Suits and Salads

"You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits," [Obama] said.

"I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make." He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

This is excerpted from Obama's Vanity Fair interview. He stresses the importance of cultivating rituals and habits as a way to reduce stress and unnecessary anxiety. What to eat, when and how to exercise, what to wear-- these little decisions add up not just in minutes or hours throughout our day, but also in mindshare.     

When I first entered medical school, I was terrified of becoming too busy to consume healthfully, to the point where it consumed me.  I started off with all these baggies of "healthy" food (read: rabbit food) that I brought to class, and when it became too exhausting to plan and prepare my food each day, I started buying $13 lunches from the expensive salad bar and waiting in line at Chipotle or the Counter for dinners that I thought would be healthy. If I succumbed to Jack in the Box, I was plagued by guilt, sticky-hot at the pit of my stomach, percolating with all that Jack's Spicy.  

I think the reason that people go on any restrictive diet--ranging from juice cleanses to Paleo to Weight Watchers--is to experience relief.  Relief from the enormous amount of choice we have as consumers of food.  We say sorry, I'm on a diet in order to free ourselves from having to decide between cake or creme brûlée or peach sorbet, each agonizingly fraught with their own set of pros and cons, pleasures and consequences, calories and macros.  When we put constraints on our food, we don't actually believe that eating a cookie will derail all our work. We are simply exhausted from teetering on the precipice of being good, without any certainty about which bite will push us off.  

I knew that I felt anxious when I didn't have a plan. However, being on a diet kind of sucked. It was  unsustainable and left me guilty every time I deviated. And of course I deviated--I didn't actually like what I was eating. I just liked the promise of what the diet would bring me.  

I finally sat down and imagined what my ideal healthy meal would be. Most importantly, I didn't want to have to make a decision about what to eat every day. I was happy eating the same thing day in, day out, if I loved it. I love salads--but not wimpy ones. I wanted a big salad with protein and cheese and crunch and sweetness, all on a bed of fresh spinach. I wanted summer in my mouth. I didn't want to be hungry. And I did not want to pay a ton of money for it or spend time making it every day.  

Thanks to Google and the active blog world, I found the salad-in-a-jar concept. There are tons of recipes online, but I was all about that assembly line.  For mine, I put the dressing on the bottom of the quart Mason jar (I love Bolthouse Farms' Mango Chipotle), then the "wet" veggies (cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, jicama), feta cheese, orange slices, then the "dry" protein (baked tofu and lentils), topped by spinach. By separating the greens from the dressing, you keep them from wilting. I make 14 of them on Sunday nights, to last me for lunch and dinner through the week. It takes me less than an hour to make all of them. 

I've been eating them for a month now, and I don't want to go back. I save money, time, and most importantly, energy. I don't have to meander down to the hospital cafeteria and try to decide which option is the healthiest, most economical, tastiest. I just pull out my jar and dig in.

It can be a salad in a jar, or a turkey in a tupperware, or whatever, really.  When you figure out what works for you, find a way to replicate it easily. And then stop thinking about it. You have enough to worry about.  


Post a Comment


Flickr Photostream

Twitter Updates

Meet The Author