Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When NOT to Eat Cheaply, Healthy, and Good (er, Well)

There comes a time – or several times – in the course of things when eating healthfully and inexpensively goes right out the window. Maybe you’re working on a major project. Maybe you’re having a baby. Maybe you’re quitting your job, finding a new one, marrying, moving, or trying to get over the passing of a loved one. Rightfully, you have other concerns.

And you know what? That’s okay.

The Artist Formerly Known as Husband-Elect and I just wrapped up the busiest and most joyous month of our lives, during which we ate approximately two vegetables. (Wait. Is frosting a vegetable?) Preparing nutritious meals was next-to-dead-last on our list of priorities, just above keeping up with the Mets. (*grumble*) Instead, we were penning vows, seeing to the happiness of 140 loved ones, and entering a state of marital bliss unrivaled, even by a really good pot of macaroni and cheese.

Now, we’re home. The wedding festivities and pasta-packed honeymoon are over. We knew it would happen eventually. And with it done, it’s time to resume dietary normality. And once this time – this busy, emotionally haywire time – passes, you will, too.

Meanwhile, here are a few tips to get you through the rough parts.

Take it easy on yourself.
Order takeout. Choke down your five-minute hospital cafeteria lunch. Scarf that three-year-old bag of Sun Chips from HR’s vending machine. Because right now? At this very second? Keeping a budget and a strict calorie count doesn’t matter. What does matter: getting enough in your body to keep going. Forget the rest.

Remember, it’s only temporary.
Of course this doesn’t go for every situation. Kids are pretty permanent, and there are some jobs in which 70-hour weeks are the norm. But once you complete your task and/or get the hang of your new situation, everyday existence will become easier. I promise. Same goes for that interminable project, your inaugural home ownership, or even the tragedy that might consume your world right now. Time will pass, and there will be a dazzling light and pot of delicious turkey chili at the end of your seemingly endless tunnel.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are people who love you, and in pressured times, they will trip over themselves to feed, cook, or otherwise shove food into your mouth. If no one volunteers, go ahead and ask. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a benevolent government agency, somebody is going to step up. Never forget that, and try to do the same for others when you can.

Work good food in where you can.
Sporadically, in the midst of chaos, a cheap salad will present itself to you. (I think Confucius said that.) Eat it. A simple, occasional nod to nutrition will fuel you just as well as half a pizza. And if you can easily find a convenient provider of healthy, low-cost meals? Bonus. Food fuels mood, and keeping your spirits up is vital right now.

Do the best you can with what you have.
Forget keeping up with the Joneses. This ain’t the time. Use your available resources as best you can. If that means three weeks of pantry meals, so be it.

Pick a date to get back on the horse.
I don’t know about you, sweet readers, but I would do bupkis without deadlines. During nerve-racking periods, having that red-letter date provides a definitive end point for stress habits (ex: eating fast food), as well as a psychological starting point for new behaviors (ex: eating home-cooked meals). Plus, on a simpler emotional level, it’s just something to look forward to. Real world example: When projects devolved into anarchy at my old job, we repeated this like a mantra: “Think of it. Next Wednesday this will all be over.”

Help others in the same situation.
What goes around comes around. The love you take is equal to the love you make. Quid pro quo, Clarice. In other words: Pitch in, dearies. Somebody out there could use the assistance.

Readers, how do you eat during difficult or stressful periods? Do you agree or disagree with any of this advice? What practices make life easier? How can we best help others? The comment section is way open. Let’s help some brothers and sisters out.


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dawn said...

great post. It's so easy to fall into all or nothing, and not give ourselves grace to temporarily let things slide.

M Family said...

The fun thing about being about to have a baby if you cook is that you tend to nest by cooking tons of food and putting it up. Found this out with my first baby when DH had to put up with us getting a deep freezer so that we "would have enough food". This has become my favorite appliance, this pregnancy I put up sweet corn first, and then about a billion homemade bean burritos (overdid the beans a bit, ended up freezing prepared beans too!). I freeze a few prepared meals every time I cook. Now towards the end of my pregnancy, it still helps me to prepare food so I can center myself when I am feeling about to crawl out of my skin, however I am getting to the point where those meals are becoming salads lol.

Erin said...

As a newbie to the whole idea of eating right and taking care of my body(seriously, I've lived 25 years not thinking about health at all, this year is a new beginning for me) it's nice to reminded that sometimes you have to settle for the moment. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for the rest of your life. :)

Kimberly said...

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You for this post!! Congratulations on your reasons! I'm unfortunately in the midst of tragedies but berating myself for not working out or eating like I know I should has been making matters worse. I'm gonna give myself a break now! And set a deadline to get outta this funk!!

Michael Crosby said...

