Space for Convenience

NOTE: I wrote this post about six months ago and for one reason or another never posted it. I'm sharing it now mostly because, even though I haven't been at the same place as I was when writing this for most of the past few months, this week I'm needing this reminder. I can now firmly say, YES making space for myself and finding ways to feed my soul has worked very well to improve my strength and creativity when it comes to eating healthy. And I need to remember on those days when I dread making dinner and I want to just reach for the box of Mac n Cheese  that it is a clear sign I have been neglecting my soul.   

Allow me to paint a picture for a moment...

I am standing in the grocery store and I am surrounded by temptations to convenience. There's a shelf of crackers on my right, rows and rows of processed carbohydrates mixed with vegetable oils.

In Prague I couldn't understand most of the packaged foods in the store so it was easy to ignore them. Here I see that box of Gold Fish crackers and instantly know what it is. The whines of hunger are getting louder from my son now.

"Here." I open the box and the little yellow dyed fish swim their way into his mouth.

I wander to the next isle and a box of Mac n cheese stares me right in the face. I recognize the box in a moments time, but more than that I have memories from my own childhood of eating it - happy, feel good memories. And as I look at it those memories play in the back of my mind.

Then my 3 year old son see's the box. He has his own memories of eating Mac n cheese with cousins now far away again. And the asking begins. A tantrum is quickly approaching. My stress level rises and into the cart the box goes.

Eventually we're home and I'm tired. Bryan will be home from work soon and I need to make dinner quickly. Thad asks for the Mac n cheese and I see an easy answer to the problem of dinner.

Consumerism meets the weakness of a sleep deprived, stressed, emotionally on edge, and slightly depressed mama and the result isn't very pretty.

Lately I feel like I've been moving backwards on the continuum to healthy eating.

I rationalize that at least I buy organic, but I've still chosen lots of highly processed foods lately. I've stopped making my own chicken stock and buy chicken broth from the store. I regularly buy tortillas that have vegetable oil in them. I rarely make my own bread any more. I haven't soaked or sprouted grains in months. (Although I do buy sprouted bread when possible.) We've ordered take out delivery twice this month, once pizza and the other time Thai food. This week I even ate a snickers bar! My first candy bar in years.

Some of you may read this and laugh and think "Come on, Beth, you still eat really well. Adding a few processed foods to your diet isn't the end of the world." And part of me agrees. I've always believed that even though it's good to eat healthy, it's also really good to be flexible and make compromises now and then. But, these things haven't just been occasional compromises they have started to become regular occurrences. And they've come at a time when I should be buckling down and being more strict because of Bryan's melanoma and Sage's microcephaly.

So I think I need to ask myself why? Why the compromises? What purpose have they served? And how can I best change these new bad habits?

In someways these processed, quick foods have indeed served a purpose and I would even say that they have been "healthy" for me. Not for my body, of course, but for my soul. I haven't exactly been in the greatest place emotionally lately, and easy, quick meals and snacks that don't require much effort or clean up are indeed helpful.

When I reflect on the recent changes in our diet I feel a lot of guilt, but at the same time I completely understand the decisions I've made.

Maybe instead of stressing myself out over not eating the way I'd like, or stressing myself out trying to make everything from scratch again like I used to, I should just be grateful for the conveniences that we have available to us and be gracious with myself in this season.

I'm thinking too that if I really want to change our diet perhaps the best way to do it isn't to just force myself to start making everything from scratch again suddenly. Perhaps what I really should do is work on getting myself emotionally healthy so that I have the emotional and mental strength to withstand the temptations and make my family the food I know is best for them. Perhaps making space for myself and being gracious with myself in the short term will renew my energy and creativity in the kitchen in the long term.

What do you think?

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany Stedman