When eating falls apart.

Every round of groups I teach, there is something that I want to work on for myself. For the past three months, it was eating regular meals at regular times – something that I struggle with given my flexible and unpredictable schedule, and the fact that I eat with people for a living.

Early in the year, thanks to a post-traveling readjustment crisis, I was pretty awful at feeding myself for a while. I was scrounging up the bare minimum required for survival at random times of the day, and not giving any thought whatsoever to frivolities like “vegetables” or “food groups” or “not feeling like total crap.”

And given that I deal with depression on a semi-regular basis, this is something that comes up cyclically – one of the first things to go with my mood is eating well.

For me, eating well looks like this: I eat a breakfast that contains multiple food groups soon after waking up, and then about four hours later (five if I’m drinking coffee through the morning), I eat a lunch that also contains multiple food groups. Then around three hours later, I have a snack, and then dinner in another three or four hours. Dinner contains multiple food groups, and possibly even more than one dish. In another three or four hours, I will have dessert or a snack.

In the course of all this, I end up eating fat, protein, and carbohydrate at each meal, and I make an effort to offer myself roughly five fruits and veggies throughout the day, as well as a couple servings of meat/nuts/legumes.

Everything else kind of takes care of itself. I remind myself that I do not need to clean my plate or finish my vegetables if I don’t want, but that I have permission to get seconds or thirds if I do want.

So that is what I focused on for the past three months, while I worked with my group on eating competence.

At first, I just made a deal with myself that I would eat food before drinking coffee in the morning, because I noticed that if I drank coffee first, it killed my appetite, but that the lack of breakfast left me lethargic and tired for the rest of the day.

That was my first step – food before coffee, and preferably soon after getting up.

This probably took a week or two to get going. Then I focused on having lunch at a reasonable time each day – I eventually settled on 1pm because it fit into my work schedule, and because it was long enough after breakfast that I would actually feel hungry, but not starving. If I tried eating at noon, it felt like I was just forcing it.

After practising for another week or two, I started getting predictably hungry right around 1pm each day. Sometimes 12:45 and sometimes 1:15, but relatively consistent. And on the days when something came up and I didn’t get around to lunch until 2pm, I was very hungry but not desperate.

The last, and most difficult, was dinner. Dinner requires cooking. Cooking requires planning, and when I’m feeling gloomy, planning is my least favourite thing to do. But after a few weeks of eating frozen lasagna and other no-plan delights, I was tired of it, and willing to put up with some amount of planning to get a more decent variety of food.

I hauled out my meal-planning sheet (yes, I actually have one), put it in a plastic sheet protector and stuck it to the fridge, next to a dry-erase marker. Then I started by writing down three easy dinners to make in the coming week, and I filled in the rest of the nights with leftovers or more frozen lasagna.

It began with a few of my no-brainer favourites – spaghetti, clam linguine, pork chops. Then the next week, I added a day for beans (usually Sunday, to accommodate slow cooking) and a pizza night on Fridays (because it’s Friday, and we always want pizza on Friday, so I may as well plan for it.) The bean recipes usually made a ton of leftovers, so I began freezing them in individual containers, and then I also had an easy lunch.

Eventually, after a few more weeks, I worked my way up to planning 5-7 meals per week. Sometimes the plan literally is “frozen pizza and pre-prepared salad” because, goddammit, it still counts as a meal. It’s got food groups and everything! Plus if I don’t buy a frozen pizza, I will just order one at some point anyway. There’s no point in fighting it.

For a while, the plan was almost the same rotation every week (spaghetti on Tuesday, linguine on Thursday, pork chops on Monday, chicken on Wednesday, etc.), and then I got bored of that, too.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting more. I made some marinated salmon, tried a new green bean recipe (hint: Parmesan cheese), and last night we had Moroccan-style pork tenderloin. One weekend, I made a very labour-intensive stir-fry that I hadn’t made in years.

It’s been nice, and along the way I’ve developed a bunch of short-cuts and sanity-saving techniques to help myself along. One of them is that I rarely cook a recipe all in one session – I always do some pre-prep in the morning so that the burden doesn’t all come crashing down at 6pm. For the stir-fry, I actually made the sauce the night before, then chopped up all the veggies in the morning, and then just assembled it and cooked the noodles in the evening.

Because I’m terrible about doing too much at once, and then never wanting to do it again, this is essential for me. I also started making my meal plan and grocery list the day before I go shopping, because I hate doing them both on one day.

Overall, I’d call this past three months of putting my eating back in place a success. Right now, I’m operating at a pretty high level – although we still have frozen pizza night on Friday like clockwork, and I intersperse a bunch of easier recipes along with one or two more complicated ones during the week.

But here’s the thing: it won’t always be this way.

Something will happen to mess up my routine again, and it will all fall apart. That’s life. Once I get used to whatever has changed I can work up, step-by-step, from the bottom of the pyramid again – because I know how. And I also know that periods of just getting by, and just doing the bare minimum with eating, are survivable. They’re not going to hurt me, and they don’t say anything about my worth as a human being, or my overall capacity to feed myself well.

I used my boredom with repetition to help push me along, because if I’d set out with a goal of “cook fancy new recipes all week” I would still be eating frozen lasagna every day. I did it because I wanted to, and because it felt good.

Eating falls apart for everyone, from time to time, but it doesn’t have to stay that way forever – and it won’t if you refuse to beat yourself up about it, and focus instead on doing what helps you to feel good.

Now I have to figure out what I’m going to work on for the spring groups. I’ll let you know what happens.

If you want to hear more about the groups, you can go here.

Have you been working on anything lately? Let’s hear it in comments.

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69 Comments

  1. Rachel
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    This is right where I am! I’m trying to re-learn the basic eating schedule and principles I learned as a kid and then “un-taught” myself in a 3 year eating disorder. Setting a schedule, not necessarily WHAT but at least WHEN I’ll eat is so important and SO DIFFICULT sometimes. This weekend/yesterday has been an EPIC FAIL because I have just been distracted and not focusing on it. My poor body is probably so confused with these sporadic habits… So today its back to the grind, because I want to, I feel better when I eat well, and because if I quit quitting I won’t have to keep starting over, and my body will be back on a nice predictable schedule and TRUST ME AGAIN. :) Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone with this! Sometimes I feel like a little child and silly for doing it, so its nice to see that it really is important, (enough for someone else to focus on it too)! You rock.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Rachel! I always have to start with WHEN long before I can worry too much about WHAT. I hope you get it sorted soon.

