Thigpens visit Beneficial Foods to talk about nutrition, exercise

Published 4:39 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011

January is a month of beginnings. For many who resolve to bring change in the New Year, the focus is on continuing or improving overall health and well-being.

Tim Thigpen, a Greenville business owner, visited Beneficial Foods on the Adawehi Institute campus in Columbus with his son to discuss elements of their familys commitment to lifestyle choices that benefit their health and athletic performance.

This story of dedicated runners Thigpen and his nine-year-old son, T.J., draws attention to the value of exercising as a family (or with a buddy) and eating a healthy, high-quality diet. Thigpen met members of the Beneficial Foods team when he participated in the recent Tuesday Schools 5K race (about 3.1 miles).

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In an interview at Beneficial Foods, one of the races co-sponsors, Thigpen said, over the last 10 years, aside from the fact that he moved from the 40-something age group to the 50-something group, only one other factor changed significantly. The big change was that he began a consistent emphasis on fresh, unprocessed, natural food in his familys diet. He says he avoids processed foods and eats organic fruits and vegetables, wild caught fish, and nutrient rich grains.

During their visit, the Thigpens talked with Robby Booth, head of the bakery at Beneficial Foods and also a runner. Booth had this to say about healthy carbohydrates: Whole grain breads are loaded with fiber and nutrients, as opposed to white flour breads, which are essentially sugar disguised as a starch.

Thigpen said nutrition, exercise, and parenting are emerging as avenues to improved health for children and families. Healthy alternative foods are now readily available that were not so accessible a few years ago.

Over the last 30 years, childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled, Thigpen said. In 2008, the prevalence of obesity was estimated at 15.6 percent among 6- to 11-year-olds and was 18 percent among 12 to 19-year-olds. Based on 2007 survey data, 85 percent&bsp; of North Carolina teens eat fewer than the recommended fruits and vegetables each day. About 57 percent of North Carolina teens do not get enough physical exercise and 35 percent watch three or more hours of television each day.

Thigpen says he enjoys coaching his son on nutrition and exercise. He talks to T.J. about how his own race performance has improved, although he is getting older. Thigpen attributes his ability to shave off minutes from his race times to his healthy diet.

A life-long runner, Thigpen ran in the 21-minute range in 5K races during most of his 40s. On Jan. 8, 2008, he ran the YMCA Travelers Rest, S.C., New Years Resolution 5K at 21:07, finishing first in his age group and 10th overall.

A year later, after further improving his nutritional program, his time was 19:36 when he ran the same race, same course, but a year older. On Jan. 22, 2005, he ran the Race for the Grasshopper 5K held at Cowpens National Battlefield at 20:55. Four years later (from age 47 to 51), he ran the same race and course on Jan. 10, 2009, at 19:11. Thigpen said, My next goal is to get into the 18s!

T.J., the younger Thigpen, is eating and running in his fathers footsteps. T.J. has won first place in four of the five races he ran from June through August in 2010. His first place wins were in 10 and under and 12 and under age groups. T.J.s second place finish during this time was in the 15 and under age group on July 31 in the Folkmoot 5K in Waynesville, where he came across the finish line at 23:08.

In September at the Tri the Ridge Youth Triathlon in Pickens, SC, T.J. finished first with a time of 11:23. The second place winner was not even close at 14:10.

T.J. said he also understands that his nutritional program, consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and proteins high in Omega-3s, keeps him healthy and competitive.

For more information, call Beneficial Foods at 828-894-0737. Beneficial Foods is on the Adawehi Institute and Healing Center campus off Fox Mountain Road in Columbus, and online at