A person wearing a green mask

Written by Tessa Bolon, AmeriCorps Food Educator

I applied to Common Threads when I was living in Florida, and was super excited to be outdoors and teaching children (two of my favorite things). However, COVID-19 had different plans, and I quickly realized that both my AmeriCorps service position and I were going to have to go through some pretty serious adaptations in order to be successful. Luckily, we were able to develop a series of Zoom cooking lessons. Even though Zoom isn’t mine (or maybe anyone’s) favorite learning/teaching platform, I figured it was better than not teaching anyone at all. 

Going into Zoom cooking lessons I was super nervous about things like internet connection, class size, and if I had my ingredients. However, all of my stressors changed once the Zoom class actually started. Even though I had been worried about what I would consider the “basics”, the basics weren’t what I struggled with as a teacher. Believe it or not, it was the actual cooking that terrified me. In the moment I obviously made it work (and the students successfully prepared food), but afterwards I started to do some self reflection, and realized that not only do I not distinctly remember being taught how to cook when I was younger, but that I actively avoided it. 

In addition to this realization, I also noticed that the way I talked about food was actually part of something that could be defined as “toxic diet culture– basically I defined foods as good or bad without understanding the full nutritional content. Since my professional title is literally “AmeriCorps Food Educator” I decided that I needed to educate myself before educating others, especially impressionable young kids. Because of this I started seeing a nutritionist in order to correctly educate myself on how and why humans should eat what they do. I did not know what to expect going in, but have since come to the realization that time spent with a nutritionist is never wasted.

Some major takeaways from my time so far include:

  1. Stomachs can be referred to as humans’ “second brain”, and a lack of nutrition heavily impacts our mood
    • Up to 95% of serotonin (a mood regulator) is made in the gut
  2. Any food can be “unhealthy” if eaten in the wrong quantities or if it brings an onset of negative emotions
    • Yes, this includes fruits and vegetables!
  3. If you’re hungry eat something
    • It doesn’t matter if you just ate, if you’re hungry eat
    • Sometimes fast food is the healthiest option
  4. An unhealthy relationship with food does not have to be centered around your physical appearance, it can be centered around nutrition, texture, taste, etc.

I never anticipated my time at Common Threads to be so transformative, and am eternally grateful to serve at a place whose mission is seed to table food education. Without this experience, I’m not sure I ever would have learned the true meaning of “toxic diet culture” and how prevalent it is, even in those of us who consider ourselves well-meaning and healthy.