The last vacations I took saw me eating foods I don't normally eat when I'm home.

I guess as I get older I don't like getting out of my routine. I like making my green smoothie in the morning, and salad at night.

When I come home from my vacations, I must say, I'm disgusted with myself. The last 2 vacations I came home and fasted 3 days and 5 days respectively.

But, as you say, it's OK. I agree. I just wish I would be more true to my core values when I travel.

Rachel said...

This is what frozen food is for! I try to keep my freezer stocked with nutritious, homemade, thawable foods like soups, casseroles, even pizza! Even non-homemade frozen food can be more nutritious than take-out, especially if you have a Trader Joe's nearby.

Courtney said...

it's always nice to be reminded that not eating well is NOT a failure, but merely a pause :). thanks!

Anonymous said...

so timely! i'm in the first few weeks of my pregnancy and have had to choose the "bad" over the "worse" when it comes to food. should i live on goldfish crackers? probably not. should i not eat at all? definitely not. everything makes me queasy, so i have to eat what sounds good when it sounds good so as not to starve myself or the baby. luckily, i've craved subway a few times recently and eat all the veggies so i at least get some nutrients. other days, i just subsist on graham crackers. i keep thinking: only a few weeks to go and i'll probably feel better!

Autumn609 said...

Very timely post. The husband and I just came home from 2 weeks in europe (Germany/Austria/Switzerland) and about halfway through the trip I realized I was having an apple as my only fruit/vegetable everyday. The parsley garnishes I wasn't counting.

Unless you count the volume of vino consumed. I wasn't sure if grape juice, fermented counted as a serving of fruit. I don't normally drink that much vino for 2 weeks straight, but beer (icky) and wine were cheaper to get than water/diet coke at restaurants.

We concluded at some point that 2 glasses of wine equaled one serving of fruit.

kazari said...

I have a 10 month old baby who is transitioning from mush to 'grown-up' food - oh, and my husband left in July.
So major life crisis + baby = food chaos!

My advice: as long as there is carbs and eggs in the kitchen, you can have a meal in ten minutes. If you have frozen veggies too, you have a healthy one. (baked eggs are my go-to meal)
Treat yourself.

Dee Seiffer said...

So true. Hubby and I just returned from 10 days of visiting Seattle and Portland. I haven't eaten that much rich food in such a condensed time in a looooong time.
We actually canceled a reservation for a James Beard Award-winning restaurant on our last night. We just couldn't take any more. My body was screaming for some raw vegetables.
It threw me so off-kilter, even after a week at home, I'm not back in my cooking groove. I made some not-so-tasty meals this week. Weird.

Anonymous said...

Great post and you quoted a Beatles rock!

TJ said...

Very awesome post. I tend to convince myself to eat when I'm having a very hard time, but my appetite just drops to 0. And I can go for weeks without eating, or eating less than half a meal every few days (I know, unhealthy!). The first advice is something I really should listen to. During those times, I just don't feel like eating *or* cooking. So maybe I should cut myself some slack and just keep enough calories in...

cmmastro said...

When its protracted, do some shopping for "healthier" convenience and comfort foods - and carry them with you. I'm less likely to get a Snickers bar from the vending machine if I have a Luna bar in my purse. I'm less likely to grab a donut with some instant oatmeal in my desk drawer. Dried fruit, nuts, popcorn in the pantry are better than keeping a bag of Oreos in there (of course, who KEEPS a bag of Oreos in their pantry, its a single serving bag that goes bad faster than ripe pears, right?).

Kym said...

I just got married at the end of June, and the months April - June were filled with nothing but Lean Cuisine meals. I really love cooking, but I had to make the choice between putting the effort into my meals OR my wedding, cuz trying to keep up with both was maddening. Side effect: I lost about 10 lbs since the LCs have so few cals in them...not good long term, I know, but it worked for right then. Then the honeymoon was at an all-inclusive resort (my first one), and you just HAD to be eating up a storm and drinking up a storm, or you're not getting your money's worth, right?! That's what I kept telling myself as I ate an entire day's worth of calories for my snack. Surprisingly, I only gained 7 lbs at the end of 2 weeks, but I was also really tired of eating greasy, cheesy foods. I naturally started eating better, but had gotten so used to not cooking in the previous months that I continued to eat frozen meals and takeout :( Luckily I seem to have recently gotten over this hump and the majority of my food is homemade now. It feels good! But it was a huge relief at the time to take a step back and admit that I couldn't do it all, and "take a little help from the store".

Monroe on a budget said...

What a great post!

I've done at least one piece for my blog when I showed off a shopping cart filled with frozen dinners. I explained this isn't my usual fare, but also why I had to do that "this week." Reason: it was better alternative to drive-thru to cope with an overloaded schedule.