  2. Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    That is why I started my food blog. I don’t cook fancy foods, (except when I do) and it is all about keeping track of what/when/where I eat and re-reading it for myself I can “re-discover” recipes. Maude bless pasta for nights when I don’t want to cook, spaghetti and some sort of simple sauce is almost always my “re-entry” meal after a week or so of not making food. Pre-making certain foods in bulk, like hamburger patties, meatloaves and meatballs all on one day when I have time/energy to cook and then freezing them also helps me get back into the dinner groove. I also adore a pressure cooker for making food a little faster/easier to deal with in the middle of a busy night.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      My grandma-style recipe card box functions for me like your food blog does for you – I leaf through all the recipes when I’m trying to remember “What in the hell do I eat, anyway?”

    • L.
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Similar to Suzanne’s food blog, for a while I kept an Excel spreadsheet to track what we’d eaten every night, and the day of the week. That way I could remember some dishes I liked that otherwise I’d’ve forgotten, and I could also note which dinners were more likely to get made on certain nights of the week. (Like you, I save time-consuming dishes for the weekend, and I also have different work schedules and levels of energy on different days of the work week.) Ten or fifteen weeks of entries was very useful all on its own, but I’m thinking about trying to track by date and for a longer period because, here in stereotypically four-season New England, I want to eat very different things in the winter than in the summer, and also certain foods become cheaper/more available at certain times of the year (e.g. spring = hello cheap tasty asparagus!).

      Anyway, even at its current random level, it’s been super helpful to inspire me and pull me out of cooking (or rather, lack of cooking) ruts.

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been slowly working on putting together a seasonal meal rotation for the past several years, haha. Sloooooooowly. I find charts of what produce is in season to be really helpful in this regard.

        I also like getting random cookbooks from the library and scouring them for likely recipes, which get transcribed and absorbed into my grandma-style recipe box. Once I got a bunch of recipes that required no, or very little, cooking with heat for summertime. That was a godsend when the A/C wasn’t working. I think the book was called Cool Kitchen.

        Anyway, I think keeping a record of what you end up eating for dinner is really handy. For people who don’t know where to start with meal planning, you can come up with a whole meal plan just by observing and writing down what you have for dinner for a week or a month.

        • L.
          Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Yes! It’s like retrospective meal planning, and it’s likely to be useful because you’ve already made the things on the list happen once. Whereas, my looking-forward meal planning (even though I am fairly comfortable with the task) is not always realistic about how much time or energy I am going to have, especially as we reach the end of the week.

          About produce, I have been noticing the influence of other locations’ seasonality on produce quality and prices. About a month ago, bell peppers were much cheaper than normal. Right now I am seeing string beans at great quality and prices. Here the growing season hasn’t even started, but fortunately not every other location is constrained in the same way!

  3. Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    michelle, would you mind sharing your meal planning sheet? or at least point me in the direction of a good one? i know it’s probably something i could easily whip up in excel, but i trust you with this more than me. :P

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Haha, kind of embarrassing, but sure, why not? Here you go – Weekly Meal Plan.

      This is literally hanging on my fridge. And there’s one hanging on my mom’s fridge because I was there visiting, and I had to have it even then because I am crazy. Many of the spaces are left blank regularly – I will make like one dessert a week (I bake something on the weekend a lot of times), and then it’s available for whenever. And sometimes the meal is a one-dish thing that includes both a vegetable and a starch along with protein, so I don’t have to fill out anything separate. Some nights, I know there will be leftovers or scrounging, so I won’t fill in anything at all. So I caution anyone who wants to use this to look at it as a guide, not as a rule book, and not to feel pressured to fill it all in.

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        that is awesome, thank you. i was going to do days of the week, then breakfast/lunch/dinner. i like your version much better. i will be printing a couple of these and getting page protectors. thank you so much.

        • Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          I never plan lunch and breakfast because that just feels way too overwhelming. I usually have easy things on hand for those two meals anyway. This one I just use for dinner, really. Thanks, enjoy!

          • Posted April 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            I menu plan. Lunch is leftovers from supper (usually) and breakfast is, well, quick breakfasty things.

  4. Alice
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    This was a great post for me. A few months ago, I started med school and my eating habits became rather messed up, as a result of less free time and less energy to spend on food. Trying to get back to eating in a way that makes me feel better just seems like an overwhelming task and I’m happy to get some idea of how to begin.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      It seems like medical school is a particularly nasty culprit for making it difficult to eat (or take care of any basic life functions, sometimes.)

      • Alice
        Posted April 11, 2012 at 1:22 am | Permalink

        Might just be. I really like it though, so I think it’ll be fine eventually.

  5. s.h.
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    The last, and most difficult, was dinner. Dinner requires cooking. Cooking requires planning, and when I’m feeling gloomy, planning is my least favourite thing to do.

    Hahaha, oh gosh, I feel like you have just explained to me the one disconnect I’ve had with your blog over the years — cooking (and associated planning & grocery shopping) is often the only thing I have the spoons to do when my anxiety/depression is really bad. The act of cooking and planning to cook is one of the few things that consistantly calms me down and cheers me up. The basic stuff that you write about when it comes to eating food — allowing yourself to eat what you want, allowing yourself to eat as much/little as you want, tips for eating in public/with other people — that all makes sense to me and has been super helpful, but so often I’ll read something you suggest and think: “but that’s just not practical, unless you want to run the store a bajillion times in a week or have things go bad before you use them up”. And now I get it! For you cooking is a means to an end (i.e. food), but cooking for me is just … no matter what food issues I’ve had, I always cooked. And while I still sometimes have lingering food issues when it comes to eating, the fact that I love cooking for cooking’s sake means that the reason I disagree with some of what you say is because I’m not thinking about food in terms of eating, I’m thinking about it in terms of cooking. For example, I never understood it when you’d say to not worry about how many servings of particular things you eat because, for me, in order to cook, I find it so much easier to plan my weeks around a specific set of veggies, or a particular type of meat, or even a particular kind of process (sushi, stir-fry) and I just sort of naturally fill in the gaps.

    Anyway, yeah, to end: I love to cook, it keeps me sane.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Interesting! I do know some people who use cooking therapeutically – that’s never really been me. I’ve also avoided writing about grocery shopping and meal planning and cooking so far, because it can intimidate people who are trying to put permission in place first. But maybe it’s time to talk about it, because there are probably some more people out there like you who would find it hard to really institute permission without the planning and cooking!

      When I am feeling depressed, especially, cooking really goes out the window. But the more I do it, the more I like it, so who knows – maybe it will seem therapeutic someday.

      • Aiyesha
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        I find I have the exact same issue as Michelle of “eating falling apart” when gloomy/depressed/anxious or experiencing any other thing that challenges my abilities for self-care, and so feeding myself becomes erratic and I have no energy for it, but (back when I had a real oven) I would frequently use baking as a calming, soothing activity. Not “regular” meal-type food, but cupcakes, cookies, cakes, desserts – mostly I liked to bake them not just because they were delicious and easy to eat (even if sometimes a few cupcakes for breakfast didn’t make me FEEL amazing) but also because they’re made for sharing. You do a big batch of cookies or a big cake, you can offer it to people, it delights them – often it would be a big boost when I was feeling down about food and my own self-care to be able to provide something lovely for someone else, like a higher purpose.

