I would have never believed this if you had looked at me with kind eyes and a knowing smile two weeks ago. I can almost guarantee I would nod along politely and make eye contact to let you know I was listening, but I wouldn’t have bought it. Because lifestyle changes – they are hard. So hard. And they take time, too. Weeks, months, years, decades, a lifetime. That is what we are told all the time. That change, though achievable will take soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo long. Oh and it’s hard.
Our family adopted a cleaner diet and though I was the head cheerleader – peppy repping the benefits – (Gimme a nectarine! Unsalted cashews, I can’t HEAR YOU!!!! Where my Mrs. Dash’s grilled chicken breasts, at?!) Inwardly, I was sullen and doubtful that I could stick to making healthy choices at every turn. No stranger to fruits and veggies, looking at the labels seemed extreme.
I had plenty of good excuses like eating healthy is expensive, right? Well, not if you eat a serving size which (spoiler alert) usually means one of something. Weird. I am not sure exactly when I decided that a serving size really was a serving platter size, but somewhere along the line my portions grew and grew and grew. Shrink that and I am willing to bet you will feel better. When I got over the initial indignation of measuring things out, using actual measuring spoons and cups, I realized how off the mark I was. This alone was a money saver. Items that had been consumed in one sitting are stretching out to several days and in some cases, more than a week.
Oh, but the prep is so annoying. Yes, I get that it does take some effort. But if you have a few cutting boards, colanders, sharp knives and containers, you are well ahead of the game. (Side bar, I know engaged couples are forgoing a traditional wedding registry in favor of groupon experiences or honeymoon funds, but is you are of the marrying persuasion, consider adding the above mentioned items to your registry. If you aren’t up for a spouse and a new way of eating, you are going to have to shell out a little upfront but it will make your life easier – says the person who has tried to use cookie sheets in place of cutting boards and also tried to achieve uniformity in cantaloupe pieces with a teaspoon instead of a melon baller, I know of which I speak). Yes, you have to grocery shop, but chances are you are already doing that. Rice-a-roni and similar sides are easily swapped for oven roasted veggies (take about any veg and give a light coat of olive oil and seasoning, put it in the oven at 425 and in twenty minutes you have more than enough for a family of four). Fruit prep comes down to washing. If you want to exercise your highfalutin right to be civilized I guess you could slice the fruit too, but that is optional. We have been eating a lot of chicken marinated in a little olive oil with citrus fruit or herbs, crushed garlic and shallots which tastes great and looks nice plated. Which leads me to the dishes.
As a young mom I read an article about chores and resentment and marriage and family and I wish I saved it because I want to credit the author (I can hear a collective AMEN in the blogosphere for that one). It boiled down to this; if you can’t get out of something you might as well get really into it. The writer went on to describe a moment of kitchen clean up where he looked over and pointed to a loaded sink and instead of cursing it, gave his best rock star performance scanning an imaginary crowd and calling out, “Can I get a hell yeah for the dishes?!” I can’t muster his enthusiasm most nights, but I feel good knowing we all ate dinner together and it was nutritional, cooked with love and presented to people I want the best for. We have a dishwasher (which I personally feel you can’t fully appreciate until you haven’t had one) and I am totally capable of cleaning up.
Aside from my initial longing for coffee (today I brewed a chai tea and added a splash of unsweetened vanilla cashew milk, not the same as Dunkin Donuts light and sweet in case you needed confirmation), it has gotten easier with each day. There is no need to ask what I want for lunch. I will be having a salad with chicken or tuna. Breakfast is a smoothie or a piece of fruit and some almonds or a veggie omelet.
I am paying attention to things like target heart rates and what my skin looks like and how I am sleeping at night and it’s all adding up to make me feel very present and alive. Instead of planning when I might start to pay attention to what I am eating or how I can psych myself up to work out, I am just doing it. The hard part of it diminishes each time I am dynamically doing it. Much like the practice of writing, the hard part isn’t the work or the process; it’s the feeling incapable before you start. It’s the self-imposed torture of scarcity in both scenarios. We don’t have the time. It will cost too much. You need extensive prep work (like maybe a MFA or publishing credits) to be able to do it. You can arguably benefit from more time and an allowance and accumulated learning about a craft before working on it. The lack of any or all of these “requirements” can materialize as a padlocked door closed to your potential. However, even that door can be breached with enough commitment. So with kind eyes and a knowing smile, hear me when I say it gets miraculously easier. Keep going. I’ve got a “hell yeah” for the dishes and one for you too on the other side of our excuses.