Work. That word has bad connotations for many of us. Work is perhaps what takes you away more than you’d like from your family. Perhaps it is what tires you out. Or takes you away from the pursuits that give you the most joy.
So when we are told that eating healthy takes “work” it leaves a bad taste in our mouth. But I would like to propose two things to you today. One, work is not a negative thing. And secondly, the faster we acknowledge that eating healthy does require activity (or work) and planning, the more successful we will be in actually fulfilling our healthy eating goals.
(For email subscribers, check out my Cheat Sheet to a Healthy Diet in Ten Easy Steps – It’s my gift to my email subscribers right now! It shows that it doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to make some great changes in your kitchen. Yes, it takes work, but in the very best sense!).
Why we consider working a bad thing
What are some of the reasons we consider “work” to be such a bad thing? One of the reasons I believe we view work so negatively is because we associate work with unfulfilling jobs and exhausting hours. We associate it with making money, not accomplishing goals. And we live such busy lives, anything that requires extra activity is met with groans.
But work doesn’t have to be those things. A simple definition of work can be “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” Work can mean reading a book to your child, taking a walk, journaling, playing music, gardening, and chopping vegetables. All of these activities take physical or mental effort, but that doesn’t mean they are negative activities. In fact, I don’t know of anything worthwhile in life that doesn’t require some activity behind it. Even the act of meditation takes mental effort.
Work is not the problem. But our attitudes towards work can be.
I think the biggest hang up a lot of us have towards eating healthy is that we want to create new habits without effort or exertion. We fool ourselves into thinking that healthy eating should be effortless, or at least very easy, and so we set ourselves up for failure.
But the fact is, it takes effort, some planning, and commitment. We now have many fairly effortless ways to feed ourselves available in the stores, the fast food line, and the restaurants surrounding us, and they have taught us that food can be easily attained without much effort.
Perhaps we have started to feel that this effortless way of feeding ourselves should be our right. Whereas in the past the work of feeding our families and ourselves was a simple fact of life, now we have to choose between pre-packaged foods and cooking from scratch. And if you’ve never had to learn the art of cooking, it can seem a daunting amount of work to learn.
If that’s you, here is some encouragement for you.
Reframe the word work in relationship to food
The job of feeding yourself (and your family) healthy food will be a much happier event if you can reframe the word work. If you go into the kitchen resenting the work it takes to feed yourself, it’s going to be an unhappy relationship. There are a lot of things that I can feel resentful towards in the kitchen if I’m not careful.
For example, I do enjoy cooking, but I dislike doing the dishes. However, if I can turn my mind towards the benefits of doing the dishes and how doing them helps me accomplish my wider goals of nourishing my family and myself, I can embrace the work happily. Yes, I wouldn’t put doing certain chores on the top ten list of things I enjoy. However, you know what I do enjoy? Feeding my family food that helps them thrive and have good energy. Food that brings them pleasure. Seeing the wider goals and benefits can make even my least favorite chores more positive.
Know that while it can be simple, it does take some time and effort
However, that said, I do want to clarify that there are a lot of ways you can eat simply to cut down on the workload. There have been times when I have tried to keep too many things spinning in the kitchen at the same time, and I have spent too much time in the kitchen.
Working smarter, faster, and cooking more simple food has gone a long way in cutting down the time I spent in the kitchen. Recipes we love but take more time aren’t made on as regular of a basis. Recipes that make good leftovers are made in larger batches. You can spend a huge amount of time in the kitchen if you’d like too. But few of us have the luxury of spending half the day in the kitchen (though I suspect half of us mothers feel that we do regardless of our cooking methods). The point is this: It does take work and activity and planning. But you can also streamline the process, learn to cook faster, and cook smarter for less time spent working in the kitchen.
The more you practice the faster you can become and the more effortless it will seem
This leads me to another important point. Like anything else, the more you practice, the faster and more effective you can become in the kitchen. One of the trends I see in the cooking world is to view cooking as a kind of luxurious weekend activity; an activity to use to relax, like your yoga class. I truthfully think that we should not view all of our cooking that way because, once again, it sets ourselves up for failure in eating healthy on a consistent basis. Instead, we should view it as “activity done in order to achieve a purpose or a goal”.
Like all skills, it does take time and effort to become better at it, and there is a learning curve. But we should focus on the purpose and goal, and that should include becoming skilled and wise enough in the kitchen to make the most of our time there. Our goal in the kitchen is not to once in a while spend the weekend creating gourmet spreads of food, and then eating food on the fly the rest of the week. Our goal is to consistently eat well. And for that to happen, being able to use effectively what time you have in the kitchen is crucial. Practice makes perfect here.
Acknowledging and accepting that there will be a time commitment, a learning curve to the cooking process, and that cooking healthy does require some work will go a long way in helping you succeed long term in eating well.
I’ve accepted the fact that eating well takes effort and time on my part, and I’m fine with that. In all other areas of my life if I am going to achieve my goals and hopes, I also expect to use effort and time to achieve them.