        Of course, what’s messed up about that is the fact that sometimes it’s easier to care for others than it is yourself! But often it would re-connect me to myself, and I’d be able to go, oh, if it’s good to delight and provide for others, then it must be good to do that for myself. Let’s do that! What’s interesting to me is that I feel the exact opposite way about non-dessert foods – if I make a non-dessert meal, and other people want some, or people go back for seconds when I’m imagining I’ll have leftovers, or someone just accidentally eats it not knowing it’s mine – I have a really strong reaction. Which I think is indicative of issues with food security, definitely. Oof!

        • Betsy
          Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

          This is me, too. I love baking and distributing, but sometimes I struggle to plan meals and have orderly meal times. Which is weird, because I feel really, really good when I do. And yet while I feel good having regular, planned meals, I also feel as though occasionally breaking that regularity is liberating. But if it goes on too long, I become anxious and lethargic. I guess I have to find the right balance of the two.

        • s.h.
          Posted April 11, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          Oh, I totally relate to everything you say about baking for other people! My theory, for me at least, re: why I like to bake sweets for others, is that it has to do with the fact that I think we’re conditioned to feel guilty at wanting to eat “too many” sweets and/or that we don’t want to be judged for eating “too many”. I’ve gotten better about that — about not caring what people think of how much I eat or don’t eat — but, for me at least, that used to be a huge part of the motivation for baking for other people. Then I could eat cookies/cupcakes/what-have-you and not feel like I was being a pig because I was sharing them and not eating all of them!

          It’s interesting you mention food security though, because I think that cooking for just myself is actually a HUGE part of why I feel like I have food security / how I got food security now. Because when I cook for just me I know exactly what food is there and how long it will last me if I eat a “regular” amount. And since I’m the one in control of what I eat and what I cook, if I want to eat more or less than the “regular” amount I can adjust for it. Whereas when I don’t cook and have a plan for the upcoming week I get sort of wild eyed and panicky. Then again, for me food security and money issues are tied tight, so that might be a part of it — I don’t have enough in my budget to order out every night (plus I prefer to save my “restaurant” line item for social times with friends) — so cooking and meal planning helps me feel in control of both what I’m eating and what I’m spending on food.

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        Oh, hell, yes, I’ve always found aspects of the “intuitive eating” idea to be crazy unworkable. Think about what you want, then eat it? Well, sure, if you have heaps of spare cash and a Tardis on hand.

        What if it’s not in the house, and the perfectly good leftovers need to be eaten to avoid waste? And what about needing to cook something that my partner will eat, too, even if that’s not what I want!? What if I want something that’s out of season, or too expensive? How can I shop or prepare for something that seems so wildly unpredictable? HOW WILL I EVEN KNOW WHAT I WANT IN FIVE DAYS’ TIME? NOOOO!!! So, yeah, some hints would help.

        How it mostly works for me is that I cook and shop, almost all the time. I like to cook, and shop for food. It’s very rare I’d have a day so bad that I couldn’t manage it. (Well, it used to be rare, until I got seriously sick last year.) But when that happens then there’s other options – leftovers, takeaway, home delivery, pantry meals like baked beans and cheese toasties. (Partner does not cook anything more than toasties. He cleans.) I do the big stuff on the weekend – baking, and casseroles, pasta sauces, curries etc to reheat for quick meals in the coming week.

        • Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

          I definitely do better when I’m planning, shopping, and cooking – I think it’s sort of an advanced level of things to do on the eating hierarchy, but it makes everything else so much easier. And it makes my eating feel more “intuitive,” oddly enough, even though it is the opposite of demand feeding in some ways.

      • s.h.
        Posted April 11, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I’ve assumed that you’ve avoided talking about the cooking part of food it because it’s stressful for a lot of people — I think it’s pretty hard to read in HAES spaces without knowing that for a lot of people there is a lot of stress and angst associated with cooking — but I never realized that I was reacting negatively to the eating parts of what you were saying because of my own positive relationship to cooking! But, speaking personally, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear more positive, kind, and understanding perspectives on cooking from people who are open about food & eating & HAES. It would be an antidote to two of the more disappointing trends I see in discussions about cooking.

        First … since I cook I read a lot of food blogs for recipe ideas and there’s a lot of good stuff out there! But there’s also a LOT of pretty terrible stuff about dieting and health and how obesity is the silent killer and how anyone who doesn’t cook is morally suspect and how everything ever with cooking is accessible to everyone. And all of that is really disheartening. So it would be great to read one or more posts about cooking that I KNOW won’t say those things.

        And then, the second trend is that, because of some of the attitudes mentioned above, there’s been a backlash against cooking & people who cook in many internet spaces, including a few HAES and FA ones (not here thank goodness!), that I find really depressing. One of the most common things I see that reaaaaaaally hurts and makes me feel both defensive and alienated is when people say “people shouldn’t cook because mental health is health too” as a blanket reason why no one should cook. I think “mental health is health too” is a GREAT reason for why an individual might not cook, and a great phrase that I think about when evaluating my own health/mental health in relation to any number of things, but I’ve seen it applied more broadly as a reason why everyone or large swathes of people — like those with mental health concerns — shouldn’t cook and, just … no. This stuff isn’t universal! And I also see some bad-mouthing of people who do cook: “oh people who make their own stock or bread are clearly foodie elitists who can afford to spend ridiculous amounts of money on organic produce” or “anyone who says they cook and [lives in an apartment/doesn't have a car/works a full time job/etc] is lying because I [live in an apartment/don't have a car/work a full time job/etc] and I don’t have the time/money/energy to cook.” And all of that is, to me, more disheartening than the healthy eating / losing weight / cooking is morally superior crowd because I’ve built up a pretty thick skin for all of that, whereas this other stuff shocks me every. single. time. But it’s also not something I usually want to get into because I don’t want to dismiss the fact that for many people cooking DOES take too many spoons or isn’t accessible to them or they simply don’t like it! So I often walk away feeling really upset and unsure of how to articulate my feelings. (I have a feeling that saying “Stock is really expensive and I can’t justify the expense and that is why I save my onion skins and make my own stock and also my kitchen probably smells better than yours because I cook SO THERE” would not go over well, and it might not even be true because I always forget to take out the garbage until several days after I should have…)

        So anyway, that’s my two cents — I’d LOVE if you talked about cooking in a no-stress way. *g*

        • Posted April 11, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          Thanks for adding your thoughts – this is a really interesting topic to me.

          With the “lessons” posts I’ve been writing, I am slowly working my way up the food hierarchy, so to speak. In fact, pretty much everything I’ve been writing on this blog since 2009 has been going in that direction – laying a foundation of permission, then talking about a bit of structure and mindfulness (without being perfectionistic or rigid about it), and then, here and there, I’ve introduced bits of talk about food groups and eating what feels good as well as tastes good.

