I am not a doctor. As much as I would love to swivel in chairs and have the confidence to say things like “basal cell carcinoma” without tripping over my words, I’m have to abandon my TV trope-tinged vision of what working in the medical profession must be like. However, I am a person with a body, a stomach, and the need to keep this whole dog and pony show metabolizing from one day to the next.
When I was in university, eating three square meals a day was so much easier because I controlled every single aspect of my life. Now that I’ve moved back in with my parents, I find it hard to strike a balance and have regressed quite a lot in self-care. It’s as if my dumb brain finds out that it can’t control everything anymore and so I just give up and drift down to zero effort instead of recognizing which actions I can take to improve the situation. This summer was marked by some pretty bad eating habits, and since I’ve identified them and put in the work to improve them, I’ve felt much better. Here’s how I got myself back on track:
Don’t skip breakfast. This is maybe the hardest part to change, but I promise that you’ll see the biggest reward once you start paying attention to your body and giving it what it needs. There are still days where I slip up, but finding one or two go-to meals (fruit and yogurt with chia seeds and hemp hearts! Savoury rice cooker grains with an egg on top!) has saved my ass and improved my focus like whoa.
Get it all in one go. Oh my goodness, get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about fruits and vegetables and other things that can be pulverized into a pulp. Smoothies are the easiest way to feel like I’m on top of my shit, even with an overflowing inbox and clothes that need to be folded and bills that need to be paid. Take this morning for example: I rolled out of bed at 10 am (oops), spent ten minutes browsing the news on my phone, then padded downstairs and threw some wilted kale, carrots, the juice of two oranges, a brown banana, and some frozen raspberries and whirrrrrrr – now I don’t have to worry about my plant intake for the rest of the day. I am vehemently against cold-pressed juices because you’re paying for a brand, a self-perception of wellness, and some extraordinarily expensive juice. Plus, they take out all of the fibres and roughage, which is the stuff that’s actually good for you. Say no to juicing!
Figure out what you like. Browse recipe blogs, Pinterest boards and supermarket aisles. What tastes are you drawn to? What do you enjoy eating? Assemble some simple recipes that you can memorize and pull out when you only want to use half your brain to cook. My arsenal includes lots of rice and derivations of vinegar and hot sauce, and I just switch out different vegetables and proteins and combinations of seasoning.
Shop smarter. Confession: I love flyers. They’re how I plan most of my meals because seeing a price reduction incentivizes purchasing an item and incorporating it into what I already like to eat. There are two approaches to shopping, and neither one of them is better than the other, it just depends on how your life is already stacked. There’s the “as needed” method, in which you pick up a couple of items at a time. Then there’s the big shop, which requires planning and transportation. Bring your iPod and listen to some music or a podcast while you wait in line, because there will be lines.
Don’t get too ambitious. This applies to almost all habit formation. If you convince yourself that from now on it’s only going to be gourmet paleo grass-fed meals then you’re setting yourself up to fail. It’s important not to feel guilt or shame about where you’re at now, because eating isn’t a neutral act and it’s tied to how you feel about your body. There’s going to be a lot to unravel before you get to a place where eating well is second nature, but taking the time to check in with yourself about what eating well means to you is going to help you accomplish your goal.