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You are what you eat
Shocked to hear that interpreters are likely to lead unhealthly lifestyles, Kamil Celoch decided to research the most healthy diet for longevity, energy and optimum performance at work. This is what he found
acquire coping strategies over the course of our professional life, and many interpreters and translators actually enjoy a healthy lifestyle. The main problem, however, pertains to the way the majority of people perceive what ‘healthy’ means. Sadly, most of us have come to believe that health is the absence of disease or ailments. This is not in line with the definition given by World Health Organisation, which is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being’. In other words, lack of pain or discomfort doesn’t indicate that you are a picture of health, if your wellbeing is compromised by other factors. And arguably, diet is one such factor.
Kamil Celoch is a freelance conference and business interpreter (A: Polish, B: English, C: Italian) specialising in neuroscience, general health, and longevity and sports nutrition. You can find out more about him on his professional website (www. exceedinterpreting. com) and his trilingual blog ‘Let’s Interpret‘ (http://letsinterpret. blogspot.co.uk).
ne of my MA lecturers once pointed out that interpreters are among the unhealthiest people in the population. While generalisations of any calibre tend to be questionable, the conviction with which the statement was made clearly suggested that the speaker was on to something, to my initial dismay. As a self-respecting healthconscious individual, I was quick to dismiss the observation in my mind. It wasn’t until I fully delved into the professional world of freelance interpreting that I started to see the pieces of puzzle coming together – perhaps it wasn’t lack of effort on the interpreters’ part but the lifestyle demands we are up against which can put the health of even the most well-intentioned fitness zealot at risk. An interpreting (or translation) graduate is likely to spend the lion’s share of his/her time researching the market, creating and maintaining an online presence, looking for assignments and consolidating the skills acquired from their MA programme. When this is coupled with other responsibilities such as a part-time job or family commitments, it is relatively easy to spot the emerging pattern: a lot of hard work for a scarce amount of initial reward – a process akin to planting and cultivating a seed before reaping any potential benefits, financial or otherwise. Establishing oneself professionally can be a lengthy and stressful process, as efforts have to be undertaken both to secure jobs and subsequently to deliver the
quality expected. And that is a pretty much the best-case scenario, when you consider that few graduates are able to sustain themselves solely by working as a freelance interpreter. Financial woes aside, it is clear that the transition to professional life can be stressful and might therefore leave a would-be interpreter reluctant to prioritise his/her health and wellbeing. One might hope for an improvement in the situation when more jobs start appearing on the horizon, but the opposite can often be true. Having paid little heed to
Diet – not everything that is good to you is good for you
Apart from this rather obvious consideration, which one could hope we are all aware of, it appears that a lot of people do not actually know what healthy eating entails. The media are partly to blame for this: we are constantly bombarded with information about how a particular way of eating can boost our longevity, cognition, performance and overall health. The poor health-conscious interpreter (or any other professional, for that matter) is subject to constant media hype surrounding the purported benefits of a diet, which allegedly yields semi-miraculous health benefits, only to become obsolete and somewhat of a fad as soon a new miraculous way of eating hits the headlines. This vicious circle continues as we learn about new, often contradictory, approaches to eating, fuelling the confusion: high vs low carb, high vs low fat, vegetarian vs vegan etc… To get a better picture of what works and what doesn’t, it may be prudent to skip the media articles and focus on evidence-based peer reviewed scientific studies. While not all of us hold a degree in science, a good internet source of the latest
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‘In order to avoid highs and lows in your performance, include complex carbohydrates in your snack, ideally along with some protein, fibre and healthy fats’
health in the initial stage of his or her career, it stands to reason that upon hitting the elusive assignment jackpot a freelancer may in fact reinforce their bad habits. With job opportunities coming thick and fast (read: even more pressure) he or she might soon start burning the candle on both ends. If no appropriate measures are taken, stress will eventually catch up with even the most resilient individuals in some shape or form. Of course, this is a rather grim picture, as it is evident that we