          I wanted to be sure and write things in that order, and to go very slowly, because I know my readers are coming along for the ride, and many of them may be starting from the very beginning of the process – like I was when I first started learning to eat. It’s hard to balance all those concerns and not leave anyone out, but with the heightened fears in the media about health and food and new kinds of fad diets anywhere, I think it’s going to be time to talk more about nutrition – but the way I approach nutrition is through the doorway of cooking and meal planning, mostly. And for me, “cooking” can mean anything from making a box of Kraft Dinner at home to making a five-course meal from scratch – it depends on the person, their circumstances, their finances, their time constraints, their level of comfort in the kitchen, and mostly their preferences.

          You’re right – some people really just don’t like cooking, and that needs to be okay. But it’s not right to insult those who do, or to get overly defensive and assume that people who cook are elitist. I think that reaction comes from fear of being hurt or judged for NOT doing those things, which is understandable, but doesn’t help us to have a good conversation about this.

          I want my blog to be a welcoming place for people across many ranges of cooking desire/willingness/ability/technique. I see myself as very much in the middle of that range – I am not a fancy cook, by any means, and I have no qualms about throwing on a frozen lasagna. But I also enjoy cooking (when I’m well) and am pretty game for cooking something new or even fancy. I’ve developed my skills in the kitchen enough that I can do advanced things, if necessary, but I prefer to rely on plaincooking most of the time. My personal feeling is that it is more important for me to be cooking basic, simple meals on a daily basis, than going all out creating dinner party fare every once in a while, and then just scrounging the rest of the time. I feel better when I cook more – even when the cooking is very, very simple. That’s just how it works for me.

          The problem I have with foodie-ism is that a lot of snobbery has developed alongside it. I try very hard not to react defensively to this, but I’m sometimes guilty too, because I’m afraid of having my cooking judged harshly. I don’t talk much about WHAT I eat on this blog very often for this reason. A couple of years ago, I posted a video of myself eating a Cadbury Creme Egg, and one of the first comments was like, “This would have been so much better if you’d bought a locally handcrafted chocolate creme from a candy shop” – and that kind of encapsulated the attitude I witness around food online a lot.

          And the reason I dislike it so much is not just because of the “elitism” on principle, but because it actually harms people – and I think that is why a lot of people in HAES spaces get so defensive. I can tell you from experience that many, many of my clients are damn near paralyzed to cook ANYTHING AT ALL because they set the bar so high for themselves, and are egged on to do that by the rising food snobbery that exists on the internet. As a result, they won’t even feed themselves three square meals a day. And these people also tend to be the people who have the best cooking skills in the first place, which is truly ironic. Though I also think that people who are just learning to cook, or who are happy with just cooking really simple things, might also feel like it’s not worth the effort if they’re not making handmade pasta with puttanesca sauce from scratch every night. That doesn’t help anyone to eat better – no one wins.

          However – some of my closest friends are really, really, really into food and cooking. Plenty of my clients are self-described foodies. And heck, even my degree program had a large food component (sounds weird, but many nutrition programs focus more on the clinical or biomedical stuff – my program combined food science and food product development with the other stuff), so I am probably a bit more obsessed with food and cooking than the average person.

          But I also eat frozen fish sticks sometimes. Last night I made a recipe from 1977 that I stole from one of my mom’s cookbooks. Much of my cooking and eating is decidedly unglamourous, and I like it that way – but I am reluctant to talk about it online because I know what the response will be: “That would be so much better if it were ____ instead! Or if you made the pasta yourself! Or…{insert clueless, patronizing suggestion here}.”

          I understand being hurt by the backlash against foodieism – I really do. I don’t think Everyone Shouldn’t Cook – that’s a ridiculous overgeneralization. In fact, from a nutritional standpoint, I think it tends to be better for people to cook more than less (even if that cooking is of the Rice-A-Roni and chicken nuggets and frozen broccoli variety.) But I think people are defensive and backlash-y because the snobbery, in this case, can do people real, measurable harm. A lot of my job is spent fighting back against that, and it can be incredibly frustrating when you can’t get a client to just eat dinner because they are upset that they can’t make the pasta from scratch on a weeknight after being at work all day.

          Anyway, I didn’t mean to comment this long, or to get so ranty, but thank you for opening up this conversation. I think I will begin writing about food and cooking more soon – the lessons I’m writing are heading in that direction, I promise.

          • s.h.
            Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

            Man, can I just say … <3<3<3<3<3<3 Yes to everything you said!! Feel free to rant any time. :D I'm looking forward to whatever posts you make about this stuff in the future.

          • Posted April 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

            Simple meals are great! For me I find the minute I start pulling out the cook books of which I have many (and I love to cook), the recipes I pick while very tasty seem to be the ones that are expensive to make. I find that to keep my food budget down, simple = better.

        • BakerGirl
          Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          I’m right along w/ you s.h. I LOVE cooking and baking. Hell, I went to culinary school, and it’s how I make my living. I’ve worked in all types of kitchens, cooked all types of food and cuisine. It really is my heart and soul, and there is nothing I won’t cook and eat. :) I, too, however, get constantly looked down at from people in HAES because of this. It’s very discouraging and keeps me from participating in the movement as much as I would like. I don’t consider myself an elitist and a food snob. I completely understand that for some people, frozen meals and cheap take away is what it has to be. People do what they gotta go, sometimes just to make it through a day, and it’s none of my business what someone decides to eat. Unfortunately, I have had many people think the worst of me because I don’t choose to eat that way myself. Fast food for me is throwing a couple of salmon filets in a skillet to sear them and whipping up a huge, yummy salad to go with them, or scrambling up some eggs w/ microwaved veggies–15 minutes and I’m done (aside: I have no problem with frozen veggies, many times they are far more nutritious and fresher than what I find in the produce section). I’m also a big fan of the Sandwich. :) Usually work days are the super quick meals (I eat a lot of salads and eggs during the week), and my days off are for more elaborate meals–curries, roasts, and authentic BBQing in the Summer. It’s also really nice that I have a husband who also enjoys cooking, and usually cooks at least 3 meals during my work week, to take some of the pressure off of me. :) He’s very good with pastas, soups, and steaks. Despite of our love of cooking and our willingness to spend the necessary time to do it, there are nights where dinner is a pizza delivery or a meal from our favorite Chinese place, because well, we both have crazy working lives, and hey, pizza is tasty. :)

          I really like this blog because the emphasis is on HOW to eat food and how to develop a healthy relationship with food and eating. That, to me, is the most important thing. It’s very difficult to spare the energy to think about what your eating or cooking (or not cooking) when you have so much anxiety and fear about food and eating in general.

