3 nutrition lessons from Moneyball

baseball photo - Photo Credit: theseanster93
Photo Credit: Sean Winters/theseanster93 via Flickr
Used unmodified under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license

What does a baseball movie have to say about the world of nutrition? Quite a bit, actually.

This weekend, I got a chance to watch Moneyball (2011, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill). The movie tells the story of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, who recruits undervalued players based on the results of a computer analysis program created by a baseball analyst.

This analyst has a degree in economics, and is often criticized for not having played baseball or gained experience in the recruiting side of the game. Instead, he has a degree in economics, and he created his computer program using the ideas of a security guard, who wrote a book on the topic (the guard is also criticized throughout the movie).

This brings me to the first nutrition lesson:

finger with light bulb - Photo Credit Tsahi Levent-Levi - Some rights reserved (Creative Commons Attribution)
Photo Credit: Tsahi Levent-Levi
CC BY 2.0

1. Ideas come from everywhere.

Nutrition relies on information from psychology and marketing, and public health nutrition uses system science knowledge, which is common in fields such as engineering.

While not everyone should make nutrition recommendations, there is great opportunity for collaboration and fresh perspectives from people in other fields.

The economics-trained analyst introduced new ways to think about baseball. This caused resistance from people who only thought of baseball recruiting in the traditional sense, which leads into the second lesson:

thought bubble - Photo Credit: Chicago Art Department
Photo Credit: Chicago Art Department
CC BY 2.0

2. Improvement often requires a change in thinking.

Maybe you (or someone you know) think you (or them) are too fat to lose weight, or too lazy to exercise, or that you will always fail at whatever goal you set for yourself.

Change these thoughts to create more positive self-talk and less resistance to healthy behaviors.

In the movie, Beane faced resistance from the traditional baseball recruiters when he needed to replace the first baseman, one of the team’s best players. Beane couldn’t afford an equally fantastic player, but he could afford three undervalued players that together were as good as (or better than) the one he was losing. And that is the third lesson:

Small steps add up!

3. Small changes can be better than one big change.

Small changes are often easier to accept and serve as building blocks for bigger changes. Small changes, such as exercise or cutting calories, add up to much bigger results. The CDC says “10 minutes at a time is fine” for physical activity (10 minutes x 3 each day = 30 minutes of recommended activity), and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides Ways to Shave Calories (using small changes).

Now that you know what lessons Moneyball has to teach us about nutrition, how are you going to apply these lessons? To what other areas of life can you apply the lessons? Leave some comments below.

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Lessons from my first year of grad school

A very small selection of my many textbooks for the past year, with a page from my very full planner. (C) 2012 Shelly Najjar
Only a few of the textbooks I have from this past year, and a glimpse of my overly packed planner.

I have officially finished Year One of grad school. During that time, I wrote papers, took tests, stressed about deadlines, and learned some things about nutrition and public health.

But I expected that.

What I didn’t expect was to learn so much about myself, about the way I work and think, and about life in general. Here are the three biggest lessons I learned this school year.

1. Choosing something means not choosing other things.

This is difficult for me to remember, because I really want to do everything. Then I remember to practice saying no, and think about this quote, which I saw when passing by a church marquee:

You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

After talking with some people who know me and whose opinions I deeply respect, it seems that knowing my priorities is possibly the best way to make choices that I won’t regret, or that may even allow me to manage time well enough to choose more than one option.

2. Don’t procrastinate when facing things you don’t want to do. You won’t want to do them any more later than you do right now.

Speaking of time management, the temptation to procrastinate has become a big challenge for me, so this lesson is extra important. When I have something I don’t want to do (but must do), I find that it is better to just suck it up and focus on finishing, even when I don’t feel like it, so that I have more time to do something that is appealing later on.

I’ve also found that for this past quarter, it works better for me to choose one or two things to work on the entire day, instead of choosing eight things to work on for one hour each. (I used to do this so I wouldn’t get bored, but while learning about doing unpleasant things now, I realized I often used this “one hour” trick to procrastinate.)

3. You can do more than you think.

I have never been more academically challenged than I was this past year. It is frustrating and overwhelming, but it produces the best feeling of accomplishment. If I hadn’t been given as many assignments, as much responsibility with my fieldwork, or as much encouragement, I wouldn’t know that I could accomplish all that I did.

It has been a crazy experience so far, but overall, I’ve made progress toward my goal of focusing on learning (instead of focusing on getting good grades). Thank you to everyone who gave me encouragement and advice over the past year!