coffee. dark chocolate. ■ If berries don’t do it for you in the sweet replacement department. ALA. followed by diabetes. egg yolks. as the human body doesn’t seem to convert ALA to DHA and EPA effectively. tyrosine and cocoa powder have been all shown to improve performance. ■ Stay hydrated. ■ Regular consumption of sugar has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. a reduced risk of cardiac disease. Moreover. coconut oil. have anti-inflammatory properties and can lower blood glucose. Don’t be fooled by organic/brown variations of sugar. fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of red wine with a low general intake of dairy and processed foods has a plethora of health benefits. and the ability to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. as too much caffeine will raise cortisol (commonly referred to as the stress hormone) and thus impair both fat loss and mental performance. Drawing on the extensive literature on the subject I made a list of dietary pointers. fibre and healthy fats to further slow down their absorption. mainly by boosting dopamine – a neurotransmitter responsible for vigilance and motivation. Even though glucose is the brain’s preferred fuel. touted by some as healthfriendly – they are still sugar after all. ■ Eggs are among the most nutritious foods in existence. diets rich in DHA and EPA seem to improve mood and wellbeing in healthy subjects. The so-called good fats (as found in olive oil. to mention just three of their many health benefits. trout. ■ That is not to say that you cannot satisfy your sweet tooth – dark chocolate (60%+ cocoa solids) has been proven to lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular. You might be surprised to learn that the brain is made up mainly of fat (60% in fact). for example. psychomotor and cognitive performance can occur when just as little as 2% of your body weight is lost due to water restriction. Walnuts and flaxseed are also an excellent source of another omega 3 fatty acid. In order to avoid highs 28 ITI BULLETIN January-February 2013 Becoming dehydrated can quickly affect your performance and lows in your performance.uk . mackerel and lean cuts of red meat) are extremely important for brain function and hormonal balance. include complex carbohydrates in your snack. neural and metabolic health. two ailments increasingly rampant in the Western world. As a language professional. green tea. inflammation and cardiovascular diseases. mental or otherwise’ some deliciously sweet chocolate milk. sugary snacks are not a perfect quick fix either. but even a Starbucks eggnog latte. visuomotor. has been shown to reduce cognitive decline in the elderly. However. Water is essential to performance. Additionally. olive oil. Regular consumption of blueberries. sciencedaily. ■ While water is essential to peak performance. aiding fat loss. have been found to be effective in battling depression. which happens to be a decent recovery drink due to its protein-tocarbohydrate ratio. Moderation is key.iti. putting it on a par with a more obvious suspect – a Mars bar. clocks in at whooping 45g of sugar. however. One of www. saturated fat (yes. you read it right). you have to remember that any meal will raise your blood sugar levels. such as apples and bananas) and sweettasting vegetables (think sweet potatoes. You can further stave off sugar pangs with a moderate amount of fruit (watch out for the fructose-rich kind. Omega 3 fats and their star nutrients. heat. which I hope will provide some food for thought: ■ The Mediterranean diet appears to be the number-one longevity diet. you might want to wait until you have finished a workout to knock back ‘Stay hydrated. but hopefully with the help of this article you will be able to devise your own eating plan. salmon. mental or otherwise. ■ Berries appear to be an excellent choice of fruit as they are high in antioxidants. Contrary to popular belief. Numerous studies report improved cardiovascular health. ideally along with some protein. as a rapid spike in blood glucose levels will be accompanied by an even sharper drop. A diet rich in nuts. And that’s just for the relatively small ‘tall’ size. it is important to get your omega 3 from a variety of sources. and/or physical exertion. ■ Relying on sugar-laden snacks for an energy boost is a rather imprudent practice. your busy schedule might leave little time for digging up studies. which many of us may have enjoyed over the festive season. Water is essential to performance. Decrements in physical. a moderate consumption of coffee and green tea can help with insulin management. carrots. nuts. Anyone hoping for a long career should keep the Mediterranean diet in mind when making food choices (and remember that you don’t need to have Greek or Italian in your language combination to reap the full benefits!). fatty acids DHA and EPA (as found in in fatty fish). etc). seeds.research news written in an accessible manner (such as www. leading to what is known as a sugar crash.org. which has a host of health benefits on its own. ■ There is no reason not to include fat in your diet. In the long term it could lead to a metabolic disorder and associated weight gain. The obvious culprits are sweets and ready-made meals.com) might be just what you need.