          I worked for a few years at an eating disorder clinic, preparing meals for the patients and working w/ them in the kitchen teaching them to prepare simple meals, trying to lesson their anxiety about food. It was really difficult work. It literally broke my heart on a daily basis to see so much anxiety and fear from these broken women (all of the patients I worked w/ for 2 years were women). The clinic specifically choose me because of my HAES perspective on cooking and eating, because I’m fat and perfectly healthy, and happy in my everyday life, because I’m not afraid of food and eating. I have become lifelong friends with a few of the women I worked with at the clinic, and they regularly ask me for help with learning to cook a new food or a new cooking technique. I’ve been told I’ve become a role model for them on how to live happy and content with food and eating, and that I inspire them to cook on a daily basis and to see a well prepared meal as a source of pleasure and delight. That’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me, and it’s affirmation that I’m doing the right thing–promoting cooking as a fun and healthy activity, not just a necessary life skill that people must endure.

    • Posted April 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps slightly off topic here but I am working on a post for my food blog about what makes a good cook. So far I have items like enjoyment of eating, liking a variety of foods, aesthetic hunger (with props to Michelle for that phrase), passion for – and interest in – food, willingness to experiment, knowledge of substitutions (i.e. a recipe isn’t necessarily literal – cheese is cheese for example.) From what I’ve observed in our circle of friends, the people who truly seem to enjoy eating make the best cooks vs. those who view food as merely a means to an end (i.e. staying alive.)

      That said, we could cure world hunger if a pill was developed that gave one all one’s nutritional and caloric needs for the day and made you feel full.

      • Posted April 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        If I may continue off topic — how about fearlessness and a sense of humor?

        I’ve also found for myself that during my vegetarian phases and the times I had to do a low-iodine diet for thyroid treatment it made me very creative. When I have a list of foods I have to rule out, I don’t generally think, “Oh no! There’s nothing I can eat!” Instead, my reaction is typically “I am NOT going to suffer! I am going to eat well!” When I had to do the low-iodine diet I decided it was a good reason to buy more kitchen gear — eg. an ice cream maker so I could make dairy-free fruit sorbets and coconut milk ice cream. I’ll probably have to go on it again for a few weeks next year, and I am determined to make a pecan pie with no dairy or egg yolks.

        • Posted April 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          great comments and suggestions..substitution, not deprivation, in other words (when you were on your low-iodine diet.)

  6. Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a lot of self-care is in play here. Control is not necessary, but I am IN CHARGE of my eating!!!

  7. Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Nice post. It reminds me that we often put so much pressure on “making lifestyle choices that last a lifetime” that we don’t relinquish that control when life actually changes. So many of us get caught up in the idea that we were at one time “eating healthily” and then life changes, and our eating “falls apart”, and it’s good to be reminded that that is okay for that to happen, no guilt required. And this post offers some great personal strategies for getting back to one’s healthy eating.

  8. Krisi
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I am trying a new approach to lunch. I have started taking a bunch of small helpings of things I like interspersed with things I need to tempt me to eat my prepared lunches. I found that I was taking super “healthy” lunches that I didn’t really want, and then wasting them in favor of buying fast food that didn’t make me feel good. Overall, I found that I was skipping lunch or pushing it off until later, and then eating things that left me too full, or feeling icky. I find myself looking forward to lunch, and eating a comfortable amount, and then also looking forward to dinner, so now I seem to be eating three regular meals a day and feeling better on the whole. I am enjoying my bento box experiment.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      It’s easy to get too virtuous with your meal planning and then end up thinking, “I don’t even want this. Who made this crap?” Which, naturally, doesn’t end up making your eating any better in the long term. Sounds like you’ve struck a good balance :)

  9. Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I am really really good at permission and at eating on a regular schedule. This part I have down.

    What trips me up is an absolute need for planning. I have food sensitivities that pretty much eliminate all prepared frozen meals. Your schedule of cooking a few nights and eating leftovers is what I do or try to do, but when something trips up my planning (travel, working on a weekend, even a visit from a friend), I end up scrambling and unprepared, and it takes a while to recover. I wish I could figure out how to be more flexible and less regimented, to roll with the punches more than I do.

    But then, I’ve been working with these food sensitivities less than 6 months, and I’m trying to learn to cut myself some slack.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      This definitely makes it more challenging, and you definitely deserve some slack! It may just require some exploration to come up with some convenient fail-safes that you can keep in the house all the time. It’s important to let yourself go through the awkward scrambling stage, and the hunting around for new foods/recipes (many of which turn out to be hilarious failures) without undue guilt. I figure if I keep letting myself screw up as often as I need to, I will eventually get it right, and for the right reasons.

  10. Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Michelle – This was a really good post. I liked the insight into how you eat. Also, I liked your meal planning sheet. Googled the cookbook and I think I’ll check it out because I hate getting the kitchen hot in summer.
    I’m still working on my NY resolution of fruit first thing in the am and salad later before a meal. So far I’ve missed one or the other a few times but overall it’s been good. I’ve decided to eat gazpacho instead of salad for awhile when I finish the salad I currently have in the frig.
    I love all different kinds of gazpacho, red, green and white and it’s like liquid salad so will make a nice change.

  11. Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    I love this post! I am working on increasing legumes, oats and other fibre because I had a blood test that came back with very high cholesterol. I don’t want to go down the medication route so really want to see if I can get it down to a better level by better food choices. This is a struggle for me because like you Michelle I go through depressed bouts and am just coming out of one so sometimes feeding myself nourishing food is tough. This post has really helped me because I was feeling quite overwhelmed with having to make the ‘right’ food choices but the way you have explained taking small steps makes a lot of sense right now. Thank you! As always you are a source of inspiration.

    • Posted April 11, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      As with many things, what you’re doing with the oats and legumes is really a personal choice – you’re not going to keel over if you don’t do it sometimes. Sometimes it will be worth it to do, and sometimes other things will take precedence. I think if you can avoid the pressure of I Really Should Do This, you’ll probably end up “doing this” more often over the long term. Especially if you have a streak of the rebellious in you at all :)

  12. Inca
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting, can relate to the planning-issues and depression. If you ever decide to broaden your horizon and do a course more focussed on depression (and really, I think the program wouldn’t even be far from the current, just not with food/eating as its main focus), I’ll sign up for next fall/winter!

  13. dogwatcher
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    clearly i have a ways to go. because of ptsd and severe anxiety, (on disability from it), the most i can do is open a can of soup and heat it in the microwave. also i don’t shop, i get most of my food from the local food pantry. but it works for me now. i eat breakfast lunch and supper and a snack always at exactly the same time. no fresh fruits or veggies though. i feel like i’m in a different universe! i am doing the best i can do. thanks for your post.

    • Posted April 11, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      The best you can do is often plenty good enough. Vegetables and fruits don’t have to be fresh to still be good! I am a true believer in the power of applesauce.

