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DISCUSSION => Open Topic -- Any issue => Topic started by: SherryHall on November 14, 2010, 01:29:54 PM

Title: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: SherryHall on November 14, 2010, 01:29:54 PM
Healthy Eating at Tournaments


One of the biggest factors that impacts the health of nearly everyone that participates in debate is making healthy choices in how and what we eat at tournaments.  As many of you know, I have struggled with weight issues most of my life.  I lost 90 pounds over a two year period and am doing my best to try to maintain it.  I finally came to accept the message that people had been telling me all my life, “diets don’t work – the only way to attain and maintain a healthy weight is to adopt appropriate lifestyle practices.”  I had committed myself to making the necessary changes, but I found that debate tournaments presented severe obstacles to implementing that commitment.

I am writing to share with you all as debaters who are ultimately responsible for your own food choices; as coaches who are responsible not only for your own choices but frequently are responsible for deciding what, when and how your debaters eat; and as tournament administrators who are taking on greater responsibility for deciding what everyone eats, what I have learned over the past few years.  The advice I offer and observations that I make are not meant to criticize anyone, but hopefully will make all of us take a careful look at how we might be contributing to the problems and what we can do to help address them. 

First, while we are all responsible for our own eating decisions, the nature of tournament travel severely constrains the ability of individuals to exercise that control: tournament schedules, lack of transportation and access to independent food options, and money for food are just three of the issues at play.  We arrive at tournaments early in the morning – too early to have the good breakfast that nutritionists say that we need.  The standard tournament “breakfast” is coffee and doughnuts, or bagels and cream cheese.  Lunch, if provided by the tournament, is usually a rushed affair, crammed between two rounds.  Dinner is almost always late in the day.  Hunger attacks in the long break between lunch and dinner usually send us to vending machines for high-fat, high-calorie snacks, or perhaps to finishing up the leftover doughnuts still sitting out from breakfast. To one trying to make healthy choices, the structure of how and when we eat at tournaments is a nightmare.

One of my biggest challenges was to find ways to maintain the eating schedule that I was on at home when I was at tournaments.  I would find a grocery store soon after checking into the hotel to purchase fresh fruit, granola bars, and healthy snacks.  I soon discovered that my debaters were interested in the fruit and granola bars that I was buying for me.  My standard practice at tournaments now is to make sure that my debaters have access to healthy breakfast options.   It is also important to address the late-afternoon hunger period.  If the lunch options provided by the tournament were not conducive to my eating regimen, I would leave to buy my own lunch somewhere else.  Debaters usually don’t have that option – limited time and transportation prevent them from buying their own food. 

Tournament directors are in the best position to help improve the nutritional quality of the food that we eat at tournaments.  Over the past decade more and more tournaments have begun to provide most of the meals we will eat over the weekend.  With this comes responsibility.  Most directors seem to be motivated by two factors – cost and convenience – when deciding what to serve.  While those are understandable factors, it is important to include nutritional quality as an equally pressing consideration.  Improving nutritional quality can be done without massively increasing costs or inconvenience.  A step such as supplementing the doughnuts and bagels with fruit and breakfast bars is an easy and inexpensive way to improve breakfast.  Both fresh fruit and breakfast bars can be bought in bulk.  If pizza is on the menu for lunch, try adding a salad.  Many pizza places will make a deal on bulk salads.  Similarly, the store-bought trays of cut up fresh vegetables are an easy addition.  Providing something healthy to munch on late in the day is also helpful.  At the Harvard tournament, we went through most of the fresh fruit – apples, oranges and bananas – in the afternoon period. 

Debate coaches also share responsibility for the nutritional quality of their debater’s food options.  As is the case with tournament directors, cost and convenience are the factors that generally drive the choices we make.  As our squad has grown bigger and the days at tournaments seem to last longer and longer, it has become increasingly difficult to have a sit-down meal for dinner forcing us to turn to the “fast-food” dinner.  All fast food, however, is not created equal.  When I have to turn to fast food to feed the hungry hordes, I try to select places that offer healthier choices – Chipotle, Subway, Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain, and Boston Market are examples of relatively healthy fast food choices.  I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I do think that we all need to consider the health implications of our choices more.  I encourage other coaches to post ideas and recommendations for how to meet the challenge of feeding big groups of people in a healthy, economical and convenient manner.

