Hello, "DW" here. Lover of all things cappuccino, Pad Thai and Picky Foodie (I’m her husband). I’d like to discuss something today very close to my heart: time, or rather, the lack of it (and how I recently discovered a way of getting more out of the little bit that I do have).
We’re a busy family, and time is at a premium. I’m a professional writer. This means that theoretically, I’m the master of my own destiny. Every day I count my lucky stars that I have no boss, no commute, and any timetable I’m plugged into is usually of my own creation.
However, on a recent business trip to Los Angeles, that was not the case.
Morning, noon and night, I attended meeting after meeting on a crazy schedule that was dictated by others, planned in exquisite detail. It felt like boot camp. Each day had a metronomic regularity to it -- driving, meeting, driving, meeting, looking for a bathroom, driving, meeting, and so on. At night, I would Skype my much-missed family, collapse into bed, and set my alarm for 6am so I could do it all over again.
What’s more, I needed energy to be constantly “on,” all day, every day. There was no margin for error.
For the first time, the reality of “you are what you eat” made sense to me.
Eating well while being constantly on the road can be a tall order. Nutrition often falls by the wayside and in the past, I would more often than not give in to convenience. I had neither the headspace nor the time to plan ahead.
A typical U.S. gas station sells petroleum products, chewing gum, and high fructose corn syrup in a variety of flavours and temperatures. It being L.A., taco stands, fast food joints, hot dogs, noodles and burgers beckoned from billboards and signage on every street corner. Try finding a sandwich that’s not laden with every E number in the additive alphabet, even in ‘upscale’ supermarkets.
Previously, I would have succumbed to these quick fixes. If I needed a boost before a meeting, I’d have munched on a muffin in the parking lot. But this trip felt different.
Over the past few years, with my wife’s help, I’ve started trying to eat more healthy, green foods. Although I still can’t say that greens are a natural choice for me, I have -- slowly – become aware of the effect they have on my wellbeing. Last year, on a family trip to California, I found my desire for them had taken a leap forward. I’m not sure why. I think a lifetime of food habits don’t disappear overnight.
This latest business trip proved to be some kind of tipping point. Suddenly, energy was the premium. So I trusted my instincts, and took a first step. I had a 'green' day. Berries and an apple for breakfast, followed by a kelp noodle salad with mixed greens for lunch, a "green power" juice in the afternoon, a salad in the evening sprinkled with nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Even though I knew deep down what would happen, the results surprised me -- I felt fantastic. All day. I sailed through a tough schedule and negotiated frantic freeway traffic with tons of energy and a clear head.
For the rest of my stay in L.A., I made it my priority to choose green, veggie and raw as frequently and as plentifully as I could.
As the days passed, I started to feel what my body needed for consistent, optimum energy. Salads, vegetables, and those amazing raw kelp noodles (they really are insanely delicious) filled me up and kept me alert, satisfied and powering through my day. I made sure I was sipping lots of water, I put together a healthy trail mix for the car. In fact, I often took a detour in my already car-heavy travel plans to ensure I got a good, green meal.
And it wasn’t just on the road. I filled the fridge of the place where I was staying with green juices just in case I was running late in the morning and didn’t have time for a proper breakfast.
If I'm sounding like a saint here – rest assured, I wasn't. I still had my morning coffee, and I had moments when I simply didn't have the option of eating what and where I would have wanted. But the equation for me was simple:
me + more veg = better day all around
Why this change of gear? It’s my belief that these nutritional upgrades came slowly, through a long-term and continual process. My life has recently filled up with these tentative steps towards healthier choices. What I have not been is consistent.
It's not like I don't know the downside. I know full well that no matter how much I desire a rich, cheesy burrito at lunch, twenty minutes later, I’m exhausted and reaching for an espresso to get me through the afternoon.
It’s taken me months, if not years, to internalise that when I eat more greens and more vegetables in general, I don’t just avoid exhaustion -- I feel positively great. I’ve known in theory what’s “best” for me, but it’s quite something to actually experience it so profoundly.
In L.A., I asked myself the same question at every meal: how will this food make me feel afterwards? How will I feel for the rest of the day? My choices weren’t about “being good”, or even “eating right”. They were about “eating smart” and powering through. Finally.
The trip was a great success. After two weeks, I returned home without the usual fatigue and flu-like symptoms that normally accompany me after periods of stress. I put that down to my food choices. (I have to admit that it also helped that, being L.A., the produce was exquisitely delicious.)
Then, on my return, something began to bug me. Why don’t I eat this way when my schedule isn’t as tight? Why can’t I eat such supportive foods when it’s just me? Why don’t I go for greens more often?
Perhaps, the answer is: time. You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it eat watercress. Not until it knows, from first hand and consistent experience, what that watercress will do for it. It took me time to realise how good I feel after eating greens and how that affects everything from my ability to concentrate to my relationship with my family, to the smell of my breath and the quality of my sleep. It has taken me time to actively start seeking out healthy food. It will take me more time to integrate these changes into my daily routine. But every choice I make, I still ask myself the same question: how will this food make me feel?
Playing with our little girl every morning, I wish these moments would last forever. As time goes by, I see how little of it there really is. This only makes me appreciate the hours I do have and I for one want to squeeze every minute out of every day. So today, as I go to work, I’d like to make use of the food that I eat to support that goal, make choices that will help me get the work done, live a longer and more vibrant life, so I can be with my family, and play with my daughter some more.
DW’s Green Breakfast Smoothie
(serves 1 hungry writer – should easily keep him humming until lunch)
- 1 ½ cups liquid (coconut water or homemade hemp mylk*)
- 1 banana
- 1-2 pitted dates, depending on size and sweetness
- ½ pear (optional)
- 1 T cashew nut butter or a handful of cashews
- large handful of greens: watercress (a favorite), spinach, butter lettuce, kale (3-4 leaves, stalks removed) – use one kind of greens at a time and be sure to rotate them.
- 1T (rounded) raw cacao
- 1T mesquite
- 1t ionic minerals
- 1t supergreens powder (we use this one in the US and will try this one in the UK when we run out)
- 1/4t ashwaghanda (optional)
- dollop of Omega 3/6/9 oil (optional)
Briefly blend the mylk, fruit and greens. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend WELL (there’s nothing worse than a gunky smoothie).
* to make hemp milk, use ½ cup hemp seeds to 1 litre of water. Blend well. Keeps up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can do this with pretty much any nut or seed. You can also strain the liquid, depending on personal preference. I keep it as is so we get the extra fibre.
DW’s favorite Green Juice
(serves 2 as a non-alcoholic aperitif or a great afternoon pick-me-up)
- 3 cucumbers
- 1 lg head of lettuce
- 4 pears
- 1 knob ginger