Honestly, I've been slacking on the cooking front. There are two clearcut reasons for this. (1) My boyfriend is a chef and because he's home more during this COVID time, he's doing most of the cooking. (2) I don't feel completely safe going to the grocery store as frequently as before.
But, the main reasons I've shied away from cooking go deeper. I keep fixating on the physics principle that an object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest. You know the one. Well, basically, the last couple months I am perpetually at rest. Lol. In the hazy, sedentary milieu of inactivity, mild depression and anxiety about the world, I definitely haven't felt especially inspired to create (aka, get into motion). For me, what's matched my temperament far better than trying new recipes and focusing on healthy ingredients, is doing what's super easy and low impact. That would be ordering out or grabbing whatever frozen thing that I can deem a meal from the freezer. We have indulged far more than usual in processed shit and I definitely feel crappy about it.
indulgence IS NOT self care
For a while I convinced myself that what I'm doing is self-care. Late night trips to Dairy Queen, frozen corn dogs and tater tots for dinner, mac and cheese for days, etc. Indulgence eating. Basically, daily I am consuming all the foods I normally give a second thought to and try not to eat on the regular. And it's all so normal now. Some days I genuinely believe eating like this is self-care...and it can be. Those days are, for example, the ones where the kids have been extra-rambunctious. Or, and this is the most common, especially lately: the days when COVID, Black Lives Matter protests, needless killings of people of color, government systems erasing the rights of trans people, and worrying about the safety of my friends just breaks me by the end of the day.
I'm not trying to be dramatic and it's weird to sum up all of these massive, life-altering, tragic goings-ons in one clean sentence, but simply put, the deep sadness and worry of it ALL definitely sucks my energy and my will to take care of myself.
SO, WHAT REALLY IS SELF CARE?
Self-care is definitely not what everyone says it is. I keep returning to this article from Thought Catalogue which articulates so well what self-care truly is. It came out a couple years ago and is regularly updated. Part of the premise is that self-care, as society defines it, is actually a means of escaping life instead of really caring for yourself and confronting life. True self-care is doing things (often ugly or boring things) which, overtime, will enhance your life so you don't need those escapist activities (i.e. bubble baths, lots of alcohol, etc.) to get through the week. [pullquote]True self care 'means being the hero of your life, not the victim.'[/pullquote]
I keep revisiting this article because its concept of self care is truly illuminating and I need to keep re-hearing it. True self care "means being the hero of your life, not the victim." This is profound, and far beyond the chocolate and trashy magazine type of self-care that we know about. It's doing what you have to do in order to take your control back. Listing all your stressors, taking a chance on something, making a budget, meal planning, meal prep, drinking more water, cutting out toxic relationships, cleaning out your bathroom drawers, whatever. Self-care is paying attention to what's holding you back in life and taking empowering steps towards making that life of yours bearable and hopefully, fulfilling.
Self Care can be simple & practical
I digress...but this is all related and I swear this is still a post about food 😂 What this all comes to for me is a realization that I really do need some consistent, legit self-care. The practical kind. I feel best when I'm making lists to organize my thoughts...and exercising when I don't want to...and not letting myself watch a marathon of that TV show, even though it feels (falsely) comforting and self-care-y. These endeavors may feel frustrating in the moment, but I am always thankful that I did them over opting for easy indulgences.
In the midst of stewing over all of this, I came across this article on self-care and food prep from Livestrong, which was excellent timing, and which inspired me greatly. While I know that healthy food makes me feel better, I wasn't really considering that putting myself in a position to eat better (not only the eating itself) was also a major form of self-care.
MEAL PREP CAN HELP YOU EAT HEALTHIER
In a celebrity, dream world, if I had a personal chef, hell ya, I'd eat healthy. If, when I was hungry, someone showed up with a plate of steamed veggies, salmon, and quinoa, I would eat that shit up and love it. I love ALL food, including vegetables and healthy proteins. But those aren't the things that are convenient. You need to have fresh ingredients on hand, and things already rinsed and chopped. The meal prep needs to have already happened! Then, I suppose, I could whip up that meal.
But we all fool ourselves into thinking that we don't have the time or energy. I mean, I can think of all the hundreds of times I've stood in the pantry for 5+ minutes just looking for something to eat. If all my ingredients were prepped, that same 5 minutes could be all I need to throw something in a pan and have a meal ready.
MEAL PREP CAN REDUCE STRESS
The biggest takeaway from the Livestrong article for me is that food prep reduces stress. And who doesn't need a dose of stress reduction right now?! This is about taking steps to make sure food can easily be made when you're hungry...that you don't have to worry about it. I will say that I am not a super scheduled or super regimented person. Sometimes too much prep freaks me out. So, advanced meal prep is not common sense to me. Or, at least, it's not something that springs to mind as an anxiety alleviator.
But, while this is about preparation, it's also about creativity. Entertaining the idea of different combinations of food. You can have a handful of different ingredients chopped/cooked/whatever ready in the fridge, and eat them for days, as different dishes. It's like those cheesy magazines that show you how to pack for a 'weekend getaway' with five articles of clothing you can wear each day in different outfit combos. Haha. Instead of skirt, cardigan, wrap, blouse, and tank top, though, it's quinoa, a roasted chicken, black beans, sour cream, and steamed veggies. As along as your have it semi-planned out, you won't go hungry. And you won't eat a bag of Cheetos for dinner. Ummm...not that I know anything about that!
Join me in finding a small sense of calm
The last several weeks I've been trying to fight the depression...trying to reclaim control over my life. If you know what this feels like at all, you know how any practical steps towards fulfillment (or, at least, normalcy) are welcome and intensely needed. Meal prep is one suggestion I'm utilizing to help bring the pieces of life back together for myself.
I hope you join me in my first attempt at meal planning through consolidated meal prep. At least, this will be my first attempt at organized meal prep during COVID. I am working on recipes that you can prep for altogether, on whichever day of the week you chose. For instance, I choose Thursday night to do all the prep because I have my kids every other Friday for a week. That way, I can throw together lunches/dinners easily when the kids are with me. And it takes no time at all. I'm in the midst of testing out these recipes and creating concise instructions for prepping. Keep an eye out next week for the full post, with ALL the info.
I gotta say...I already feel better. There is a sense of calm knowing that I can do something which seems super small and practical, that will enhance my mental health. Next step....cutting back on the wine 😬🍷.