I’m in the back corner of Healthy Spot (“It’s the Whole Foods for dogs!!” any employee will tell you). My hair is unbrushed, my hands are covered in mini scabs from a teething puppy, and I’m intensely poring over the ingredients of a $30 bag of kibble.
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“Biscuit eats better than we do,” I say to my boyfriend, who’s next to me panicking over whether we should have our 10-week-old puppy on a raw food diet or not (it’s the new dog food craze, don’t get me started).
He shrugs his shoulders at my comment. “I guess,” he says. I’m annoyed by his glib response because I know exactly why he’s not agreeing with me. My boyfriend, Max, does eat as well as our 401k-draining puppy.
While we’re both completely depleted and stressed and simply might have a public meltdown if we have to clean up one more of Biscuit’s accidents, Max still finds time to take care of himself: He manages to go to the gym every day, make it to the grocery store, and somehow still care about things like protein to carb ratios and hidden added sugars. He figured out a long time ago that this is how he feels best, and he’s not willing to compromise.
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Me? Well, I’m stressed over work, stressed that Biscuit isn’t enrolled in the right puppy socialization class, stressed I’m not involved enough in the non-profit I mentor at, stressed about selling my car, stressed about fourth quarter taxes, and eternally stressed I left the coffee pot on and our whole crumb-sized apartment will burn down. I don’t have time to eat healthily! Hell! I deserve a big ole frozen pizza at the end of the day. I earned that $40 takeout order. Right?
I thought about my self-neglect on our drive home, images of our freezer stuffed to the brim with freezer food, my credit card balance holding mainly takeout charges complete with lofty delivery fees.
Maybe I could give this whole “put yourself first” thing a try, I thought. And like the impulsive, never-think-things-through kinda gal I am, I decided then and there that for two weeks I would cook every single meal. No takeout, no frozen food, no going out to dinner. Oh! I also decided to totally cut out sugar, too! Sounds like a balanced approach to change, right?
Well, spoiler: It was not.
After the first week, it was clear I’d set myself up for total failure. The sugar-free situation had flown out the window along with my pride and dignity, and I’d somehow managed to eat out a total of four times. I mean, how was I supposed to turn down an invite to Playa Provisions? The chef there won Top Chef! Come on!
It was Sunday and I was laying on the couch when I decided I was ready to accept my self-care failure and call the whole thing off with a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills binge.
I’ll just try this whole thing another time, when I’m less busy, I thought.
But before I could press play, the other side of my brain, the more logical and way less judgmental side, jumped in. STAHP IT! It said. You cooked every other meal and have yet to have a single frozen item all week. Think, Skylar, think. How can you set yourself up for success this week?
Maybe it was the perfectly sculpted abs and butt of the new Beverly Hills housewife, or maybe it was the cheesy “Progress over perfection” Instagram quote I’d just scrolled past, but I got up off the couch and knocked on my boyfriend’s office door.
“I can’t help with Biscuit for the next couple hours. I gotta meal prep for the week,” I said.
“Fantastic,” he smiled at me. “I got it under control.” I then grabbed my keys and headed for the grocery store.
I’m happy to report the next week went much better. Was I perfect? No. But did I make a whole lotta progress? Hell yeah.
And I have to say, this whole carving out time for self-care thing kinda feels like magic.
And because I want to share that magic, here are my top five hacks for eating better if you’re a busy gal or guy like myself.
1. Don’t overreach
I feel like in another life I was Martha Stewart. I have this idea in my head that I can whip up Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon after a long workday. FALSE. This idea is false. It’s so important to know your limits with cooking.
For me, sometimes if I even have to chop a single vegetable, I’ll just go for the takeout menus. Find some recipes that you can make in literally seven minutes. They’ll save you. There’s no shame in boiling some whole wheat pasta, adding some jarred sauce, and calling it a night.
I found it extremely hard to not only cook, but to cook with enough vegetables. Sometimes you gotta eat avocado toast for dinner and you just have to be okay with it, you know? But to make sure you’re still getting those greens, I recommend powdered green superfood. It totally takes the pressure off.
3. The all-mighty Instant Pot
THIS IS A LIFE-SAVER. I have a crockpot sitting in my kitchen collecting dust, so I was hesitant to buy an Instant Pot, but boy was I wrong. It makes dinners and Sunday meal prep SO EASY. Need lunches for a full week? Just dump some water, rice, salsa, and chicken in this thing, and it’s done in eight minutes! It’s brilliant.
4. Sunday meal prep
Do it! Just do it. If you want to eat pre-made healthy lunches all week, you’ve got to carve out some self-care cooking time on Sunday.
And last, but certainly not least….
5. Progress over perfection
Whatever your goal is with eating, just remember, learning to take care of yourself is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to learn and perfect what works for you.