An article about a health coach who successfully helped people lose weight recently intrigued me. I wasn’t intrigued by the topic (because there are only a million diet books and health coaches out there), but by her starting point. She didn’t start with her client’s diets; She started with their house.
She helped them go through their house and get it generally organized and helped them establish a good routine. And then, and only then, did she start overhauling their diet. This method produced great results for her clients. She knew that once their general household was running more smoothly, which helped them feel in control of their life with a real sense of accomplishment, they would feel more confident in the ability to change their diet and stick with it.
This got me thinking about a more holistic approach to eating a nourishing diet. Can we really expect to easily put a good dinner on the table when the rest of our life is chaos? But then again, I have kept a fairly good menu going even during really chaotic times, so while not ideal, is that just a reality we have to live with?
As I have thought about this topic I have felt two things. The first being this, we can’t expect a nourishing diet to appear out of nowhere. It does take time, commitment, and planning to happen on a regular basis, and it is born much more easily out of a well-balanced lifestyle than a hectic one. My second thought is this, if we only expect to be able to eat well during peaceful, non-stressful time, than we will give up. It’s a bit of a paradox, but let me delve into both further.
How a simplified or disciplined life will keep you on track
Like the health coach above, we need to understand that a well organized meal plan and good eating habits are much better born out of a well organized and disciplined life. We should also understand that gaining control over one area of our life (yes, even things like gaining control over our laundry – my personal nemesis) encourage us to make other changes too. For example, have you ever noticed that when you have one small victory – whether it’s losing those first five pounds, cleaning the bathroom, gaining a new client in your business, or getting a thumbs-up from your new boss – that it inspires you to go on and accomplish something new? Success breeds success, so when we find success in gaining control over our general life, finding success in eating how we want to no longer looks so intimidating.
I am just starting to delve into two books that have so far been so helpful and inspiring for general lifestyle choices. (Both of these books are part of the 86 ebook bundle package along with my cookbook, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons). The first is Tsh’s book, One Bite at a Time (Tsh blogs at the popular blog, Simplemom.net). Her book is specifically set up to give you 52 projects that you can complete on your own schedule helping you move towards a more simplified, organized life. I have only read through a couple of her projects but have already started implementing some of her suggestions. I love that she doesn’t try to rush the process for you, but allows you to take it “one bite” at a time.
The other is Crystal’s ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. (Crystal blogs at MoneySavingMom.com.) What I love about this book is that it is focuses on discipline specifically. And, correct me if I am wrong, but I know that many of us struggle with being disciplined in our lives and that word “discipline” almost seems like a bad word!
But the wonderful, beautiful thing about discipline is that it can help us have the time that we crave to get done what we want to! Unlike Tsh’s book, which is set up to take you a year (or more), Crystal’s book is set up to help you make changes in 21 days – changes that can easily make your life more disciplined and yes, better! It doesn’t take that long to develop new and better habits, and her book helps you jumpstart that process.
In a more specific food related discipline, meal planning is great discipline to have. My one word of advice? Do what works for you. Seriously. I have friends who plan a whole season of meals at one time, and they love it. I hate meal planning like that. I keep a simple one-week rotation going. Many of you already use the Plan to Eat service to help you meal plan well, and for those who’d like to try it out, you get a 4-month free subscription with the bundle on sale this week, which is a great!
But here’s the thing. You don’t need to read these books or use any website service, they are just one of many tools you could use for practical help. There are many ways to the same end. The important thing is finding what works for you.
In the end, eating the food you know that you need to get better or stay healthy is a discipline in itself, but sometimes finding a sense of order in more extended lifestyle choices can help you find discipline in that specific category too.
Dinner can happen even when life is chaotic
But let’s be honest here, if I had to have the rest of my life in perfect order to have a good dinner on the table I’d be in trouble. Yes, I think that we can all agree that discipline is great and so is the simple life. But let’s also all admit that life can be crazy at times – even with our best efforts! In fact, I have been secretly amused that my friends who are especially good at having a disciplined “simple” life, can overly stress out about their “disciplines”. Like the mom who is literally late to everything because she follows the advice that you shouldn’t leave the house unless everything is in order. I’ve known more than one mother in that category! (And isn’t running perpetually late more stressful than having a couple dishes in the sink?) Or a friend who is newly married in charge of a very small apartment and no job who feels that she simply doesn’t have time to do anything and is so stressed. We need to realize that we can always choose to allow ourselves to overly stress about things no matter how calm our life is, so we need to choose not to allow stress to control our lives now. Plus, perfectionism and inflexibility can be just as much of a problem as not having enough order in your life.
