couple years of being an agriculture educator can be hard, it can be difficult. It's a lifestyle change, there's struggles and frustrations. What advice would you give to an early career teacher or somebody who's struggling with nutrition and energy? How would you guide them to feel successful in this area?

 

Melvin Phelps:

My recommendation is make sure you're setting goals that are attainable. To say well, I got to lose 100 pounds, start out small. And there's lots of things that you can do to meet those goals, maybe it's five pounds or 10 pounds at a time or maybe it's what am I going to do? For me, prior to my surgery, I found a routine. So Sunday night, I would make my lunches for the whole week and it was the same lunch, I'd have yogurt with fruit and then I'd put granola on it. And I made five of those and I brought them to school on Monday morning with me, stuck them in my refrigerator and I didn't have to worry about lunch. Because I found that if I didn't make my lunch on Sunday, if I didn't have time because we were running behind on Tuesday morning, it was too easy, we've got an open campus, I could run out to McDonald's, I could grab something else, I could eat from our cafeteria. You know what I mean? And so that routine of every Sunday night, I made my five yogurts with fruit and granola, stuck them in the refrigerator and I didn't have to worry about lunch all week. So that goes back to that time management as well. But just trying to come up with some small steps to get started and something that is attainable, I think is really important.

 

Amanda Twenter:

I agree 100%. I think that it's extremely important to pencil out some time for yourself and as a first year ag teacher, you are going to have pressure. You're going to have pressure on yourself from a school board, from past teachers, mentors, all of that stuff but at the end of the day, you have to be okay with saying no to some stuff and that's a really hard lesson for first and second year teachers to learn. And I'm not advocating for going in and changing everything and not showing up to officer meetings, that's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is, you just need to make sure and have some time for yourself. And my suggestion was pretty much going to be what Melvin said, if you have a late night chapter meeting or a chapter activity, have a snack, have something that's going to tie you over until you go home and be able to eat. Fast-food every once in a while is A okay but the amount of sodium that's in those food products, it's not good for you. And so having those meals premade, ready to go, it just fulfills you more than that quick fix at a gas station or wherever that might be.

 

Parker Bane:

Awesome suggestions on all of this. So I think we're ready for the next question, which would be how can ag educators and what advice do you have for making more time for physical activity? And also, making more time for the planning piece and the executing the nutritional piece because these things take time and sometimes, that's the biggest barrier. So what's worked for you and what would you recommend to others?

 

Amanda Twenter:

On my end, I had a conversation with my careers center director, probably my second year teaching. And we had gone to an industry tour that they had gyms set up for their employees. And that meant that at lunch, anytime during the day, they had an hour to go workout. And I thought that was the most incredible thing that a company could do for their employees, I thought it was awesome. And my career center director was on the tour with us and we started talking and one of the things, it was a bigger district and we talked about... And I said, "Man, if I could just use my plan period all the way through and get all of my work done, by the end of that day, I don't feel tied down to staying at school until 5:00 PM. When my contract time is over, I can go for my run." And after him and I had that conversation and there was that step towards, I've got to make time for myself because this is important for me to be a better educator, that was great. So when that bell rang and I was there for my last 15 minutes, if I utilized my time at school, I didn't feel guilty leaving and going to workout and get that time for myself. There were many times I came back to school after my workout but I made sure to go and get that done.

 

Melvin Phelps:

For me, it's a lot of conscious decisions. I bought a Fitbit and tracked my steps. Before, I was like, you know what? I'm on my feet all day and they recommend 10,000 steps. If you walk 10,000 steps, you're walking more than... I don't know, I think it's three quarters of the American population. And so I was like, you know what? I'm on my feet all day, so I bought a Fitbit. And I was averaging five to 6000 steps a day and I was just blown away that I was not walking as much as what I thought. And so just keeping track of that made a huge difference and I would walk... Winter time, we average 200 inches of snow a year, so sometimes it's hard to get out. But my wife and I, if it was eight o'clock at night, we'd go walk down to our school district and walk the halls in the building. So it made me more mindful when I was at school. Parking at the other end of the parking lot, I call very few colleagues now. And you know what? It takes time out of my day but I walk to see them now, instead of giving them a call if I have a question during my plan period.

 

Melvin Phelps:

If I got to go up to the office, I take the long way to get to the office instead of the quickest way. And so maybe if I didn't do some of those things, then I'd have time to workout more at the end of the day. But for me, those were easy steps that I could do to increase my activity for the day. I also found that getting home at night, I wouldn't sit down. And to think about before I had my surgery and the weight that I lost, I was carrying around two 100 pound bags of feed every day. No wonder I'd come home at five o'clock and just sit down for the evening and watch TV. And so when I lost that weight, I made it a point and I still make it a point, to be outside and to work in the garage and putter around the house and to stay active that way.

