When we got married I could cook Mac ’n cheese and anything that went in a microwave.
That’s it. Unless you count the fact that I can follow a good cookie recipe after a couple of years working in the Wartburg Bakery!
To cook or not to cook
Cody, however, had worked as a cook in a restaurant for a number of years. Honestly, I was a bit terrified of cooking for him (you know, for fear of poisoning him). I avoided cooking as much as possible and went with super fool-proof recipes, eating out, or letting Cody cook. Once I realized that the odds of me unintentionally poisoning my new husband were pretty slim, I decided to learn how to cook.
I would make fun meals from our favorite restaurants like this 3 Cheese Chicken Penne from Applebees. I loved learning to get creative with leftovers to reduce food waste. My cookbooks were out four hours at a time as I searched for recipes that would be fun to make. I was learning slowly, but it was fun and I gained confidence with every meal I made.
The meals we made we delicious, but often very heavy in processed things that were not great for us. It was weighing me down physically and mentally, but I didn’t mind too much because I was finally having fun!
Food for the body AND mind
A couple of years later, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Both were just on the verge of needing medication, but I wanted to avoid that at all costs. TRULY, no shame to those who medicate. It was a personal decision, because I’m very sensitive to medication, so I wanted to avoid it if possible. To avoid taking medication, I had to double down on anything that I could control in my lifestyle to help manage my symptoms. I exercised, spent more time growing in my faith, went to therapy, committed to 8 hours of sleep nightly, etc. It was all helping some, but I could tell there was still something messing with me mentally. No matter how I avoided it, the time had come that I needed to adjust my eating habits.
A balanced intake of food
I started focusing more on portion sizes and getting a good balance of protein, veggies, fruits, carbs, healthy fats, etc. Even though I didn’t want to admit it, it was making a huge difference in my darkest days with mental health struggles.
However, it also hurt my enjoyment of cooking. I became too focused on eating what was “right” that I would only eat what I thought I was allowed that day. Alternatively, I would give myself too much grace and binge on every “junk” food I could think of for a few days because I “deserved it”. Cooking became more of a battle and less of a joy.
Since I didn’t enjoy my time in the kitchen anymore, I got frustrated and started losing the results I had been feeling physically and mentally.
I found myself frequently ordering pizza because making a perfectly balanced, portioned meal feels like too much work. I wouldn’t allow myself some of my favorite meals because they were too carb-heavy. Maybe they had too many processed ingredients, or didn’t have enough (or any) veggies or proteins.
However, some of the recipes I was avoiding truly would be beneficial in some ways. They were made of 100% whole food and 0 processed junk. They were healthy, even if they weren’t “PERFECT” to my meal plans.
Finding a balance
This year, I’m committing to making more food at home, even if it isn’t balanced perfectly. Instead, I’m balancing my enjoyment in the kitchen with my need to eat whole, nutritious foods. I want to love being in the kitchen AND be healthy physically and emotionally. It’s possible. I still use many of the guidelines I learned in the food programs I followed to help me stay on track, but I don’t fret about being perfect anymore. It’s still a work in progress, but 2020 will be the year I find my love for cooking once again.