Go for good enough
“I know I should have packed my own, but this is still healthy, right?”
“You would probably disapprove of so much potato!”
It kind of surprises me every single time.
Because really, I don’t believe in super specific absolutes for health. I believe health is a nutritional, physical, mental, social, political, spiritual, and even financial thing. If we are absolutely perfect with our nutritional health, but we are never seeing people, spending all of our time cooking, and feel depressed and aimless, are we healthy?
OF COURSE NOT.
Let me tell you a story:
When I was anorexic I made every single one of my meals, and brought food with me wherever I went. On a regular basis my bag contained vegetable soup, salad, tiny scoops of quinoa or beans, apples, and unsweetened almond milk for coffee, just so I could get through the day 100% sure I would know every single thing that passed through my lips. People often said “I wish I could be as healthy as you!” as I ate.
On paper, I guess I was kind of healthy.
I ate ten to twenty servings of vegetables a day, I exercised every morning without fail. I never ate processed food or sugar or gluten or soy or animal products, of course. Oil did not enter my mouth, ever.
That’s one version of health, I guess.
Except that I wasn’t eating enough. And I was so weak I couldn’t really work, and I could hardly afford all the produce I was consuming, let alone anything else. I felt dead inside. Not, like suicidal, but like I was already gone. I was completely disconnected from other people. Do you know how often people bond and socialize over food or drink? Answer: All the time. I had micronutrients and that was it. I would never call that healthy.
Now, I choose to walk the middle line between only-cook-for-myself, eat-tons-of-veggies, never-eat-stuff-that-makes-me-feel-shitty and my-life-is-too-busy-to-cook, I-am-too-absorbed-in-what-I’m-doing-to-stop, friends-want-to-eat-out-all-the-time-so-I-do. At different points of my life, either of these modes of being has been my M.O. I didn’t actually spend much time exploring what’s in between until the past few years.
Today, I eat mostly whole foods: fruits, veggies, nut butters, organic soy, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, and beans. I am all about grains. I do, indeed, like potatoes and eat them regularly. I don’t often eat processed food, but occasionally I will happily chill with some Beyond Meat. IT’S SO GOOD. Sue me.
I try not to eat out more than 1-2 times a week, but when I do eat out I let myself enjoy it. Fact of the matter is, if I am eating something with a dialogue about how it is a bad food playing in my head, well, that sucks for me. Because I want to avoid paying for a sucky experience if I can, I enjoy myself. It took practice to get there.
Of course there are exceptions to my 1-2 times a week rule. I went to New York for the holidays, and I love the food in New York (Angelica Kitchen, BabyCakes, Champs, Johns of 12th street, I would love to marry you all). Because I love the food of NYC so much, I ate out most meals for five days. Is that ideal for me? No, not generally. Was it in this situation? Yes, yes it was. MMM. YUM. Would definitely do it again.
I work super hard in the gym. I lift, I run, I swim, I yoga, and I am basically there five times a week, without fail sweating and grunting and working my ass off in the corner. Some days I see a shadow of an ab, and I want to do a fucking backflip, because holy shit was that hard to get. I worked for that shadow for two years, and watching a physical goal come to fruition is super fun. It makes me happy, even in all its arbitraryness.
If I never ate out, I would see more abs, more of the time. That’s pretty much a fact. I could pre-package my food, and pump my iron, and be a totally ripped she-hulk with a buttload of tupperware. But you know what? I’ll take a little squish over a rock hard body. Because if I had the body 100% pre-packaged meals provided I wouldn’t be able to maintain the positive restaurant associations and social health that I have come to value. My world would be smaller, and for me that’s not worth it. If I was training for something specific, I might feel differently, but I’m not. For today, I am just trying to live my happy and fun life. A shadow of an ab is great, considering that fact.
My parting advice is something I heard my good friend Sarah Sky. It is this: go for good enough. Go for making your meals yourself most of the time, eating as well as you can, and moving your body. Eat out sometimes, for fun, and actually have fun. Let yourself be flexible depending on your circumstance. Trust that when you are doing your best to maintain balance, you will be okay.
That will do much, much more for your health than rigidity ever could.