Try not to have too much of a good thing: it is best to keep the consumption of fructoserich fruit (such as grapes and apples) to a minimum. do not supply all the essential amino acids. According to some reports. protein from animal sources also provides auxiliary nutrients such as minerals.iti. consider this: humans are the only species to continue the milk consumption in their adulthood (not to mention the fact that no other animals drink the milk of other species!). which also contains more protein than the egg white. carrots. cows are subject to horrible living conditions and given copious amounts of hormones and antibiotics to speed up the milk production process. Olive oil and coconut oil are two good choices the best sources of protein in nature. On the other hand. ■ A growing body of evidence suggests that dairy products might not be as healthy as previously believed. On a personal note. As time-consuming as it might sound. and a perfect bonding opportunity! ■ Healthy and portable snacks include but are not limited to: walnuts. hard-boiled eggs. which implies (totally unnecessary. eggs also supply a hefty dose of B vitamins as well as choline. fish. Fats are extremely important for brain function. ham. There is also some good news on the safety front: a study reports that a diet with a mean intake of 250g of protein per day over ten years did not cause any damage to the kidneys. Even though milk has a relatively low glycaemic index. vitamins and minerals. This leaves you vulnerable to substandard.org. which translates (excuse the pun) into improved performance in our professional and private lives alike. as much as 70-80% of the world’s ‘As time-consuming as it might sound. eating patterns based around ready meals. a neurotransmitter responsible for thinking functions. all critical to good health. try to include as much fruit and veg as possible in your diet. I must say that I do not really like the concept of ‘diets’. In fact. An eating plan based on whole foods and fresh produce goes a long way towards ensuring optimal wellbeing and a positive outlook on life. dark chocolate. a healthy balanced diet of fruit. To paraphrase an old saying. as eggs have been found to raise HDL – the ‘good cholesterol’. as a high intake of fructose has been linked to obesity and high blood pressure. eggs do not lead to elevated blood cholesterol (there is no correlation between dietary intake of cholesterol and blood values). at best. a glass of milk might not. Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of polyphenols. making it an perfect snack companion. planning your meals can actually save you a lot of time during the week. eggs) appear to be superior to plant-derived proteins (such as beans and nuts). almonds and fruit. it can send your insulin levels soaring. Furthermore. Protein is the most filling macronutrient and helps to keep hunger at bay. branched chain amino acids and conjugated linoleic acids. tinned mackerel. It is also more cost-effective than eating out. whole grains and protein is unlikely to cause complications.uk darker they are. fibre. Plus let’s not forget that cooking can be fun. the opposite is true. Coming up in 2013: ■ I got my diet in check. with an increasing demand for the ‘white gold’. In order to boost your wellbeing. This is why you need to take an active approach to your nutrition and start planning your meals. or shopping while starving. leading to unnecessary dips in energy levels. vegetables. the higher the antioxidant content). a key component of acetylcholine. do a body good. oatcakes. to name a few. how can I further boost my cognitive performance? ■ How can I optimise my brain chemistry to achieve peak performance? ■ Are there any safe alternatives to coffee and green tea? ITI BULLETIN January-February 2013 29 . ranging from improved mood and a heightened state of wellbeing to improved body composition (muscleto-fat ratio). If you are not ready to give up your glass of milk just yet. Contrary to popular belief. creatine. Bear in mind that most of the goodness comes from the yolk. ■ We have all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. pre-planning your meals can actually save you a lot of time’ population cannot digest dairy properly. celery sticks. What’s more. berries. pecans.health PLAN YOUR MEALS As an interpreter it is likely that you spend a lot of time travelling from one location to another. Go for darkcoloured varieties if possible (the www. at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I like to devote one day a week to shopping and cooking for the week ahead (you can just freeze your meals and use them on an as-need basis). in most cases) restriction and calorie counting. which. Even those not overly concerned with the wellbeing of cows might want to keep in mind that high levels of hormones (particularly oestrogen) remain a concern in commercially available dairy products. comprehension of language and attention. after all. Animal sources of protein (meat. while superfoods in their own right. ■ A high intake of dietary protein seems to offer a host of benefits.