 

Parker Bane:

The psychological aspects of this topic are just incredibly fascinating to me. The guilt has come up several times and that's one of the things that I think is critically important, is that teachers understand that their health matters and that you can't serve your students if you're not feeling well and that you can't serve your students if you're not healthy. So I'm glad that that has come up and that's one of the biggest challenges, is that people need to understand that it's okay to take some time and prioritize your own health and it will make you a better teacher in the end.

 

Parker Bane:

And I'm so glad that Melvin brought up the concept of the Fitbit. Even one of the challenges that I have with the Beachbody programming is that a lot of the Beachbody programming, when you get on and you watch the videos, the models are all fit, they're not really modifying what they're doing. And so it's really easy to psych yourself out into thinking you can't do this but the thing that I think is beautiful about the fitness tracking tools, no matter what you chose to use, is that the competition is not with the model on the TV screen. The competition isn't with the gym teacher down the hall that exercises all the time. The competition is between you and yourself and what it is that you need to do to improve your own personal health. And I think that that's really important psychologically. I know that it's done me a lot of good and I think that it's done a lot of people a lot of good.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Along with that too, I run a Facebook page for New York ag teachers, right? Similar to the national one but for New York. And so I put on there one time, my handle for my username for Fitbit. So there's probably three or four groups that are in daily challenges or weekly challenges, ag teachers. They're out there. If you put it out there and look for those ag teachers. Now, I upgraded to an Apple Watch, so I don't think that necessarily coincides with the Fitbit anymore but there's still teachers out there that I know, there's probably 30 teachers in New York State that are doing Fitbit challenges with other ag teachers. And it's cool to see national convention time and week sets during the summer at Oswegatchie, the numbers through the roof, 25,000 steps in a day. So it's cool to see that grouping, you're not in this alone. There's other ag teachers in your area that do these challenges, so go ahead and try to reach out and find out where you can fit into some of those groups.

 

Alan Green:

And Melvin, I'm so happy that you mentioned that competition part. One thing that I was going to add is that if you're struggling to find time for physical activity in your daily life and in your daily schedule, find someone to hold you accountable. Odds are, you're not the only one that's struggling with this. Find a coworker, another ag teacher, your spouse, a friend, someone who you can hold accountable, so that you can make it a priority in your daily life. So as we wrap up our last conversation, one thing that we've really been enjoying about this podcast series, we really want to provide ag teachers with tangible things that they can take from these conversations and they can implement in their daily lives. So this, I think is something that all ag teachers can relate to and that has to do with the snack drawer. What types of snacks would you recommend for a snack drawer in your classroom and what is your go to healthy snack choice?

 

Amanda Twenter:

So something that I learned on the nutrition side is that there are healthy alternatives for everything. And sometimes, those healthy alternatives are even better or more satisfying than what that Snickers bar would be that you have in your drawer. And some suggestions I have are go to Aldis or Trader Joe's, if you have those in your area. They have so many healthy alternatives. I love cauliflower rice, I use it on taco bowls, I use it in casseroles. It's great and it's easy and I can go to the store and I can get it. And in my garden, I can make it myself. Same with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, those are great and easy things that you can do, that you don't have all of those negative effects of the easy way out of the other products.

 

Amanda Twenter:

When we talk about the snack drawer, I love fruit. And so I will always try to keep oranges, bananas, those sort of things, at my office and that's what I'll snack on. Apples and peanut butter is another one of my favorites, as well as filling up on water. I struggle with my water intake a little bit but it's so important because it doesn't allow me to snack all day. And so I invested in a really great water bottle, I actually have a couple. They're 32 ounces and I try to get three to four of those a day. And if I can do that, I don't feel as hungry come two o'clock or three o'clock, whenever school's over.

 

Melvin Phelps:

For my snacks, they're healthier than the alternative. I love yogurt and so I get it at Aldi and I get a strawberry banana yogurt and then I have... This probably sounds weird but the peanut butter filled pretzels and so I put those on top of the yogurt. Because for me, protein is huge. If I'm feeling sluggish, it's because of my protein intake and so I just put four or five of those on top of a little cup of yogurt and that does it for me, that's really good for me. And it's a boost, it's a little bit salty, if you need something that's a little bit salty. And I portion everything out into the snack size Ziploc baggies, which I think is huge, so that it's not a huge bag that you're pulling out handfuls. So that's my go to thing.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Something that a lot of people that I've talked to... And this probably goes back to the nutrition and energy that I just thought about, was your eating habits in general. When you do gastric bypass, you're not supposed to drink anything a half an hour before you eat or an hour after. So that you're digesting and you're filling your stomach with food and you don't drink with a meal. And so I still don't drink with any meal. If they bring me a glass of water with my meal at a restaurant, I ask them to take it away. And you eat a lot less, you're not washing it down with anything and so something as simple as that... My wife did that and has done that and instead of eating a whole sub, it's a half a sub because you're filling your stomach with food instead of food and water or whatever that drink is. And so you're consuming less by something as simple as not drinking when you eat.