Below are some links to resources on improving nutritional quality of fast food.
Healthy Fast Food: Tips for Making Healthier Fast Food Choices,
http://www.helpguide.org/life/fast_food_nutrition.htm
This is a great resource – practical suggestions for what to order, suggestions of which restaurants are best, and links to many other resources.

America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants,
http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20411588_1,00.html

Healthy Fast Food Options,
http://www.askmen.com/sports/foodcourt_100/135_eating_well.html
This includes nutritional data on items from some of the biggest chains.

Healthier Fast Food Choices, http://www.healthchecksystems.com/ffood.htm
This also has nutritional information on items from many of the biggest fast-food chains.





Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: SherryHall on November 14, 2010, 02:59:41 PM
I am responding to the comments that Antonucci included in his response to the welcoming statement that are relevant to the healthy eating discussion.

Michael said:
"This root problem touches on several of the issues mentioned here, making them fairly intractable.  I know there's a hotel gym.  I know I should use it.  It's probably not going to happen if my energy needs to be spent elsewhere.  Similarly, it may be quite difficult for me to run to a grocery store and obtain a set of healthy snacks.  The difference in my diet at tournaments and out of them is truly breathtaking, but there isn't too much to be done that I can see."


I agree that making trips to the grocery store is a hassle that many people may not be prepared or able to do.  If tournament directors would provide healthy food options, then it would not be necessary for individual coaches to take this step.  At the Liberty tournament, I never went to the grocery store because they provided breakfast bars, fresh fruit, and multiple healthy food options.  (Unfortunately, they also provided a seemingly infinite supply of Reeses peanut butter cups, but that's a problem with my own willpower.)  At the Harvard Tournament, I made the decision to quit buying huge amounts of Halloween candy, as had been our tradition, and replace them with with trail mix, a chex cereal mix, and fresh fruit.  I probably saved money by making these myself instead of buying candy.  Especially for those of us who spend more than four years in debate, it is not healthy to spend so much of our time eating in a way that many of us recognize is significantly different from what we do in "normal" times.

As to the statement that there isn't much to be done about it, I find that to be a self-defeating attitude.  My post here acknowledges that for many of us, fast-food meals may be the only alternative, but that even when we have to eat at fast-food restaurants, we can still make healthy choices.  We can choose healthier fast-food establishments, and choose healthier food within those establishments.  I think that the salads at McDonald's are the best fast-food hamburger chain salads and will often choose McDonald's on that basis alone.  I related my story to demonstrate that we can come up with ways to break out of unhealthy traps -- they just require some creativity and organization.

Sherry
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: antonucci23 on November 14, 2010, 03:33:42 PM
To clarify, I think this is a great project and initiative.  I hope my comments' tone was not too negative.

Also, you are correct.  Food can probably be addressed.

The issues relating to adequate sleep, exercise and, potentially, other byproducts of stress, however, seem genuinely intractable within the labor paradigm we've established.
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: klavelle on November 15, 2010, 01:34:23 AM
I think that this is a wonderful initiative. I know that I struggled my first 6 years as a coach and debater in college to maintain a healthy lifestyle in debate. It really took taking a year off from active coaching for me to get in a healthy lifestyle that I was able to maintain good habits when I returned. Here are some things that have helped me when I was the most active in college traveling (10-14 tournaments per year):

1. Stop drinking pop (soda). Cutting down on pop 8 years ago was incredibly hard for me. I used to see Pepsi trucks driving around the Wayne State campus, and I would start to salivate. I switched to 100% juice boxes for times that I would drink pop (in night classes, at tournaments). This whole process took about 3 months - from drinking 2-3 cans of regular pop each day, to drinking one pop per week and the occasional fruit juice. For me, going cold turkey was kind of difficult, so I made sure to slowly wean myself off the habit. I easily lost 15-20 pounds without changing other habits. For those of you who drink diet pop, remember, there are some pretty good studies that suggest people tend to compensate by eating more food when they drink diet pop, so you actually don't save on calories.

2. Bring some snacks with you. Sherry had great suggestions for getting fruit and such at tournaments. Another helpful way is stocking up before you even get to the tournament. Those long drives with many stops can be very tempting. Carrying around a water bottle, nuts, even little dark chocolate squares (provided that you don't finish the bag during the tournament), can be good ways to make sure that you aren't grabbing any food that is available to you, and probably will help save you money by not buying food at gas stations.

