It’s so easy to ignite the spark. It’s easy to read book and get inspired (heck, try reading one of these books and not being inspired).
Even easier if you’ve gone to the doctor and gotten some iffy bloodwork back. You’re so determined. You are going to become so healthy! Bam! Watch out!
Of course you want to take care of yourself and your family.
You get a cookbook and find a recipe that looks good. Maybe not what you’d normally eat but that’s the point of making a change, right? There might be a few ingredients you don’t have. Coconut oil? Okay, that’s $8.99 but I’m sure I’ll use it again sometime…
You chop. You mix. You cook something you’ve never cooked before. It might take a little bit longer than usual to get dinner on the table. It might turn out great, or it might not be quite right. Either way you’re feeling virtuous and carried along by that initial burst of energy. I am going to be a health nut dammit! This is so worth it!
Then it’s the next night, or maybe the night after that. You’re running late or you’re tired, or your toddler is teething and it has sapped your will to live. So you order takeout instead. Or pizza delivery. Or whatever your fallback usually is.
This is a natural response to stress. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and it doesn’t mean you don’t care about your health. It just means you can’t be one hundred percent vigilant at every moment. (duh!)
It also means broccoli goes bad in the fridge.
And so the next week when you’re at the grocery store, you look again at those expensive new ingredients, and think about that broccoli. And you can’t bear to waste more money on produce that will just go bad again, so you go back to what you were eating before. The things that you know how to make, the things that you know your family likes and will eat.
It’s hard to make lasting changes to the way you eat.
It’s hard because it takes time.
It’s hard because it takes money.
But money and time are just the surface issues, the easy things to point to–Oh, it’s so expensive. I don’t have the time. They don’t even begin to describe the real thing missing from most of our attempts to improve our eating habits:
I’m not talking about knowing the effects of sugar on the body, or knowing why greens are beneficial to your cells or other scientific facts like that. Book knowledge is the easy part (see above).
I am talking about the hidden work of experimenting and tweaking and finding what works for you and your family.
Like much of the work typically done by women, it’s often overlooked as actual work. But it is. You have to plan for this. You cannot skip it. If you think you can grab someone else’s system right off the shelf, you will fail.
You can have all the theories and labels you like: I’m going vegan! I’m going to follow a macrobiotic diet! juice fast! whole foods!
Those are great, but you need to plan for the real work of the everyday details. This is where it all happens. This is the connection between theories about nutrition and what actually makes it onto your plate.
It’s the laboratory experiment in your own kitchen, the quiet revolution in your own two hands, the small everyday magic that makes giant change possible.
And no one talks about it.
If you have tried to follow a “meal plan” out of a nutrition book you know this firsthand. It doesn’t work. Your kids throw their plates of quinoa on the floor. Your husband doesn’t like collard wraps. Hell, you don’t even like collard wraps. You finish dinner and you’re still hungry. You spend way too much money on groceries, and it’s not sustainable.
You just want to eat food that tastes good to you. You want to look forward to meals. You want cooking to be simple and intuitive. You don’t want to battle with your family. You want to be able to grab a snack that gives you energy and is yummy and filling.
You don’t want to have to use willpower to get through your day. You want to feel cared-for and loved and nourished. You want to eat healthy food that you love and that seems like second-nature to prepare.
I am here to tell you that all of this is possible. But not if you try overnight to become someone who loves raw kale as a snack. Not if you try to follow someone else’s idea of a “meal plan.”
There is no substitute for doing the work of gaining the knowledge about yourself and your family. I’m sorry, I wish it could happen quicker. But it does take a while. It doesn’t happen overnight.
And no one can do this work for you. Not the expert meal plans. Not me. (I can tell you what I like and what my family likes. Maybe some of the things that work for us will work for you. And I will tell you the long winding process of how I figured it out, which I hope will help you.)
The happy news is that when you take it slow–when you take the time to experiment and find foods that your own unique real-life family loves, when you find systems that work for you–it really is painless. You don’t have to beat yourself up by depriving yourself or using willpower to make it through the day.
It can be fun and interesting and it can be an act of love. And one day, after you’ve been experimenting for a few months or a year, you’ll look around and realize that holy crap, you are making healthy food every day. And it just feels like second nature, and you didn’t have to become some sort of super-human in order to do it. In fact, you didn’t have to change much about yourself at all. And it’s not any harder or more expensive than making the old kind of food. It’s just different.
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