And as much as I want to encourage you that adding more discipline or simplifying your life are good things, I also want to encourage you that finding a way to make nourishing food work even during the chaotic years of your life is possible. I feel like that’s where I am now! You know what it’s like. I spent pretty much every minute I’ve been awake today doing chores, taking care of kids, giving baths, doing school with my oldest, cleaning up messes and a long list of other things. Yet my to do list is still looming large, and I am pretty sure that anyone who saw my kitchen cupboards, basement, or closet would take me off the list of “disciplined people I admire” list, if I ever made it on.
Sometimes I just feel lucky if I get clean sheets on the beds (yet again), have clean clothes for us all, three meals on the table, and vacuumed sometime recently. Surely you can’t expect me to organize my house too!
We don’t have a health coach coming into our homes and neatly organizing our house for us, so we need to do it “one bite at time” and give ourselves a lot of grace. And since it can take time, I’d also gently suggest not waiting for the rest of your life to become perfect before you start eating well. In fact, you can let your beginning sense of accomplishment come from conquering your meal plan, and let that carry you on to your next task!
What do you think? Do you feel that having a disciplined life is helpful in eating well? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Let´s not let the perfect become the enemy of the good (or the complete!)
I think that there is a beautiful balance in finding order and flexibility at the same time, don’t you? That ability to work hard, and laugh at the messiness of life, to make strives towards a well balanced life, and accept when life throws you a curve ball. Such a balancing act!
I think you have to be somewhat disciplined to eat healthy since it takes a lot more work to clean and chop up vegetables, and make everything from scratch than to pop something in the microwave, buy fast food, or prepackaged meals.
So true! Sometimes we think of “work” as a bad thing. It does take work to cook healthy food, but why does that have to be bad? I have chosen to try to look at work as a beautiful thing and an opportunity. 🙂
I once heard about a book called “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Big?” It makes sense that when life, home spirals out of control so would the eating and the packing on of poundage. On the other hand , anxiety over tidiness could also do that. However, too much tidiness has never been my problem, so I cannot validate that for sure:)
I guess the main point is that one area of our life can effect another area. Some people have told me that gaining control over their eating habits allowed them to go on and gain control of the rest of their life by making better choices. So it goes both ways!
Amen. One step at a time. At one point I thought “my house is a mess because I have XX number of kids” was an excuse. And then I started noticing how much easier it was to keep up when one of them was down with something. I compared myself to my friends with fewer kids, wondering why my house was always so much messier than theirs. And you know what? that’s one more person who needs (a lot!) of attention, one more person’s stuff, a few more years of “age appropriate” stuff we’ve collected…it’s a valid excuse. We need lots of grace for ourselves. Even the simple life is no longer simple these days.
I also think that for me as a homeschooling mother, the house ends up very “lived in”. I am constantly picking up because we are constantly using our house! If we left at 8 in the morning and were back at 6, the house would stay a little cleaner I think. 😉 I love what you said here, “even the life is no longer simple these days.” LOL, yes, that is kind of true.
Dear Kim, thank you for posting an article that is very thought provoking. I am a lot older than you but I can still remember the constant to-do list(s) with younger children, was often guilty of arriving late and on occasion stressing about it. I think that ‘modern’ life has helped in incredible ways – think about the invention of the washing machine, dish washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner, running hot water, etc. But it is still a human being who has to do the ‘work’ of running a home. Children can’t be ‘disciplined’ — everything is impromptu about them even though schools run at appointed hours for appointed weeks of the year. Children are not ‘machines’ that can be switched off and our interaction with them, stemming from the love we hold for them, is what is much more important than keeping a house tidy. That said, an untidy house just adds to the stress and detracts from the quality time we get to spend with our family … A mother covers a lot of roles: coach, nurse, cook, cleaner, driver, education consultant, etc and I continue to think that a woman’s role at home is still not valued enough by society at large. I am all for mothers enjoying their career, so it’s not that … but society does not help mothers enough, be they working mothers or stay-at-home mothers. And to me this is still a femminist issue. Everyone thinks that housework is dreary (although it can be turned into something zen like) because no one is paid well to do this very important job! I happen to love cooking and have always found time to cook but I am very sympathetic towards those who find it a challenge. I am less sympathetic towards those who find time to go to the gym or watch TV but not time to cook a decent, healthy meal. Where were THEIR mothers (or fathers)? Usually, this is the sort of value that is taught at home. Schools should re-introduce cooking classes and aim them at boys as well as girls. And schools should include regular classes on hygiene, gardening and the basics of running a home. Women still carry too much of the workload of running a home and society continues to disregard the importance of a well-kept home environment, by not providing a stipend for women who stay at home, and by not paying housekeepers a high enough salary.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I agree that housework and a good home life is undervalued in many ways in our culture today.
