3 Decisions

Nearly everyday, at different points in the day, I make the same three decisions.

1.I decide to try and prepare more of my own food and be more nutritionally aware.

2.I decide to run – or go to the gym, or workout to a video, or take a walk, or whatever my exercise of choice is at the time.

3.I decide to do a better job of cleaning my house.

Clearly, these are important goals in my life, and even though I make the same decisions almost everyday, it feels like I never make any real progress towards the goals. Here’s a recent example:

About 2 months ago I decided to begin the Couch to 5K program. I’ve always wanted to be a runner and there’s no real reason I’m not. So, everything went great the first week, and the second. By the third week, I was feeling confident enough to tell a few people what I was doing and to start thinking about running an actual race just to prove to myself it’s possible.

Week four, though. Whew. Week four kicked my ass. In a big way. The first day of week four was so hard I didn’t complete the recommended running/walking times. I thought I was going to puke by the end of it. Still I looked forward to running and felt a sort of loss on days I didn’t. By the end of week four, I could do it without thinking I might die. It felt great and I felt great and everything was going according to plan.

But I never started week five. I don’t know why, but that is my pattern. After following any fitness program, regime, diet or whatever for about a month, I just stop – totally proving that the theory it takes 21 days to create a habit is bunk.

It’s the same with both of the other decisions, too. I will clean the whole house, feel a sense of peace and contentment and vow to do a little everyday so it never gets so bad again. But it does. Every single time, in fact. I might keep things neat and clean for a couple of weeks, or even a month, but unfailingly we find ourselves living in the midst of clutter and chaos again.

And cooking. I love to cook, and have a horror of getting food poisoning from a restaurant. There are only a couple I trust at all. I’m a huge supporter of CSAs, farmers’ markets, locally grown food and eating food as natural as I can get it. I know how to bake bread, soak and cook all kinds of beans and even how to can or freeze most kinds of produce. Yet, I end up eating out more often than I will ever admit. And if I’m being honest, there’s no harm in eating out, so long as it is in moderation. Eating out should be left for the times when you have a big occasion coming up (perhaps a birthday, or an anniversary). Sure a home-cooked meal would be nice, but then you have to worry about washing up, so sometimes it’s just easier to go out to a place like francisca restaurant and just treat yourself. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to some nice food. However, if you find yourself eating out too often, then you need to learn when to say no and cook food at home.

Now, after reading about all those lapses in discipline, don’t imagine I don’t have any will power. I put myself through college on sheer will alone. I’ve done lots of things that require a hefty amount of perseverance. So, I’m at a loss as to explain why these three relatively easy habits are so difficult for me to maintain. After all, two of them are habits that I really enjoy – running is awesome, and homemade, healthy food rocks. Cleaning I can’t really say I like doing.

Do most people have things like this that they struggle to do regularly? Even things that are enjoyable? Why?

“Not enough time” is not a valid excuse in my mind. We all have time to do the things we care most about – especially me and especially now.

These three goals are important enough that I am not going to give up on them – I’ll just keep trying different things until something sticks and the habits form properly.

This time the experiment will be to make a six month commitment to do only one of the three. I’m going to begin with week three of the Couch to 5K program and will report back on how it worked in December. Wish me luck.

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Inspirational Eating

I am a member of a CSA – a farm that has a Community Supported Agriculture program. Members pay either an upfront or monthly fee and get a share of the produce of the farm weekly throughout the growing season. You don’t always know what you’ll be getting, but you can be sure of where it came from.

Every Tuesday is a day of anticipation because it’s my CSA pick up day.  Before joining the CSA last year, I’d never eaten kale, or chard, or fresh celery, or fresh beets, or white radishes, or purple beans that turn green when you cook them.  It’s been fun to learn and to try new recipes. I’ve discovered that bok choy ribs make great, totally guilt free snacks, and that chard ribs taste a little too earthy for my tastes.

Having easy access to fresh, delicious, healthy produce all summer is inspiring in so many ways. I spend entirely too much time looking at recipes, reading reviews and thinking about what to cook. Almost every week I fill a gallon sized zip lock bag with awesome salad so there is always something tasty in the fridge, ready to eat. Kebobs and foil packs of chopped veggies are on the grill every time we use it.

Food is a challenge for me. Well, the challenge of course is behaving sensibly when consuming food. I abhor the idea of “fake cheese” yet will eat those little packs of crackers that come with a little red plastic stick for spreading processed cheese all day. High fructose corn syrup is dangerous and nasty, but Coca-Cola is yummy. I completely understand how sugar ravages the human body and the consequences of being overweight and poor nutrition, but that understanding doesn’t lessen the extreme cravings for sweets that are so much harder to overcome than cravings for nicotine ever were.

Having a fridge full of CSA goods inspires me to eat better. It inspires me to learn more, to experiement more and to be creative in the kitchen. Knowing that a farmer is making a living and even employing a few people inspires me to work harder writing because writing is so very much easier than farming.  Going to the farm to pick up my box every week forces me to leave the house and the computer and that is usually inspiring all by itself.

If you enjoy experiementing in your kitchen and you don’t mind having a bit of  the unknown on your menu each week, I encourage you seek out a CSA. Coming up with the money may be a challenge, but it’s well worth it if you can swing it.