3. Try to do small bursts of exercise at tournaments. I know that this can be hard if you share a room with 3-4 other people, but taking a 15 minute walk in the hotel in the morning, bringing some weight bands, or even doing some core exercises in the morning can be a good way to stay on a schedule when traveling. You don't need to use the hotel gym or bring an exercise machine with you, if you are doing regular exercise at home, any exercise at the tournament can help keep you on track. Working out at tournaments probably works best if you are doing more exercise at home (30-60 minutes per day), as opposed to trying to get all of your exercise at home.

I'm excited to see that there is some discussion about healthy habits at tournaments. Good luck to everyone trying to balance healthy living with frequent travel!
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: SherryHall on November 16, 2010, 10:31:17 AM
Helpful tips from Carol Green:

Here are some things I have sent out to a couple people before... I can include more name brands or more snacky snacks that are low calorie but this is my go-to list lately

Tips and Tricks:

* Carry a bottle of water on you at all times. If you always have it, you have no excuse not to drink it. When you are hungry, have water and then decide if you are still hungry.
* Call the hotel in advance. Tell them you need a minifridge for student medicine. You can score a fridge for free this way if your room didn't have one. Then you can keep foods in the fridge and pull them out each day.
* Always pair a carb with a protein. It will keep you full longer. Add some healthy fats if your calories will allow it. I have included some pairings below.
* The main question to ask is what the food is doing for your body. If you rephrase eating into fueling, it makes it a bit easier to turn down the deliciously terrible foods. Not much, but it does help avoid nutritionally-void snacks.

Plane Snacks:

* Don't bring a lot of food on the plane. You will eat it all. Don't have your credit card within reach and you won't buy addt'l food on the plane.
* Sunflower seeds in shell take forever to eat and have healthy fats in them which fill you up. Drink water with them to counter the salt. Measure out the amount you want and give yourself permission to eat them when you want.
* Pack baby carrots and celery. The crunch is satisfying and it is low in calories. Pair with string cheese or beef jerky
* Apple slices and grapes make great travel fruits and are a sweet snack.
* I get club soda with a slice of lemon or lime for my airplane beverage. Fizzy to satisfy soda cravings but 0 calories.

Foods to Buy at the Grocery Store the Night You Arrive:

* Buy sandwich bags to divide out foods if you can only buy bigger bags. This will help keep things portioned out. I also have a mini $4 food scale from Target, a tablespoon and 1/4 cup measuring cup that get packed for portioning things out.

Non-Fridge Foods

* Beef jerky
* Bars (avoid bars over 200ish calories or with high fructose corn syrup. make sure the bars have a good balance of protein and fiber or they are just a waste of calories. bars I like: lara bars, clif bars, luna bars)
* Apples/Oranges/Bananas (don't store bananas with other fruits or they rot fast)
* Bumble Bee Fat Free Tuna Salad Kit (comes with can of ff tuna salad and crackers)
* Sunflower seeds
* Melba toasts/wasa crackers
* Laughing cow cheese wedges
* Nut butters (avoid if you have portion control issues like I do)
* Microwavable popcorn
* Flatout Wraps or Light Bread (for sandwiches)
* A whole mustard or spicy mustard... you don't miss mayo as much if you buy a flavorful mustard
* One or two small chocolates of high quality (avoid hydrogenated oils/fats and high fructose corn syrup) keep in your bag if there are temptations around
* Tea (I buy fruity teabags and carry a couple in my bag. If there is hot water at a tournament, I can make tea which tricks my stomach into thinking it is full)
* Truvia (0 calorie sweetener... good for coffee and tea)