  14. eileen
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    thank you for this post, Michelle. This is the exact issue I have been trying to deal with lately. I really appreciated how you broke your approach down step-by-step and the reminder that this just happens from time to time. We do the best we can and bring things back into balance when we need to. I am going to figure out a small place to start this week before I go back to work tonight (working 10 hr. night shifts is one of my big challenges).

  15. Posted April 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I used to be so good about cooking dinners for my husband and me. Because, heck, I can never find a job in this puny town except in summertime (but we’re moving in two months! Yay!), so what the hell else have I got to do? I made such good dinners. Very yummy dinners.

    Then I went on my low carb, fairly low-calorie diet (1000-1200), and it all stopped. I just stopped cooking. Because there was nothing to cook in my nutritional budget requirements (at least, that I wanted), and I didn’t have any motivation to cook either. My husband mostly went back to eating like a bachelor. As for me, I’d stand there staring at the fridge, or in the cupboards for a full five or ten minutes of searching for something to eat that I wanted to eat, find nothing, and just skip food. That would also make me skip my new medicine since I have to take it with food or else I get sick. A lot of the time my husband would beg me to eat something–anything–and I would scarf something down because by that point I’m starving and then I feel overwhelming guilt because it’s not on my diet menu. This convinces me that just not eating at all is better than screwing up the diet the other way. How many flashing warning lights do I need to recognize that this diet isn’t actually that good for me?

    I miss cooking so badly it hurts. I used to be so proud of myself for making beautiful delicious food and I felt like a real housewife. Now I only feel shame when he opens another frozen burrito or package of ramen. Sometimes he make us dinner-which is sweet–but it’s never up to the standards of my diet (at least in my opinion). I hope I can go back to cooking good food again someday and eating from all the food groups instead of feeling guilt if I eat a piece of fruit or beans or–god forbid–pasta, rice, bread, cereal, potatoes, tortilla chips…..

    • Posted April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      This – this is why I believe dieting is destructive. It destroys your foodways, it interferes with your home life, it even interferes with the bonding experience of eating, and undermines your sense of self-efficacy.

      My foodways get torn apart when I have a bout of depression, which is part of what makes it so awful – and that’s considered a mental illness. I allow myself to go through it, and to put things back together one piece at a time, but I would never voluntarily choose to be depressed and tear all my food routines apart. Yet somehow it’s socially okay to decide that you’re going on a diet, and have the exact same results.

      You have about a million flashing warning lights saying that this diet isn’t good for you, in more ways than one. Life throws you enough curveballs with eating that you don’t need to start chucking them at your own head.

      You don’t need to feel ashamed that your husband is eating how he eats – my husband would do the same thing, but he’s a grown man and it’s his place to make those decisions with his eating. I’m not his mommy and I’m not responsible for how he eats. But if you miss cooking, and if you miss eating carbs, and the bonding experience and the ritual of eating meals together, then you absolutely deserve to have those things back in place.

      • Posted April 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        While I completely agree with you Michelle that diets are destructive what, then, does one do to either lose weight or give up the desire to do so? I have no physical reason to lose weight, except that I am concerned that the excess weight will be hard on my joints someday, my knees in particular. see link where it talks about 1 lb. of weight = 4 lbs. of pressure on knees. (http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/channel_section_details.asp?text_id=3712&channel_id=1055&relation_id=30090)

        I still have a lot of “Oh I will feel so much better about myself / love myself more / look better to myself and others / less body hatred” when I lose weight. It’s hard to deal with looking in the mirror when trying on clothes and the first words that pop into your head are “I should just stop eating.”

        • Posted April 18, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

          Kathy – I understand your concern, but I think this is what is typically called a “Vague Future Health Threat.” :)

          I’m not going to tell you whether you’re going to blow out your knees at your weight or not. We all need to do our own research and come up with our own conclusions as to our health.

          For me, in my state of health, I believe that the effects of obesity are often overblown, and I believe in my state of health that the “cure” of calorie restriction is worse than any effects I might encounter from the weight. I am coming from the perspective of a small fattie (on the cusp of BMI overweight/obese depending on what I’m wearing.)

          Ragen Chastain over at Dances with Fat started a Fit Fatties Forum. I haven’t joined or explored it yet, but I intend to at some point. You might find some leads on ways to watch out for your knee health.

        • Posted April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          I think in order to do with away with the desire to diet (which, if you’ve determined that dieting is destructive to you, you probably want to do), you need to work on body image. There’s a good book called The Body Image Workbook by Thomas Cash which has specific exercises to help you with things like looking in the mirror. Self-acceptance is an important foundation for self-care.

          • Posted April 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

            Thanks will check out that book!

  16. Valerie
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. I haven’t necessarily had any major eating disorders, thankfully, but I have been battling with depression/anxiety for the last year or so. I’m going to graduate school in the fall, and the thing most frightening to me (over moving 14 hours away from my parents and fiancé, living in a new town, meeting new friends, and the first year of a graduate engineering program) is that I know my eating is going to go down the toilet. I suck at remembering to eat when I’m by myself, and usually when I do, I’m so hungry that I can’t stand to cook. Living with my fiancé has been great because we trade off cooking duties and dishes and he does the grocery shopping for me, plus, he’s a 23 year old guy and pretty much has to eat on the hour every hour in order to not pass out from hypoglycemia so we usually have decent meals. But I have a tendency to eat cheese tortillas and pasta with parmesan cheese on it if I’m left to my own devices, even though I love vegetables with a passion.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for this post, because now I have a little guideline for getting myself to eat regularly on my own (that doesn’t seem like it would take too terribly much).

    I also wanted to second Inca’s suggestion of a depression focused eating/planning course/blog series. As I said, I don’t necessarily have eating disorder related issues with food (which I realize is surprising, given our culture) but I do feel like a lot of the things that you blog about would be extremely applicable to myself. And depression related eating is always entertaining since it is that negative spiral of “I’m depressed, so I’m not eating well. I’m not eating well, so my depression is worse.” I realize that this might be outside the scope of your abilities (meaning, energy, time, ect. not intellectual), but I would totally be all over that.

    Regardless, thank you so much for your blog, because it is always a happy little feeling when I see that you’ve updated. It’s so refreshing in our dieting culture, especially when all the women I respect are dieting in some way.

  17. Ruth
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh my god, I know exactly how you feel. Especially combined with depressive episodes. The first day in many where you feel like you could actually prepare toast/cereal for all 3 meals of the day and that would be an improvement because you’ve been skipping meals – oh, and you might finally take a shower! – you decide it’s time for… a career change! let’s entirely redecorate the house! Or at the very least start baking all your bread again – and grind the flour too, what are you, some kind of slob? A slob who buys flour, how terrible, might as well not bother eating at all, pfft. And it gets worse from there.