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Hitting a Brick Wall & Reassessing

No matter what your goals, or how you’ve chosen to pursue them, chances are you will get off track.  Probably several times. Sometimes you take meandering side trips that add to your journey, and sometimes you hit a brick wall so hard it knocks you off your feet and you have to recover, back out and find a whole new way to go.

How do you know when you need to reassess and try something different? It depends on what you are trying to do and your personality. Maybe you start to feel depressed or grumpy or just as if you are sort of running in place.  Maybe the methods you use to measure your progress are showing a flat line. Maybe you are even losing ground.

Part of the problem is that when you are faltering or struggling with a goal or in an area of your life, you can begin to see everything in a negative light. It’s so easy to fall into thinking about what you aren’t doing right and how you aren’t meeting goals.

Regret and feeling bad don’t help, though. Take time to figure out a different way to approach your goal, set a more realistic time table or decide if the goal is really worth pursuing instead of beating yourself up for lack of progress.

For about four years or so, I’ve tried every approach I could think of to eating a healthier, more nutritious and wholesome diet and getting more exercise into my day to day life. The problem is that I seem to be able to implement only small changes for limited periods of time. For instance, I have no problem tracking my caloric intake and staying within reasonable limits. For about a month at a time. Same thing with exercise – I have no problem with daily exercise for about a month.

It’s time to try something different. Instead of spending my time feeling like a failure or mentally berating myself, it’s time to come up with a new plan. I’m not sure yet what shape the new plan will take, but I am sure that doing something will be better than doing nothing.

Do you have a goal you’ve failed to meet time and time again?  Did you find a way to prevail or are you still struggling?

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Eating Right

On Twitter, I follow @jambutter.  He’s a knowledgeable guy who writes an interesting blog called Every Kitchen Table where he talks about the ProFood movement and  how changing the way we eat can be beneficial for our health as a nation, and how our economy, local food and local entrepreneurship are (or should be) intricately interwoven.  Rob often asks on Twitter why people don’t eat at home more? What is it that stops them from cooking?

I’ve pondered the question quite a bit and, admittedly, can dissect some of my own habits to find the answers–for our household, anyway.  Some of the most common reasons given have to do with the fact that it is time consuming, ingredients are hard to come by, people just don’t know how to prepare their own food.

I do know how to cook and really quite enjoy it, so that is not the reason I ate pizza for dinner. Ingredients are not that hard to get for me, although in order to get the best fresh stuff takes some planning because I have to seek out farmers’ markets that aren’t always open and aren’t on my normal route to and from work.

There are plenty of meals that can be prepared quickly, like stir fry, but no matter what anyone says, the entire process of planning, shopping, chopping, spicing, and cooking does take up much more time than driving thru and consuming. Not to say that the time is not well spent – it is, but the fact is it still takes time.

One of the biggest reasons people have a hard time eating at home consistently is the topic of this blog: it is difficult to motivate yourself to change habits.  Add to that our society’s collective addiction to sugar and you have the answer to why people don’t eat at home more.

Most thoughtful people know the benefits of eating well, but changing eating habits is tough, for a host of reasons.  I was a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm last summer, and it was awesome.  The food was unbelievably fresh and delicious, but I still ate burgers, pizza and potato chips. In fact, I eat junk food almost everyday because when I get home from work, I’m hungry enough to eat a shoe, so I grab whatever is handy. Sometimes, I’ve been to the grocery store and so have almonds or string cheese or something nutritious. But just as often, it’s a handful of chips or even a Little Debbie.

Other people maybe have the same struggle at lunch or at 3:00 every afternoon.  No matter when we are tempted to eat garbage, most of us do at least part of the time. It’s easy. And bad. But no matter what anyone tries to tell you, changing the way you eat is harder than changing some other habits. It involves also changing your shopping habits, your morning and evening routines and sometimes even your social life.

I am working on building good eating habits, and have been for several years.  The habit of writing everyday is much easier to maintain than the habit of cooking everyday. Maybe because writing doesn’t involve dish washing?

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Local Food

Food plays a big part in my thoughts about a better world.  This year, I joined a CSA program.  Most people have probably heard of CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture programs.  They have different requirements, but when you join, you pay for a share of a farm at the beginning of the season, then receive a share of the produce throughout the growing season.

I joined at the “half share” level, and for the farm I joined the price is around $400 for the year.  In return, I get a grocery bag of vegetables each week from May until October, either 24 or 26 weeks.  The farmer and I struck a barter deal, so I am not exactly a regular customer.  Also, the farmer is my neighbor, so I can drive past his beautiful fields anytime.  This CSA is a big one–I think around 100 families are members.  Some CSAs only allow for 15 or 20 members.  It is also a certified organic farm, which is nice to know.

The most outstanding factor is the TASTE.  I have never had such wonderful vegetables, including the ones I’ve grown myself.  Maybe my farmer is using exceptional seed or something, I don’t know, but the result is unbelievable.  The greens were crispy and green and now that it is the height of harvest season, the tomatoes, celery and carrots have the most tomato-y, carrot-y and celery-y flavors imaginable.  I am eating  much more raw food than normal, just so I can get the full taste of the veggies with no distractions.

Since this blog is about people and businesses that inspire me to imagine a better world, I have to include CSAs because in a perfect world, all food would be this good.  If there is a CSA farm near you, check into it.  The programs vary, the prices vary, the number of weeks produce is delivered varies, the payment options vary.  With all those variables, there might be a chance you could work fresh, local food into your life.

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