As Alton Brown says “organization will set you free.”
I love that quote! I’ve never heard it before.
I love this post, Kimi. Seriously. Before I was a stay at home mom I had a “fancy” job and worked 14 hour days. It was just me in the house. Actually, it was me an my dog Henry, as it was the time before I met my husband. I even had a housekeeper. And I always found that on the days when my housekeeper was there I would come home, fix a healthy snack (it was often too late to eat dinner), take Henry for an hour walk, take a shower, read a book and get a good night’s rest setting me up to wake in the morning and exercise and make a healthy breakfast, another walk with Henry and start the day all over again. It would create this great pattern … for about 4 days … until I got overwhelmed by work and house and life and everything else. Now that I’m a homeschooling mom (life is pretty different these days as I used to be single and live in a West Coast city with a housekeeper, now I’m married in a Rocky Mountain rural town and I do my own laundry. I used to have one dog. Now there are two kids, two dogs, horses) I find that if I let things get out of hand (with the laundry, with the vacuuming, with the constant pile of dishes in the sink) I notice my choices start to fall back into old patterns. And if it weren’t for having gone through the simplifying process, with a meal plan, for having a cabinet filled with simple nourishing foods, I would be a mess… again … And I love that your post gave me a few minutes to reflect on it all again. What a great touchstone. Thank you.
Thanks so much for sharing! It sounds like you have had to find balance in very different lifestyles.
Your wonderfully written article helped me to see that some order to the rest of my life is what I need to work on before I can feel like I have the time to tackle the eating area. Thank you very much Kimi!
I have written on my blog before about the fact that there are MANY areas of our lives that require organization. But because our lives are constantly in flux, our needs in each of these areas are constantly changing. What does that mean in practical terms? That it will rarely, if ever, all be perfect, because of that ebb and flow. However, if a handful or more of these areas get out of order, we feel really disorganized and out of control.
So I think that’s where the balance happens. You work on reevaluating each of these things periodically and making adjustments as necessary (and relaxing the standard where necessary!). You give yourself grace for it to be a process rather than a “completed task.” And you also realize that if you’ve neglected the reevaluation for long enough in enough areas, you will probably feel so out of control that it WILL spill over into other areas!
This makes so much sense! You did a great job of talking through both the high level concepts (“disorder breeds disorder”) and the practical, “one bite at a time” tips for getting dinner on the table, today.
SO TRUE!!!! Ok so yes in a perfect world, discipline, planning, blah blah, would be great. But ya, life is life, and with 3 young kids, that’s usually chaotic!!! I cook pretty much everything from scratch. I do extra work getting vegs in the summer from a CSA, my half cow from another farmer, organic fruits/veg in the winter from a wholesaler, etc… these things all take a little more effort than stocking up on the stuff at the grocery store but my priority is feeding my family well! I work full time and manage to do it, along with household chores, laundry, homework, etc. So my basement looks like a bomb went off, it’s where we toss the clothes the kids have outgrown, toys they don’t play with, etc. While I had visions of a lovely playroom, a tv room, a mini gym or office, ya that ain’t happening! My husband calls me a hoarder but he clearly doesn’t know the difference! By doing all the things that need to be done daily (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc) I have very little time or energy to tackle the other “organising the home” projects I would LOVE to do…. arghhh, if only we could buy more time! at least I had one small success last weekend… the basement did get a bit more organised, still boxes and piles, but all separated in donation/sale/etc piles… 🙂 oh and the one that always kills me is “take time for you”…. right on the “to do” list 😉 Great post!