    I don’t know how to stop sabotaging myself like this! Actually, I thought I was getting better at not overdoing it, at pacing myself – thanks partially to your blog :) – but I think I’ve burnt myself out on self-care. Is that even a thing? Well, it is now, haha. Either it means it’s finally sticking or I’ve invented a whole new way to torture myself – by endeavoring not to torture myself! Ah, brains, can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

    • Ruth
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Maybe blockquoting was a little ambitious! I meant to quote “Because I’m terrible about doing too much at once, and then never wanting to do it again, this is essential for me.”, but I managed to just quote me. Oops!

    • Amy
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Yep. “Burnt out on self-care” hit a nerve. It’s a thing.
      I am just not cooking for myself right now. Makes it much harder to calibrate insulin properly since I have to guess-timate the carb count of whatever I’m about to put in my mouth from my restaurant order rather than knowing up front because I cooked it. I am beyond tired of the constant carb counting too, but I don’t see a way out.

      Meal planning tends to trigger defiant eating for me, mostly because every medical/nutritionist person I’ve had to deal with has insisted on it and most of my interactions with them have been overwhelmingly negative experiences.

  18. lilacsigil
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I live in the country and only go shopping once a week, which at least makes me plan properly – I haven’t had a problem with breakfast or dinner in years now. Lunch is my bugbear, because it’s harder to get something fresh that doesn’t need much cooking or time to eat, where the ingredients will last for a week. And unfortunately I have the ability to taste many preservatives, flavourings and sweetners as a nasty chemical taste, so a lot of pre-packaged stuff is out for me…which means more time preparing my food, which is the original problem, and around it goes again.

    • Posted April 13, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Lunch is often tricky for me, too – and that’s where frozen leftovers really come in handy for me. I don’t know what I’d do without them, sometimes, because I get tired of sandwiches very easily, and you can’t have Kraft Dinner 5 days a week before you get sick of it. I especially like to freeze rice and beans, or lentil stew, but I’ve also successfully frozen creamed chicken on mashed potatoes, any number of soups, and of course, lasagna.

  19. Posted April 13, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I enjoy your blog, Michelle, though I don’t often say so. This is a particularly helpful post, Michelle. It so talked about the process of change, and you so vividly demonstrate natural growth when you just start out by getting the meal habit: http://www.ellynsatter.com/mastering-family-meals-step-two-get-the-meal-habit-i-74.html As old as I am (70) with life slowing down, my meal habit are pretty much in place, but yesterday I had a “pull the plug” day – I ate when I thought about it. A long time ago, it helped me when I learned my troublesome ebbing and and flowing is just natural – being energized and challenging myself sometimes; not having much energy and coasting other times. This too is about trusting yourself.

    • Posted April 16, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Thank you so much, Ellyn! I really appreciate it. And it’s good to know that even you have the occasional “pull the plug” day :)

  20. mickey
    Posted April 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I so needed to hear this today. This week has been a struggle for many reasons, and neither my partner nor I have had the energy to focus on meal planning – or even eating regular meals. It’s nice to read how someone else, someone who thinks about these things for a reason, overcomes the same issues. Thank you.

    And I feel better about my all PB&J sandwich diet this week. At least I have food… now if I can remember to eat it.

  21. liz
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    So – I just read your tweets about binge eating. And it is interesting because I know I am a binge eater but that is the *only* way I eat… I hate eating. I know I’m addicted and i know I have issues with portion control. I don’t like eating at all – because I feel like there is this ‘chance’ that I’ll just eat everything in sight. Everything.

    I remember telling someone that – if I had the choice – I’d never eat again. Ever. And I think what I do is that I try to go as long as I can without eating because I like that feeling of control – that food isn’t my main focus in life. It seems to take up most of my waking hours if I don’t starve and/or keep completely away from it. I mean – compared to food – ditching my previous bad habits (without going into details lets just say they weren’t happy habits) has been easy. What to do with a bad habit? Stop doing it. Easy. Pull yourself out of that situation/ behaviour/ background or whatever and stop.

    Food? Jeepers. I’m still flummoxed. I don’t like having to ‘plan my meals’ or ‘eat small snacks’. I’d like to be able to just live my life – without this stupid feeling of guilt/ obsession/ etc. And by looking at me no one would ever think I didn’t eat — because Im such a good binger now! I used to be able to go for days without having big meals – but with ‘working’ and trying to have a ‘career’ my brain just doesn’t work if I don’t have food. But I can’t just have a little — I have it all.

    I can’t even grocery shop for a week ahead – if I have 13 apples in my fridge – I will eat 13 apples for however long they last me – usually a couple of days. If I buy a thing of ice cream, that will be dinner. The only way – and this might sound crazy – that I can have any type of portion control is if I get take-out and order one of something and take it home and eat it. If I were to say – get 12 microwavable dinners, I’d eat them all. It’s like I’m trying to clear my house out of all of its food immediately upon me buying it.

    Yup – so there’s that. I figure once I’m able to figure out this ‘food’ thing I’ll be all set. !

    • Posted May 15, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. One of the hardest parts about recovering from binge eating is the fact that you just can’t quit cold turkey. Moderation is often a harder balance to strike than all-or-nothing. When you get to the point that eating is such a painful experience that you’d rather just give it up, it’s a major problem.

      Some people have impulse control problems (I think this is a fairly small percentage of those who binge eat, though, based on what I’ve read), OR are using binge eating to get away from overwhelming emotions, anxiety or depression (more common.) And sometimes it’s triggered by restrained eating, feeling hungry and preoccupied with food, or even just the FEAR that you won’t get enough to eat (quite common, in my experience.)

      I would really recommend the book Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher Fairburn if you haven’t read it already. I think it’s a good resource – but you may also need therapy to work over the underlying issues, if they’re about anxiety or depression, and to get over the really tough stuff.

      Mindfulness can help, self-soothing and redirecting skills can help, and learning to meet your underlying needs can help. Some people go into Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to learn these things.

  22. Tona Aspsusa
    Posted May 19, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I loved your references to frozen lasagne, but I wonder have you ever written a post about “junk” or “convenience” food from a nutritional POV, Michelle? Being a nutritionist and all ;-).

    That’s something I have always wanted to read – partly to get my own opinions (courtesy of my mother and grandmother) re-enforced, and partly because I think it is a very important subject:

    This idea that “empty calories” is bad is something very destructive. Not to mention the whole idea of “empty calories” in itself (with the possible exception of a pure glucose syrup, there is no such thing).
    “Calories” is simple an old measurement (when it comes to food measured in a very clumsy and inexact way) of energy – and we need energy to live. Especially if we are anxious or depressed – the brain uses lots of energy, and if we have physical symptoms of anxiety (like a raised pulse), that really uses up energy.
    I feel that when I get a period of anxiety or depression, *all* energy I can get my body to accept is a positive! A delicious well-balanced meal might be better than frozen pizza, but frozen pizza is better than a candy bar, and a candy bar is better than nothing.

