Why aren’t you cooking more of your food?

Posted on January 17, 2012

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If you’re a regular reader, you know how I feel about excuses (they’re so blah). Use reasons to explain your behavior, then own that behavior. Don’t push your poor choices off on someone or something else. Going beyond that though, there’s something I think a lot of folks feel when it comes to fueling their bodies….they actually have ‘reasons’ for why they aren’t fueling themselves better.

Not even talking about true ‘fast food’ here. Although – fast food is just insane. I don’t understand how anyone can eat something with 20 ingredients in the *$*%$* (food item). And shut your mouth now before that “all things in moderation” lie comes out of it. Yep, it’s a total lie. And you’re better than that. I won’t let you go there. Did you know…and I’ve done the research looking at every ingredient in every item…that the ice cream is what I consider ‘closest to actual food’ at McDonalds? Even the grilled chicken isn’t anywhere near real chicken.

Fast food. Just don’t do it.

But what about all the other stuff that makes it on to your plate instead of a meal you cooked yourself? The booming world of ‘fast-casual’ dining that even the holy grail of healthy, Whole Foods, has gotten into takes up more and more of your plate space, & it’s part of the problem why the US is not as healthy as it needs to be. Food that someone else made, had 5 or more ingredients unnecessarily added into it, and is actually far more expensive than it’s under-$10 price tag shows…why are we eating that?

The main trade publication I read, IDEA Fitness Journal, had a great article on returning to the kitchen and slow food, and I thought I’d share the 4 reasons they listed as why Americans are sacrificing their health and their waistline to meals they didn’t make themselves. I agree with every reason they list, and share with you how I overcame those very reasons to reach the point I’m at today where 80+% of my meals, I made myself.

You see, many seem to think every other fitness pro has ‘it’ easy – ‘it’ being our body shape, our body’s fitness, our health…that we must have ‘good genes’ or no struggles like the rest of America. That couldn’t be further from the truth – and I’m going to tell you how I overcame each of these reasons that IDEA lists as why Americans aren’t cooking food more often.

We’re out of practice.

Totally!! Or, we were never IN practice to begin with. I didn’t cook until college, and then it was -open can of vegetables -microwave -spray with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” Spray <–see, I bastardized my own health at one point too! When I’d eat at the Student Union, I’d actually eat well – massive salad…although not enough protein or fat. Post-college, I’d heat up Lean Cuisines, as disgusting as those tasted, and call it dinner. Because I had no.idea. how to saute something, I didn’t have a general understanding of what temp to put things in at the oven and when I could expect them to be done. Once, I even put leftovers from a restaurant that were in plastic containers, into the oven to reheat – thinking that was better than microwaving it.

I just had no practice to fall back on, no learning experiences to work from. After dozens of meals where things were a bit burned, needed to go back into the oven because they weren’t cooked all the way, and cooking meals to figure out how much was enough to feed me and whomever else was at the table. You’re going to have to practice – & make mistakes – if you ever want to be a decent cook. And if you want to be truly optimally healthy…you’re gonna need to be a decent cook.

We think it’s too complicated.

All those dishes. All that clean up. blah blah BLAH. It is going to be complicated in the beginning. You’ll use too many pans when 1 would have done. You’ll make a mess. You’ll finish the vegetables early and they’ll need to be reheated once the meat is done. But that’s all normal. You ever watch a master of their craft in action? An artist, an Olympic athlete, even a Mr. Fix It who’s great with tools. They weren’t always as effortless in their actions as they appear to be now. They learned the ‘flow’ of their craft, and then they practiced it, and practiced it some more. They got their rhythm down. Then, after persistent work at it, made it look effortless.

Your health is worth whatever complications you have to go through to get to an understanding of how to take whatever you have left in the fridge and turn it into a tasty & healthy meal. Follow this recipe to get some uncomplicated practice under your belt. Or try this one that requires little work to be better than any takeout asian meal you can get. Then branch out a bit with your own ideas and experiences to work from!

We fear it.

Cooking is actually really simple once you get a few techniques down. It’s a lot like motoring yourself around town without trouble vs. desperately relying on your GPS. I can remember being completely confounded by driving directions (back when you had to use a map and write down your directions…you know, ancient history). I just could NOT understand how my parents and other adults could know how to get around, even in areas they didn’t know well. They had an understanding of how the roads ran, and “got” that if you came up on a certain major road, it ran east/west or north/south, and thus, they could take it and eventually run into the road they were looking for.

I began “cooking” by buying pre-formed, pre-seasoned turkey burger patties, frozen mixed veggies, & rice in a microwaveable bag. The quality of those meals was bad, but it got me practicing with timing, temperature, & flavor. Over time, I graduated to making my own turkey burgers with my own seasonings, sauteing fresh veggies & realizing that I didn’t need rice to fill me up if I just ate more of the healthier stuff.

It’s a progression folks, you just need to start down the path with the goal of ever-improving!

We over-commit & under-plan.

Boy do we ever. Client will often tell me, “I don’t have time for breakfast.” What they mean is, ‘I choose to sleep in more, or not go to bed early enough the night before so I’m dead-tired when I wake up, & thus, I don’t value eating a healthy breakfast at home before leaving for the day.’ If you get home & you just.can’t.cook. then you need to figure something out. Embrace the glorious leftover! Keep foods that cook extremely fast so that you can spend the last bit of energy you have on making yourself a meal that will nourish you & provide you energy for tomorrow’s adventures.

If I am focused the minute I walk into the kitchen, I can have dinner on the table in 15mins. Keep kale around to saute in butter/ghee, bacon grease, or coconut oil. Season with Celtic sea salt. Ready in 4 mins. Ground meat cooks very quickly – we eat grass fed ground beef several nights a week for this reason. Sure, a steak would be nice but it’s after 730pm, we have to be up at 5am tomorrow, there is a limited window to get food on the table & still get some time to unwind. So ground beef it is!

That picture above is “winter hash” that I threw together last night. In a pan, frozen green beans, cover & let steam a bit. Turn up heat, add beef. Season with salt, pepper. Break apart as it browns. When almost done, throw in part of a leftover acorn squash, cut into cubes. Season with chili powder. Turn in pan to slightly brown squash. In 15 mins, there was dinner! With enough left for lunch today!

It can be done folks. Eating is a requirement for life. No one is so important or busy that they have no time to sit down to a proper meal. The kitchen is where you’re going to advance your efforts for heath & performance, or it’s where you’ll hinder those efforts. Which do you prefer?

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Posted in: nutrition