Perishable Snacks

* Hard Boiled Eggs (I usually pick up a couple at the grocery store salad bar)
* Sliced turkey lunch meat
* Cheese sticks
* Baby carrots & other portable raw veggies
* Greek yogurt (higher in protein then regular yogurt... I like to mixed a tsp of peanut butter into a nonfat plain greek yogurt for a veggie dip)
* Berries
* FF or 1% milk
* Precooked chicken breast strips
* Romaine lettuce leaves (works as "bread" if you are low-carbing it)
* Seaweed salad (I love it but understand if you don't)
* Premade salad bowls (check the calories and fat first!!!)
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: pmose on November 16, 2010, 03:25:54 PM
Just wanted to add, for anyone who thinks it's expensive or inconvenient to eat well at tournaments, it's very affordable.  I know most of us are stretched on cash, but I just bought my food for 5 days at wake for $12.  I eat every 3 hours as well, so it's quite a bit of food.  There are 6 packs of 200 calorie protein bars (with 6g of "good fats" and 20g carbs a pop) for $6 at wal-mart.  The brand is actually called "Pure Protein" and they are actually quite good and come in all sorts of flavors (I prefer Chocolate Peanut Butter).  I bring 8 servings of oatmeal (4 cups) which ends up being about .50 cents if you buy generic and takes one minute to make in the microwave.  A can of green beans will run you about a dollar.  4 cans of tuna should run you a little under $4 as well.  I pack a whey protein isolate for the mornings when your body needs it most which is not included in the $12, but a low end container will run you $15 or so at GNC or Wal-mart.  There are usually fruits around at tournaments and of course there will be a few meals you will eat there, which if you are normally eating healthy can be quite good for you as it "shocks" your body and increases nutrition absorption for later meals.  

I realize this doesn't sound very appetizing, but that was just my example.  You can pick up pre-cooked chicken which will stay good in your back pack all day or whatever you like for around the same price.  Eating well is not hard and doesn't require you to pack a cooler or anything.  I have been fine just using a small part of my backpack.

The greatest benefit I've noticed from frequently eating small meals/snacks at tournaments is that it helps calm the nerves while waiting for decisions (eating something can be an effective replacement for a cigarette as well) and helps me to stay much more focused.  At the end of the day you will feel less of the "brain drain" effect we all get after several rounds. 

Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: ericsuni on November 18, 2010, 03:46:42 PM
It's been over 3 years since I was at a major college tourney, but I stumbled on the posts about this Initiative and think it is a great idea. I hope that it is successful in at least getting people thinking about how to remove some of the unhealthy aspects of competitive debate. The posts on this topic thus far have some great suggestions, and I just wanted to throw a few others out there.

*As Sherry mentioned, for foods that are always available (either in a coaches' lounge or for debaters), it would be great if the options were all pretty healthy (fruits/veggies, low fat snacks). A lot of times people end up hovering in the same areas where there is food and may eat even if they aren't especially hungry. The impact of this hovering/grazing can really add up if it's unhealthy foods that are available. For people like me with bigger paws, a "handful" of chips is about an ounce. Let's say I grab two handfuls of fried potato chips (in this case, Fritos) at 4 intervals during one day of a tournament, and the tournament is two days long. That's 16 ounces of chips over two days just from grazing. That grazing alone, independent of any other foods during the tournament, would equal 2560 calories and 160 grams of fat (not to mention 2720mg of sodium). That's basically a day's worth of calories for most people, and in most cases, a lot of people aren't even thinking of the cumulative effect of the handfuls they eat just "here and there." I know that I wasn't when I was debating.  Some studies have shown that when people are stressed or their minds are occupied with other complex issues that they are more likely to unconsciously choose less healthy foods even when both healthy and unhealthy options are available, which to me is good reason to just get the unhealthy stuff away from the tournament altogether.

*Encourage debaters to see that better nutrition at tournaments isn't just about overall health -- it also makes you more effective as a debater. Paul touched on this, but you're more likely to be alert, energetic, etc. if you're eating well. Some people couldn't care less about their health, but they probably do care about winning debate rounds.

*I have to take some issue with Paul's suggestion of keeping cooked chicken in your backpack all day. In general, safe practice is to keep "hot foods hot and cold foods cold" because lukewarm temps in the "danger zone" (40-140) are breeding grounds for bacteria. Food-borne illness at a debate tournament = not fun.

*At my work, there is an annual program called the Healthy Challenge. Co-workers form teams and then each individual reports a score based on whether they follow certain healthy habits each week (there are no negative points). Prizes of various forms are given to the teams that earn the most points. I attached a copy of last year's points sheet just as an example. Maybe some kind of Healthy Challenge could be encouraged in college debate, either with schools forming team(s) or with debaters forming teams across schools. Ideally, points would be tracked all week and not just at tournaments, but you could potentially alter the scoring to give more value to points earned at tournaments or something along those lines. This sort of program can be very beneficial in helping people be conscious of their daily routines and habits, and it can also help people support one another in making better health decisions.