 

Amanda Twenter:

To piggyback of Melvin too, before I made the switch on nutrition, I would eat Hamburger Helper all the time. I'd cook it for my family, it was easy and whenever we finished an entire box with two adults and a one year old, I knew that we probably had a little bit of portion issues. And I got the Beachbody containers, they're $10 and they've been a life changing system. And so it pretty much breaks down how much protein you should have in a day and I fill those containers for my lunches and that's what I eat. And so what Melvin was talking about with his portioning of his pretzels in those snack bags, that's the same thing I do. Because if you're eating out of the chip bag or whatever it might be, you're probably going to overindulge because it's there and you can and I think that's important. I don't eat ice-cream anymore and I was eating ice-cream every night of the week. But instead, I use Chobani Yogurts and they're the Flips and that's my treat. And I might not have them every day but it's protein, it's delicious and it satisfies by body's needs more than what the ice-cream would do.

 

Parker Bane:

The yogurt is a really common one. There are some Greek yogurts that are very much... They create that ice-cream feel. I use Dannon Oikos Triple Zero and it's been a phenomenal snack for me. And then plus, it gives the dairy farmers a little bit of a boost too. So I think that dairy, if properly eaten and consumed, are some of my favorite things. But it's amazing the amount of things that are out there. The one question I'll ask though, have any of you run into problems in your schools with having a snack drawer and then also having students with allergies interacting? Has that gotten into an issue?

 

Amanda Twenter:

Not on my end.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I haven't had an issue. My wife though, her classroom had to be a peanut butter free class, so at no point could there be any peanut butter in her classroom. So she had to bring lunches and that sort of stuff but it's for the safety of the kid, we're there for the kids. And if that's the case, another snack that I use all the time, talk about dairy, is cheese. Get a cheese and cut it up and just have three or four slices of cheese and portion it out again and having those. I'm lucky, I've got a full size refrigerator in my lab that is for food and so being able to have those dairy products and those cold items. The one thing I like also, at the end of the year, is I take grapes and I throw them in the freezer. And so having frozen grapes is a great snack to have and they're cold and you don't chew them up as fast but pretty refreshing during the summer as well.

 

Parker Bane:

Like the old Mitch Hedberg joke, I don't know if any of you have ever heard his stand-up where he said, "I want a frozen banana now or a regular banana later."

 

Alan Green:

Well, Melvin and Amanda, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of the insight that you provided about healthy lifestyles and healthy choices. We appreciate your time today.

 

Amanda Twenter:

Thank you for having us, it was a wonderful conversation and this is possible for anybody, it's not just special people. Anybody in the ag ed world can live that healthy lifestyle.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Yeah, thank you. It's been great having a conversation with you guys and just reiterate what Amanda says, even the littlest things, anything, doing something is better than doing nothing, right? So any little step that you can do to start the process or the journey to make yourself healthier and to be there for your family and your students and your job and your life, is so worth it.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well thanks, Amanda and Melvin, for joining us. Take care.

 

Parker Bane:

What a great conversation about the importance of health and wellness for agriculture educators and our members. Health and wellness is going to look different for every person, so we encourage you to explore your options and find what works best for you, so you can maintain your energy and help you be at your best for yourself, your students and your family back home.

 

Alan Green:

We'd also like to thank our two guests today, Miss Amanda Twenter and Mr. Melvin Phelps, for sharing their personal stories and advice and tips that our members can implement into their own lives as we start this next school year. And like we mentioned before, this is only part one of our two part series about teacher wellness and nutrition. And we'll be back in three weeks, on September 14th, where we'll continue our conversation with Miss Ginny Reddick, a nutrition and wellness coach for individuals, groups and organizations.

 

Parker Bane:

And finally, if you're interested in learning more about additional resources related to health and wellness, make sure to check out our podcast show notes at www.NAAE.org/podcast.

 

Alan Green:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you've liked what you've heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use, so we can help connect more agricultural educators to our podcast. Until next time.

 

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