I had a challenger sum up the struggle a lot of us face in adulthood in a simple sentence, “I finally realized I can’t out exercise my diet.” We like to blame our inability to find time to workout as the reason we struggle with our health. This was totally me! “Sure, I exercise-but I am already pretty thin I don’t really need a meal plan, I just need to exercise more. Ok, so these last few pounds of baby weight are being stubborn, but that is just because I can’t run as much as I’d like. FINE, I’m a little tired and headachy, and prone to sinus infections and strep, but that’s just the weather, or hormones, or you know, life. Whatever. I just need more cardio.”
You know the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it’s true. But a better one is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You know where prevention happens? In the kitchen. What you eat matters, folks. A LOT.
And I totally get why people fight against this concept. For one, sure balancing food groups has always been imperative for optimal physical health, but a hundred years ago what was available to eat was a LOT different from today-a hundred years ago people were mostly still eating food. Convenience food changed the game, it has so screwed up the typical Western diet that we have to have a label (clean eating) for eating actual food. The problem with convenience food is that quite simply a lot of it ISN’T food. I have nothing against chemicals or modern medicine or technology-but chemicals that aren’t food, well, they AREN’T FOOD.
My youngest son tries to eat everything. For awhile I found mulch that had passed through his system in his diaper on a weekly basis. I continued to try and prevent him from getting into the garden. Why? Because mulch isn’t food, people. Sure, he managed to pass it (THANK GOODNESS) but that doesn’t make it food! Not only is there no nutritive value to mulch, but his body had to work to process it and filter out any toxins that existed in the dye or from simply being outside in the garden. So much of what is in processed food isn’t food anymore (or ever was) and it puts a strain on your body’s systems as it tries to filter out all the foreign crap-just like my son eating mulch-and your body get’s very little for it’s efforts. We’ve tried to cheat the system by stripping foods of all their nutrients so that they can be convenient and quick, pack them full of fat, sugar, and salt so that they don’t taste like the cardboard they’re reduced to, and then we just dump a bunch of chemically synthesized vitamins in at the end to try and make up for it. Never mind that our bodies don’t process synthesized vitamins as well as those found in the natural form-we mark it “Enriched!” and use it as a selling point.
People look at you like you must be some die hard health nut when you talk about “clean eating” but if you think about it, NOT eating “clean” is a fairly recent phenomenon. I’m eating food, guys. That’s all. I season it with spices and herbs, I cook it with oil or steam or dry heat, I chop it, I slice it, sometimes all I do is rinse it off. It’s not weird, it’s food.
You know what? You can still eat unhealthily while eating clean. I can (and sometimes do, haha) make desserts that are “clean” that are just as loaded with sugar and fat and deliciousness. My portions can still be completely out of whack. I could get completely overweight but still be eating clean-it would just take more effort. And THAT is where the rub comes in.
People like to blame gluttony and poor impulse control/lack of willpower for the expanding waistlines and rapidly rising disease rates all around us-but the truth is gluttony is only half the problem, and sometimes I don’t think it’s even that much. The real problem is laziness. We’re completely disconnected from the work it takes to make food, and if we are honest with ourselves-we really don’t want to reconnect.
Case in point-when I decided to stop buying store bought bread and to only eat the stuff I made from scratch-I ate a LOT less bread. Every slice was weighed and considered. And absolutely savored. Making bread is time consuming, and I knew as soon as I ate the last loaf I’d have to make more. I gravitate towards simple recipes because of the time commitment that many recipes take. The end results of complex recipes are often stunningly delicious-but I am more often than not unwilling to spend that much time preparing. I know I’m not the only one who is lazy when it comes to food.
Bread straight from the oven = Heaven. On. Earth.
Many women seem to take pride in their hatred for the culinary arts-and as a backlash against society I get it, but it’s not healthy. And men seem to have this weird “if it’s not grilling it’s not manly” vibe going on that-not being a man-I totally don’t understand. Regardless, it isn’t healthy. I’m not saying everyone has to “love cooking”, but when we talk about making food as something we can “choose” to do or not based simply on how much we enjoy it, we’re thinking about food completely wrong. You don’t have to love prepping food (I don’t), you don’t have to feel bliss as you season soup, or joy as you roast a chicken, or bubbles of wonderment as you lay the labor of your hands on the dinner table. None of those things are necessary for your life. Food, however, you must eat. And to be kind to your body you should try to eat as little “not food” as you can. This means you will have to prep food, and will probably want to cook it, and season it, and make it taste ok. The place this typically happens is the kitchen. It doesn’t require love or hate, making food should simply be a fact of life.
With that said-I’m still lazy, or well, time conscious. With two adorable ankle biters howling around my knees every time I set foot in the kitchen, I still prefer quick foods. And you can still have that and eat clean and healthily. I eat fruits straight out of the fridge-takes less then 5 seconds to grab a handful of grapes or an apple or strawberries or whatever. I scramble eggs almost daily. Just two eggs with some dill. No milk, no chopped veggies, no anything but eggs and herbs. 10 minutes tops. I eat red peppers without slicing them-like one oddly lumpy vegetable apple. You can’t tell me that the drive through is quicker than half the stuff I eat-because it isn’t. And half the “quick and easy” boxed meals take longer then the dinners I choose plus they taste half as good.
Trying (and failing, haha) to get a boys and me selfie. Notice the red pepper? Mmmm yum!
Give food a chance, people. Give cooking a chance. Don’t set out to make a three course meal, just learn how to make eggs the way you like them. Figure out your favorite fruit. Discover where your aversion to spending time in the kitchen comes from-society pressures, bad experiences, impossible expectations-and take steps to correct it. You might be surprised at how easy it is to eat well when you step back and get out of your own way. 😉