Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When NOT to Eat Cheaply, Healthy, and Good (er, Well)

There comes a time – or several times – in the course of things when eating healthfully and inexpensively goes right out the window. Maybe you’re working on a major project. Maybe you’re having a baby. Maybe you’re quitting your job, finding a new one, marrying, moving, or trying to get over the passing of a loved one. Rightfully, you have other concerns.

And you know what? That’s okay.

The Artist Formerly Known as Husband-Elect and I just wrapped up the busiest and most joyous month of our lives, during which we ate approximately two vegetables. (Wait. Is frosting a vegetable?) Preparing nutritious meals was next-to-dead-last on our list of priorities, just above keeping up with the Mets. (*grumble*) Instead, we were penning vows, seeing to the happiness of 140 loved ones, and entering a state of marital bliss unrivaled, even by a really good pot of macaroni and cheese.

Now, we’re home. The wedding festivities and pasta-packed honeymoon are over. We knew it would happen eventually. And with it done, it’s time to resume dietary normality. And once this time – this busy, emotionally haywire time – passes, you will, too.

Meanwhile, here are a few tips to get you through the rough parts.

Take it easy on yourself.
Order takeout. Choke down your five-minute hospital cafeteria lunch. Scarf that three-year-old bag of Sun Chips from HR’s vending machine. Because right now? At this very second? Keeping a budget and a strict calorie count doesn’t matter. What does matter: getting enough in your body to keep going. Forget the rest.

Remember, it’s only temporary.
Of course this doesn’t go for every situation. Kids are pretty permanent, and there are some jobs in which 70-hour weeks are the norm. But once you complete your task and/or get the hang of your new situation, everyday existence will become easier. I promise. Same goes for that interminable project, your inaugural home ownership, or even the tragedy that might consume your world right now. Time will pass, and there will be a dazzling light and pot of delicious turkey chili at the end of your seemingly endless tunnel.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are people who love you, and in pressured times, they will trip over themselves to feed, cook, or otherwise shove food into your mouth. If no one volunteers, go ahead and ask. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a benevolent government agency, somebody is going to step up. Never forget that, and try to do the same for others when you can.

Work good food in where you can.
Sporadically, in the midst of chaos, a cheap salad will present itself to you. (I think Confucius said that.) Eat it. A simple, occasional nod to nutrition will fuel you just as well as half a pizza. And if you can easily find a convenient provider of healthy, low-cost meals? Bonus. Food fuels mood, and keeping your spirits up is vital right now.

Do the best you can with what you have.
Forget keeping up with the Joneses. This ain’t the time. Use your available resources as best you can. If that means three weeks of pantry meals, so be it.

Pick a date to get back on the horse.
I don’t know about you, sweet readers, but I would do bupkis without deadlines. During nerve-racking periods, having that red-letter date provides a definitive end point for stress habits (ex: eating fast food), as well as a psychological starting point for new behaviors (ex: eating home-cooked meals). Plus, on a simpler emotional level, it’s just something to look forward to. Real world example: When projects devolved into anarchy at my old job, we repeated this like a mantra: “Think of it. Next Wednesday this will all be over.”

Help others in the same situation.
What goes around comes around. The love you take is equal to the love you make. Quid pro quo, Clarice. In other words: Pitch in, dearies. Somebody out there could use the assistance.

Readers, how do you eat during difficult or stressful periods? Do you agree or disagree with any of this advice? What practices make life easier? How can we best help others? The comment section is way open. Let’s help some brothers and sisters out.


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