    And speaking of pizza, my mother’s take on it: “hmm, we’ve got bread here, veggies, herbs, meat, dairy – what makes this less of a proper meal than pasta with sauce and cheese? People’s need to disapprove of things?”

    I have a suspicion that there’s a whole lot more guilt about eating non-self-cooked meals and “junk” snacks than the actual nutritional facts would warrant.

    • Posted May 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      I really do need to write a post on this – so far I just wrote a post that was like two sentences because I was so exhausted of the discussion.

      http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/worthless-foods/

      By definition, calories represent the presence of (macro)nutrients. Yes, we need a balance of both macro- and micronutrients, but that doesn’t mean one is “better” than the other, or that we can live on only one type.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment and I’ll have to noodle this one around some more.

  23. Posted May 23, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    I’m still jonesing for the next episode, but meanwhile I’ve been thinking about the “cooking without spoons” concept. I have come to the conclusion that it’s not too dreadfully bad as long as you have money to substitute for time and energy. Much like the converse: if you have very little money, you can do quite well at cooking by using more time and energy with cheap ingredients. But if you have neither money nor time and energy, then you are in fairly serious trouble. Anyone nagging at you for not doing your own food prep work while you are both poor and disabled is a complete arsehole who should be ignored.

    With money, you can buy heaps of ready made things – I imagine this is true on most English speaking countries. I’ve been using pre-washed and cut salad greens; pre-sliced mushrooms; frozen sliced onions; frozen sliced green beans; frozen mashed potato and oven chips; pre-mixed stir-fry veggies; and several other convenient things that reduce prep time but still let you cook a bit. You can buy premium cuts of meat that grill quickly and don’t need trimming, marinading, or attentive cooking.

    I’m thinking of posting on my nearly-dead blog about this. I’ll let you know if I do get round to it. But meanwhile, a super-easy fruit dessert is the latest entry. Do have a look. I made this clafouti with tinned plums the other day; it’s just a matter of mixing a few pantry staple things up – no creaming or whipping, just a little bit of measuring, dump in a bowl, stir, pour, bake. BTW, those with US tastes may like more sugar; I don’t know if Canadians are more European in preference.

    • Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      These are great points, thank you! I try to use a lot of the pre-washed and sometimes pre-sliced veggies, because otherwise my resentment meter spikes out of control with cooking. I figure it’s better to spend a bit more on veggies I’ll actually eat, than buy the virtuous full head of lettuce that then rots in the fridge.

      I’ll check out your recipe!

  24. Posted May 29, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh my god I just love you. I have spent the past 2 hours just reading post after post after post. And looking for your contact information just to say how fabulous I think you are. Straight to my RSS feed!!!!!

    • Posted May 30, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I love the name of your website!

      • Posted May 30, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        thank you! I am going to link to you in quoting your “eat food. stuff you like. as much as you want”- it is BRILL

  25. SuzyBear
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Michelle – Good to see you posting to the blog again. I miss you! Heck, I *need* you!

    Carrie – I’ll assume you read and enjoyed Margaret Cho’s old blog post about The Fuck It Diet from way back in November 2003:
    http://www.margaretcho.com/2003/11/06/the-fuck-it-diet/

    I had printed parts of this out and hung it on my wall so many times!

  26. megaera
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I love your sanity. Also, the everything falls apart comment is so true for so many different things in life. When my life gets stressful, cleaning is the first thing to go. So, I thought I would share with you one of my newly developed strategies for dealing with things that tend to fall apart. Now, caveat lector, I only know that this works for me, but it might work for others, and, if so, yay! Being the semi-tech obsessed person that I am (as well as a tech consultant) I have a smartphone that pretty much never leaves my person. So now, for things that I know will fall apart on me first (which tend to be tasks with a 3week-3month interval between doings- like cleaning gutters or changing air filters etc.) I let my phone nag me. I have a to-do program called Astrid, which when combined with an app I have called locale, lets me set up reminders for things based on time/date, location, even a certain person calling me. I can have them repeat however often I like and have them repeat from either the original schedule or from a set time after I complete whatever task I set.

    This can also be great for things like cooking/meal planning/remembering to eat. One of these is actually something I do. I have my phone set up so that when I am thinking about meals I want to make and am looking through the kitchen or WHENEVER I think about an ingredient that I need, I just add it to the list and tag it as “groceries”. Between the two apps, whenever I walk into one of my normal grocery stores, I have it set up so that all of the things that I wrote on my list pop up in an easy to check off format. You could have it check to make sure you’ve eaten lunch or had a snack. You could program it to check every few days to make sure you ate something that you liked. (You can get a double whammy: something tasty AND the sanctimonious thrill of checking off a to-do list. BONUS!!) For things with recurring deadlines or things that are location-specific, I have it keep the task hidden until on/at the deadline/location at which point it will show up on my list. (I like this because the way old to-do lists worked, even some of the computer ones, meant that I was always looking at stuff I had to do, even if it were months in the future. I find that stressful. Honestly, I find lists kinda stressful, so tasks almost always stay hidden and any lists are for really immediate kinds of things.)

    Basically, you can use it to help regulate whatever is or probably will fall apart. The reminders can be as subtle as a blinking light to a text-message like buzz to a full on ringtone. I go with the buzz and the blinking light; an actual ringtone might send me over the edge. The to-do list I use also lets you snooze tasks for a while, which can be nice if you’re dealing with less than a full handful of spoons. I’ve used it to make sure I take medications on time and with the correct amount of food or non-food necessary for them. But mostly, I use it because I don’t have to worry about forgetting it or losing the list I made and that alone makes me more willing to do whatever pops up on the list. Also, even if I get angry at its reminders, the smartphone cost me too much money and is far too important to my work and life for me to chuck it across the room in a temper fit or accidentally wash it with my jeans. (Well…at least, so far with the not accidentally washing it. *knocks on wood*)

    This of course depends on your willingness to let a piece of technology dictate your schedule to you. What I find calming to not have to think or worry about might just irritate the holy heck out of another person when coming from a small box in one’s pocket. Smart phones might not be in the budget for others, or setting it up might be too daunting. Some people might have an iPhone which would make the location part a non-starter. But I thought, just in case it might help, I’d throw it up here. If anyone would like to know exactly what apps I use and how to set it up, just let me know; I’d be happy to show y’all how. I deeply believe that technology should be helping make life easier: spoon conservation, if you will. I understand how, in even the most well-regulated of lives (and mine so isn’t) remembering to do or even think about all the little (and sometimes not-so-little) things can build up until you feel like you’re getting knocked down by endlessly toppling dominoes. So I hope maybe this tech-trick can help someone reading this comment who knows exactly what that feels like.

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