Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Hard

It's not even lunch time yet and today I have already done laundry (which must be hung out to dry because I have no dryer), washed dishes twice (by hand as I have no dishwasher), made whole wheat bread, made homemade soup (from scratch), made egg salad, and peeled cucumbers for lunch. I also walked my husband to the local subway station, bought a few groceries on the way back, and worked on repairing a broken hand mixer.

After lunch, I can look forward to working four hours in my home. During that work, clients come to my place so I have to tidy and clean a bit before they come as well as prepare tea to serve them and wash up after each visit. Of course, I also have to do the work itself.

This day would be considered a typical day, except that I won't be cooking two separate dinners this evening as it's a rare night when my husband will bring home food from a restaurant we both favor. On a typical day, you could add in preparing an after work drink and snack for him, cooking and cleaning up after my dinner and then cooking and cleaning up after his dinner.

None of these activities is atypical for me. Since changing things to lose weight, I've been essentially forced to choose between unhealthy, higher calorie prepared food and making my own. Most days, I spend considerable time and effort on food preparation in order to maintain the status quo. At least twice a week, I make homemade vegetable soups (carrot, broccoli, corn, tomato are the favorites) which require peeling and chopping of fresh vegetables along with a few canned ones (tomatoes and corn, because using fresh ones is too expensive). At least once a week, and often twice, I bake sugar-free whole wheat muffins or bars for breakfast and freeze them. At least once every 10 days, if not more often, I bake bread.

On top of all of this, there is preparing lunches and dinner as one might expect. Steaming vegetables, peeling and slicing fruit or vegetables and constructing healthy salads (pasta, chickpea, etc., not green ones) for lunches are a regular part of my routine. This does not make me a food saint. It makes me tired and well-nourished. It also doesn't mean I don't partake of the occasional bit of junk food (chocolate, pretzels, etc.) on a daily basis (as I've said many times before). It just means that the bulk of my eating is made up of more nutritionally dense food.

A lot of women who successfully lose weight (of which I am now one) talk about how "easy" it is to accomplish. This is absolutely not true. It's far easier to eat poorly than to eat well. The effort required for me to be satisfied and to eat in a way that helps me lose weight is substantial. There are many days when I literally spend hours in the kitchen on the weekends preparing for the week ahead and placing about a week or so worth of food in the freezer. When that runs out, I'm back to it again.

My circumstances are not typical. I live in a tiny apartment in a big city with a small freezer. I can't cook in bulk and I can't buy pre-packaged "diet" foods. However, even if I could, I don't think I'd like them as they tend to be expensive, low on quality vegetable and fruit options, and very salty. To be happy with how I eat, I have to enjoy the taste of the food I'm eating and I don't like canned soups, frozen entrees, or weird chemical tastes in my baked goods. Additionally, food police don't exactly sanction the consumption of convenience foods, even when they are of the "diet" variety.

I also realize that my circumstances are also atypical in that I am not poor and can afford all of the fresh food I might want to eat. Additionally, I don't live in a food desert in which access to certain foods is restricted or difficult. Beyond that, I also like to cook and know how to, though sometimes it exhausts me. One of the reasons a lot of poor people are fat is they don't have the time, money, or access to cook well for themselves. It's not "easy" to eat well, particularly in an environment in which women need to be employed full-time in many cases.

One of the things we need to do is stop pretending that losing weight and eating well are simple choices with easy steps in which to accomplish ones goal. People who make such assertions only contribute to the sense of failure people feel when they attempt to turn around their relationship with food and fail. If it's so easy, why can't they do it? As a society, America needs to admit that it is hard to eat well, but worth the effort. It needs to educate people on how to cook with cheap, but nutritious ingredients and how to do so in the most expeditious fashion. It needs to help people manage without special equipment (which I actually am not sure I can do) and emphasize that it is hard, but possible, to eat better.