Sometimes, Robb likes to remind me that I can come off as, well… not the most warm and nurturing person in the world. I admit that my passion (and sensitivity) can sometimes come off as unsympathetic, but it’s only because I actually really give a shit about things. Maybe being a nutritionist was the wrong career choice for me. I love helping people, but can get frustrated when I hear excuses for why they “can’t” follow my advice. I REALLY care about how people treat themselves, and it’s super hard for me to see them sabotage themselves. I sometimes feel like people are paying me to give them a life preserver and instead they’re choosing to swim in the opposite direction, towards the sharks.
Last week, I was working with a young woman and her husband who are trying to lose weight and start a family. They eat out a lot and often make poor choices regarding food. As I was trying to illustrate how important it is to cook food from scratch instead of getting takeout, I got some push back. She told me she doesn’t have the time to cook. I asked her how she spends her weekends, and it was pretty typical of your average millennial. She totally had the time, but it was her priorities that were out of whack. I hear this a lot. I also hear that it can cost too much to eat real food. Even though many of you have probably heard all of this before, I figured this warranted just a small and gentle reminder that yes, in fact, you probably do have the time and the money to eat well.
What are your priorities?
This is a very basic question but something that really requires some hard thinking if you’re using excuses to shortcut your health. I get that some people are just struggling to make it day to day, and in the basic hierarchy of needs, long-term health can sometimes take a backseat.
Let’s look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
Nope, a strong Wifi connection is not at the bottom. I’m sort of joking. But not really. I think a lot of people have their needs and wants way mixed up. If you’ve got a safe place to sleep and clean water (which, I acknowledge, some people legitimately do not have), then food is one of the next items on the hierarchy. How you choose to fuel yourself is often an afterthought. But if you consider that the only thing we actually “have” is time here on earth, you can make a choice to help yourself feel great while you’re here, or you can feel like crap. Some things are of course out of our control, but good food should be placed BEFORE you upgrade to the iPhone 7, next monthly subscription of clothing you don’t need, or whatever it is you do to keep up with the Joneses. The time spent in the kitchen is much more important than spending time watching reality TV or on social media. Time and money spent on clean food is an investment in the quality of life you’ll have while you’re walking the planet.
I know it can seem like life is hard, and things are expensive, but actually, we’ve got it pretty good. The Western Hemisphere is currently war-free. Let’s look at all of the other things that are going our way…
1. Look at how many people didn’t have electricity until 1950
2. Today, hardly anyone only has a landline
3. You’re much less likely to die from a violent crime
4. More people have high school diplomas than ever before
5. Look at how cheap it is to fly
Now let’s look specifically at how we’re spending our food dollars and using our time that could be spent in the kitchen…
6. As a %, less of our disposable income is spent on food
7. We’re spending more money going out to eat, and less at the grocery store – and when we go out to eat, people generally do not choose “clean food”
8. Look at what we’re buying when we are at the grocery store – in the 20 year span, spending on processed foods & sweets has doubled.
9. Check out how we’re spending our leisure time – nearly three hours a day on TV!
10. And, how much time are you spending on social media?
Finally, if you compare many processed foods to nutrient dense foods, you’ll see that the healthier foods are actually cheaper. For example:
The average price of a snickers bar (2015) in the US is $1.24 for a standard bar. That’s $0.66 per ounce. I don’t see my clients complaining about the price of candy.
Now, let’s take something that people do complain about to me: grass fed beef. Consumer Reports purchased 300 packages of ground beef in 103 stores in 26 cities across the United States in 2015. They paid an average of $4.95 per pound for conventional beef (which, I would argue is better than a snickers bar) and an average $7.83 per pound for grass-fed organic beef. That’s $0.39 and $0.49 per ounce, respectively. So, even grass-fed organic beef is $0.17 cheaper by weight than a snickers bar.
And we’re not even including the fact that beef is so much more nutritious than candy bars. It’s full of bioavailable iron and other vitamins and minerals. Contrary to many reports, beef does not take a billion gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, and pasture-based herbivores can help sequester carbon. Processed food takes incredible amounts of resources to make compared to an animal raised in a natural way. In fact, I bet that if someone were to compare a life-cycle analysis of what it takes to produce a snickers bar (so, all the inputs required from the fossil fuels, crops, water, electricity, etc.) and compared it to what it takes to produce the same weight in grass-fed beef, the beef would win hands down.
If you can afford a smart phone, a wifi connection, a winter vacation, or a snickers bar, then you can afford healthy food. If you generally spend your leisure time in a similar way to most Americans, then I challenge you to spend less on food “away from home,” more on the raw ingredients. A little more time in the kitchen as an investment in yourself.
Need some ideas on how to incorporate cooking into your routine, have a medical condition, or have you hit a plateau and could use some advice? I love working with people who are excited to make change, and who are done making excuses for why they “can’t” spend the time or money on good food. If you’re ready to take the life preserver, check out how to work with me.