Eric Suni
Whitman 06
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: sydnekasle on November 19, 2010, 09:33:37 AM
Some suggestions:

1.  Keep a schedule of your meal times and stick to it.  Assuming you're eating something balanced every 4-5 hours, a diary will help remind you when you are to eat.  We get so caught up in the tournament schedule that we can eat every 2 hours, or not for 8 hours if we are not careful.  Set a timer telling you when to eat, and do not eat until it goes off.  Have water or tea with you at all other times, and remember that coffee and tea - unless plain - can contain enough calories to equal a sugar soda if you are not paying attention.

2.  Stay clear of your danger foods.  Just sitting next to the table with all of the Krispy Kremes at GSU was almost enough to drive my crazy.  You could smell the sugar from the next floor down.  Either you have to stay away from it, or tournament directors need to have two sections of food.  If you do not see it or smell it, you are more likely to stay away from it.  And never start, because once you start then you figure the day is shot and then you just eat more and more.  But then the next day comes along and the sugar is still in your system, so instead of detoxing you just eat more.  While you will see plenty of people eating all of the donuts, perhaps they are not struggling with their weight and so it works for them to eat that stuff.  But it doesn't work for you, so don't do it.

3.  Be mindful of over-consuming healthy foods.  Hanging out with my vegan boyfriend has reminded me that certain foods are healthier in some ways, but not in terms of calories.  Peanut butter may be healthy, but is full of fat.  A handful of nuts is more calories and fat that you necessarily need.  Even three bananas isn't good all at once.  Trail mix is healthy, but you can't eat that much before it equals the calories of a suitable meal.  So portion control is still important.  As for nutritional bars, the Balance, Zone, and South Beach are balanced in terms of protein/carb/fat.  Some of the bars are high in sugar and will leave you with a craving for more sugar.  Other bars are low in sugar and you do need some sugar to balance out everything else.  Bars are good because they are limited in portion, once the bar is gone then you are done eating.  One of these bars has the nutritional value of 1/2 of a meal, so you can replace a meal by eating two, or you can spread out your eating so that you have small meals every 2-3 hours instead of every 4-5 hours.  Aim for variety, so you do not get bored with the same bar.

4.  When going out to eat do not be afraid to ask for a special meal, share one meal with two people, leave the leftovers at the restaurant, or drop off some people at once eatery and go to another one on your own.  Remember just because you are eating out, it doesn't mean you can go crazy or have to.  And just because someone else is paying for your meal, it doesn't mean you have to eat everything in sight. 

5.  Get back into your good eating routine as soon as you get home.  Again, a 3-4 day bender does not break a diet - but if you get home and you figure you just overate for four days so why not add another day on, then that's when the tournament interferes with your "real" life. 

And by the way Sherry, you look great!

sydne
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: SherryHall on November 20, 2010, 12:27:42 PM
From Lexy Green:

I'm a big fan of staying at Residence Inns and other long-term stay
hotels.  Not only do they provide free breakfast (almost always
including fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal, along with other less healthful
options), but their in-room kitchens give debaters the opportunity to
prepare real food in the evenings.  If you organize yourself in
advance, you can even have the hotel do grocery shopping for you.
They don't add any extra charges for the service, beyond the cost of
the groceries.  I usually place an order for bread, deli meats,
hummus, assorted vegetables and salad makings, a few condiments, and
an assortment of drinks.

We started staying at Residence Inns years ago, simply to allow us to
get more sleep.  A large party at a place like Denny's can take ages,
especially when every other team at the tournament is there too.  Why
waste two hours on crappy food at midnight when you can head back to
your hotel to make sandwiches and salads the way you like them?
You'll save money as well.

As I write this, I'm in my hotel room at the Glenbrooks, preparing a
couple (one veggie and one meat) of lasagnas for our team's dinner.
Southwest decided to deliver us to MDW at 12:30 last night, so all of
my debaters started the tournament on less than four hours sleep.  I
know they'll be beat tonight, and I want them to be able to maximize
their ability to sleep, so I thought homemade lasagna would be both
comforting and practical.  I'm also feeding close to thirty people for
around $80.00, not to mention the fact that my room smells great!

Lexy
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: SherryHall on April 26, 2011, 04:43:19 AM
Below is a reprint from a discussion on breakfast at tournaments from the Facebook version of the Healthy Debater Initiative:

Paul Mabrey
Breakfast has always been challenging at debate tournaments. Challenging because it is hard to not offer the relatively cheap and easily consumed high sugar simple carbohydrates like doughnuts, bagels, muffins and even granola bars. Perhaps one of the incentive areas can be for healthier breakfast options.

