Over the past year, my husband and I completed That Clean Life's monthly clean eating challenges and chronicled them in several photoseries for fun. Sharing these experiences actually contributed to the birth of my blog on Maude + Phyllis. (Anyone remember this gem?)
But between challenges, we often fell through the cracks. We still found ourselves running out of food, wasting food, resorting to takeout and making unhealthy choices. These quotes were definitely still in rotation:
- "Man, the cats are eating healthier than we are"
- "Is this dinner number two?"
- "I.. Urrr.. Erghhh" (sounds of the guilt-ridden and overfed, followed by food coma)
- "I was pretty skinny with my Ensure diet. Can I go back to that?"
- "Should we just start eating cat food?"
(Wait, these are all from my husband)
Some of these "relapses" hit pretty hard as they would also coincide with a lack of physical activity, nursing burnout and probably a good degree of seasonal affective disorder. It was never really "rock bottom" but instead, a constant state of never feeling my best. It's unfortunate that hitting rock bottom is what may propel us to re-evaluate our lives and make changes for the better. There was no dramatic pivotal moment for me and fortunately for many people there won't ever be. This is not without its own challenges.
What this looks like then, is a back-and-forth teeter between gains and setbacks, where progress is incremental but barely noticeable. I wanted to cook more and cook healthier, and had some successful stretches. But then we'd forget to grocery shop after a packed social weekend and boom, that next week is a write-off. Or my husband--let's just call him John--would suggest, "why don't we go get something quick and easy?" and I'd crumble (worst influence ever).
It doesn't help that I'm a full-time shift worker, graduate student and volunteer. My lack of time and energy were the biggest excuses. I realized I often blamed myself, or I brushed it off as normal or inevitable, and believed the tools designed to help us didn't work. In reality, our culture is riddled with barriers. We live in a world that is shaped by those who profit on self-hate and things that compromise our health. We buy into it and reinforce those barriers ourselves without knowing it.
It really wasn't until we committed to meal planning on the new That Clean Life platform that we noticed changes. What also helped make it work was letting ourselves break the rules once in a while. We typically eat clean throughout the week, cheat on Saturday and get back into gear on Sunday. Since January, I've noticed the most difference in my skin, sleep and digestion. Most important and drastic though, have been improvements to my overall mental health. I feel better, have more positive interactions with others and in a sense, live with greater intent.
Eating healthy is really a lifestyle change that we shouldn't wait to reach "rock bottom" for. It requires effort, time and a shift in thinking but the bigger picture is that being healthier and happier is worth it.