What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Ever since I moved to Japan, a lot of great things have happened to me.
But nothing is perfect. One aspect of my life has taken a blow since moving here: My eating habits.
Now don't get me wrong, the plethora of new and bizarre foods available to me makes eating out, or going to the grocery store, an adventure.
But my daily eating is another story. Since I now work from home, and the stresses of real life are all concentrated in and around my tiny apartment, I now struggle with healthy eating boredom.
Variety on a regular basis, or lack thereof, seems to be my trap. When I regularly traveled a few miles to work every day, I'd hit up any number of food stops I'd discovered along the way.
"Today I'll go the vegan market for some barbecued tofu and a glute- free carrot muffin."
"I feel like cheesy goodness today, I'll toddle over to that Italian restaurant with the eggplant Parmesan I can eat."
"Ooh! I'll stock up on GF sandwich fixin's and have me a sandwich party!"
Now the quiet neighborhood I live and work in, combined with the small amount of food storage I have (half a fridge, a couple of small shelves), make daily meals an annoyance. I'm bored.
My problem is twofold:
1. When I've got my head down and I'm working on something, I get in the zone and I can't be bothered to walk to the train station and take the train to the bustling downtown area to find some interesting food. That's easily an hour or so gone.
2. Yes, there are food stores and some restaurants near me. But with my gluten-free/vegetarian eating needs, that cuts my choices more than in half. I feel like I've eaten almost everything nearby that is within my budget and eating needs. A lot.
And yes, I try to cook large portions of delicious things I can eat during the week, but again storing those delicious things is a problem. If I make a big pot of food and put it in the fridge, there's barely room for anything else.
So I eat the same time- and space-saving foods over and over again. It's gotten to the point where I'm so unenthused about my daytime meals that I just forget about eating altogether. It's not on purpose. My stomach just doesn't perk up anymore and say, "Hey! Remember how you were going to eat that awesome thing?"
This, among some other habits, is what I'm trying to rectify.
While Evoke.ie's eight worst eating habits are basically telling me I'm doing everything wrong, I'm not entirely sold on the reasons. Yes, all of the bad habits they mention aren't the best thing any of us can be doing for our bodies, but I'm not wild about any "fix it" regimen that uses "unhealthy" as a thinly veiled euphemism for "weight gain." Being healthy isn't always about cutting calories.
I just want to look and feel healthy again. With my poor eating habits, my skin has lost some of it's elasticity and "glow" (no matter how many oils I slather on), my energy is often lacking, and my body doesn't bounce back the way it did just a few short months ago.
So here are the problematic eating habits I'm trying to remedy. Maybe you can relate, maybe you're dealing with the same habits. Either way, if you have any insight or thoughts on the topic, I'd love to hear from you.
Eating Is Fundamental
I keep ignoring my hunger.
I wake up, make my tea, and open my laptop. Sometime between 10 and 11 a.m., my stomach will "grrr" and tell me to eat something. "Remember when we used to eat yogurt?" she'll say.
My response is always, "Yeah, yeah, I miss it too, but the yogurt here is that creepy drinkable stuff that you don't like, so just shut up for a little while until I get through this email, and this one, and . . ."
By one or two o'clock my stomach roars again. If I feel like I have the time that day and I'm not anxious about work, I'll wander down to the konbini (convenience store) for my usual veggie or natto sushi roll. Or I'll boil an egg. If I eat one more hardboiled egg . . .
More often than not, anxiety and my obsessive "gotta finish this NOW" nature will get the best of me and I'll just power through until I've finished all my work and the sun has gone down. I'm trying to fix this habit, but it's by far the hardest one.
So this week I made it a point to go to the store and stock up on foods that require little to no prep, but are also exciting to eat. My menu includes: avocados (my favorite), dehydrated tomato soup made from real veggies, buffalo tofu "poppers," and a small pasta salad I threw together with mushrooms, beans, rice pasta, rice wine vinegar, mustard, a little mayo, and crushed red pepper. Oh, and a bag of oranges.
I tried to strike a balance between foods I typically crave and foods that would satisfy and give me energy. I know that as far as a balanced diet goes, I'm still a little lopsided. But baby steps. I don't WANT to ignore my hunger.
I just hope I can keep finding new variations on "easy meals" so I don't just get bored and lazy and hungry again.
"Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty."
I wasn't always dehydrated.
When I was drinking enough water, my skin was brighter, more filled out, and I had less trouble keeping my hands, lips, and scalp from being chapped or flakey.
I used to drink two big bottles of water a day — I had one of those reusable glass bottles wrapped in rubber to make it "shatter proof." Well, almost.
I was doing a little dance, trying to make my husband laugh, in the soap aisle of the drugstore. My limbs betrayed me and the bottle went flying and shattered.
Unable to find that glass bottle again in Japan (it's the only one I've found that doesn't smell), I gave up and am just trying to regulate my liquid intake through normal cups and mugs. It isn't working.
My game plan was to always keep my giant mug full, either with tea or water. (I've temporarily given up my precious coffee because I've found that if I'm finishing up my second or third cup by mid afternoon, I'm jittery well into the night. So tea it is.)
But just like with eating, I get so sucked in to what I'm working on, I ignore the cup altogether. I need one of those beer helmets with straws going into my mouth from both sides, only with water.
I try to make up for my dehydration at night, when I make my dinner, but gulping down all that water in a couple short hours makes me nauseous. Plus I usually want an adult beverage at night. Which brings me to . . .
Whiskey Into Wine, Wine Into Sleepytime Tea
I haven't been sleeping well.
I've always struggled with insomnia, but since the beginning of the year, it's been the worst ever. I'll go entire nights in a row without getting much or any sleep.
Sadly, I've found that that the adult beverage I used to look forward to at the end of the day seems to be part of the problem.
My drink of choice used to be whiskey. Until I noticed that if I drank my glass of whiskey even a couple hours before bed, I couldn't sleep. So I switched to wine. Which was a little better, but the quality of my sleep was still crappy.
So I gave up all alcoholic drinking for three weeks. And my sleep pattern slowly started creeping back to a good place. All the stuff about insomnia I've read says that alcohol impairs sleep, and that if you want quality sleep you have to give up the booze. But forever?
I've begun incorporating a glass or two of wine back into my weekly schedule, and I've noticed that on the days I drink, my sleep is a little off but not unmanageable.
As much as I want to fix this all-time-record insomnia I'm experiencing (I'm the gal who can take a big dose of Nyquil and stay wide awake), I'm curious if for ME, at MY AGE (egads) drinking can't be a regular indulgence?
Salty Salty Salt
This one's pretty straight forward. I like my food salty. If I don't put salt on something, I like to put salty condiments on it. I have almost no sweet tooth. It's a baby tooth.
Problem is, I like extreme flavors. Very salty, very spicy, very sour. A lot of the foods I prepare at home "need" to be salty for me to get excited about them. But it's not exactly helping my hydration.
I've tried salt substitutes or substituting other strong flavors like pepper or sesame oil, but I always end up reaching for the salt. And since Japan loves salty foods too (hello grocery aisle devoted to the salted, preserved fish I desire), part of me just wants to go with the local flow. I suspect I'm slowly mummifying myself.
So what eating habits are you working on? Do you share any of my "bad habits"? How are you attempting to change them?
Tell me what's cooking, fellow humans!