Andrea Reed
This year at the Clay, we nixed the doughnuts and no one complained (at least, not directly to us). We also served fruit, and I was pleasantly surprised that nearly all of it was eaten, even the really green bananas, oddly enough. And fruit isn't prohibitively expensive when you buy it in bulk at Sam's or Costco. I really wanted to offer yogurt, but we were deterred by the lack of refrigeration on campus. Next year we might try it by buying some good coolers.

Sherry Hall
I echo Andrea's comments about fruit. You can buy it in bulk economically and debaters love it. You can also opt for healthier choices within your pastries/muffins options -- you probably do need to nix the doughnuts, but there are health...y muffins, we buy small ones to discourage overeating, healthy granola bars. I agree that it is hard to beat a doughnut for convenience, tut the extra effort in offering other choices can really make a difference.

Mandi Garvey We will endeavor to serve everyone breakfast next year at the Shores tourney instead of just coaches. Great idea.

Stephanie Garrett Thanks for bringing this up, Paul! Breakfast is an especially important meal for debaters - with long days, you need proper fuel. I also agree with Andrea on the fruit , and with Sherry on pastries and muffins. Bagels are also an easy grab and go option, and if you make them whole grain with lowfat or fruit spreads, they can become healthy.

Joshua Gonzalez We were able to serve a hot breakfast for all of the participants at the Iowa tournament - pancakes, french toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, and potatoes - for about 8 dollars a head. We used the local supermarket chain, who had ridiculously low prices and great service. Now, it's not what I would define as super-duper healthy, but for the calories, better than donuts.
p.s. - this is why people need to come to the Iowa Tournament. Add it to your schedule.

Sherry Hall
We've also added hot breakfast for one of the mornings. I was inspired by the West Georgia and UTD tournaments. While we make our own breakfast tacos -- which is not as hard as it might seem, if you don't have the staff and equipment to... make your own, you can often find something from a local restaurant. I believe West Georgia bought biscuits from Hardees, UTD uses a local caterer and they do this for a lot less than $8.00. While I do think breakfast is important, I continue to think having something to eat what the period before lunch and dinner (especially when dinner is at the end of the day sometimes not until 9:00 pm) is equally important. Store-bought healthy snacks can be expensive. I am more than happy to share the recipes for the trail mix and chex mix that I made for the Harvard tournament. The other option is to try to add dinner in before the last round as Wake Forest did -- this is especially good if the tournament is in a city where there are not many options still open at the time the day ends.

Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: SherryHall on September 12, 2011, 09:40:51 PM
From Darren Elliott:

 UNI did a really nice job of having fruit, and mid day healthy snacks (nuts, fruit, low sugar and fat free granola bars, pretzels, reduced fat chips, water, etc). The Sat lunch was healthy subs on whole wheat bread, lots of veggies, (meat too), and all the extras on the side. Will be interesting to see how other tournaments adapt. Kudos to Rich Tews and Katie Lavelle.
Title: Re: Healthy Eating at Tournaments
Post by: kevin kuswa on February 20, 2012, 07:07:51 PM
hi all,

been thinking about whether to write this post or not and have figured that if one person gets a leg up from some of my experiences, it's worth it.  So here it goes:

Please think about adding a bunch more fiber to your diet.  i'm totally serious.  i am in the middle of a massive battle with diberticulitis and a perforation in the digestive system.  there are many causes, but an unhealthy diet and low fiber (frequent dehydration included) are certainly part of the cause--and some of that is "eating like a debater" (road food, etc.) since I started heavy debate travel in 1985.

now, on the very young end of those with severe diberticulitis, i've fought through 18 days in the hospital, 6 weeks of anti-biotics, and major surgery resulting in the loss of some of my colon (colon jokes are fine, but give it some time).  I also have to miss districts weekend for the first time in 21 years and it's killing me almost as much as not seeing seeing my son while in the hospital.

I am very against anything like a regime of health policing, but I also think everyone needs this information.  you do not want to experience this pain--that of a mule stamping on your crotch for hours on end.  non-western diets with less processed food and higher fiber usually mean zero to little risk of this problem.

anyway, recovery is continuing, but i wanted to share some info as soon as I could. any other questions, just ask.  Congrats to the first rounds and good luck to everyone working hard to qualify for ndt.  kevin