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Last weekend for Pizza Night, we made marinara sauce from scratch. We baked homemade flatbread out of quinoa flour and sliced green onions. Our pizza was topped with organic vegetables and mozarella cheese -- not the pre-grated kind that's sold in a bag, but the kind we grated ourselves. It felt epic, to have such a made-from-our-own-hands meal.
Last night when doing a rehearsal of the snack we're taking to a Halloween party on Friday, we used pre-made refrigerated cookie dough and canned frosting -- the kind filled with enough sugar and chemicals to nearly send you into a coma from looking at it. We added food coloring to the frosting and we used miniature marshmallows. There was no pretense of this being a healthy or clean endeavor. We had a brief discussion about ways we could possibly make it more healthy -- or at the very least more homemade -- but eventually decided to just go for the quick, processed version. There are times when making these choices -- the ones that lead to less stress, less clean-up, less cost and more free time -- are as important as making the healthier choices.
There are certain things that are important to me. I'm on a mission to live a healthy life. I enjoy eating clean food and moving my body and choosing to put mostly whole, real foods in my body. That's important to me. It's important to try and make my food with reduced amounts of sugar, salt, and bad fats. It's important to try and eat more vegetables and fruits, more whole grains and lean proteins. It's important to me that I try and drink less alcohol and more water and that I make my food at home instead of living off of fast food. When it's possible, I'd rather make my own, healthier version of a dish -- one that's packed with nutrients and antioxidants and stripped of unnecessary processing. Lately I've been soaking dried beans instead of using canned. I've been making my own vegetable stock. Most of the meals I make are completely from scratch and are centered around nutritious vegetables and fruits. All of these things are important to me.
It's also important to me not to be one of those bloggers whose life seems so completely unobtainable that it's not even worth imagining. You know who I'm talking about: the women who always present themselves flawlessly, hair and makeup on point, dressed in the cutest outfit imaginable, posing in the cleanest kitchen ever, showing off some homemade concoction that took several hours to make without breaking a sweat. They make their own granola bars and their own bread and they used beets as food coloring and they always have perfectly-lit photos and a brood of clean, smiling, well-behaved children standing behind them. If they ever have moments of struggle they don't show them, unless it's to tell a hilarious story about how adorable it was when the popcorn burned but a backup plan saved the day and homemade trail mix that took three hours to make is better than popcorn anyway. It's important to me not to have people look at me and think: I could never do that.
That's why I'm such a fan of balance. Balance was a tough concept for me to learn and it's tough for a lot of people, especially those of us prone to all-or-nothing mentalities. Balance is what taught me that it's okay to eat a salad and also a cookie for lunch. Balance is what saved me from emotional disordered eating. Balance taught me that if I don't have time for a full workout, I can still move my body throughout the day by doing ten squats here and ten push-ups there. Balance is what taught me how good it feels to make homemade vegetable stock and to soak beans overnight and how good it feels, too, to make a Halloween party snack in fifteen minutes using pre-made cookie dough that comes in a tube.
At most, I eat processed food a few times a week. At most, I have a few alcoholic drinks a week. At most, I miss a few days of workouts. For the most part, my diet is clean. My workouts are regular. My alcohol intake is low. I mostly avoid fast food, fried food, sugary food, and food made with white flours. I generally work out an hour a day 5-6 days a week. I aim to drink 78 ounces of water daily. I take my vitamins, I move my body, I choose fresh fruits and veggies over chips and cake, and I get enough sleep and make taking care of myself a priority.
But I also recognize the importance of buying that tube of cookie dough. Yes, I could have made a homemade cookie dough -- one that used mashed banana and whole wheat flour, without an unpronounceable ingredient in sight. I probably could have made a healthier homemade version of miniature marshmallows and I absolutely could have made a healthier frosting and I could have skipped the cookies all together and used apples instead. I could have devoted my entire Sunday to figuring out the perfect way to make the cleanest Halloween treat possible. Or I could have recognized this for what it is: a rare event in which the goal is to create something with a Halloween vibe, not something good for the soul. I can go to this party on Friday and I can sample this and other sweet or savory treats, most of which will likely be equally unhealthy. I can balance it out with a healthy dinner beforehand and I can stick to small servings and be sure to hit up the veggie tray and fruit salad. I can do all these things and still live a healthy lifestyle. I can do all these things and still keep my sanity.
When I hear someone "confessing" to being "bad" because she ate a cookie, I want to scream. A person is not bad for eating a cookie. A person is not bad for eating ten cookies. A person makes choices. My goal when I'm making choices is to have most of my decisions swing toward the direction of being healthy and to have a few of my decisions swing in the direction of less healthy, straight-up fun. If I don't sprinkle a few of those choices in there, I don't feel like I'm really living.
Am I worried about going to a Halloween party and consuming processed snacks? No. Such events are rarities for me. Am I happy I only devoted fifteen minutes to trying out our snack yesterday instead of letting it become a full-day production? Yes. I got to use that time to cuddle with my husband and watch movies on the couch, feeling cozy and content all day long. I remember what it was like to make mostly unhealthy choices with a few healthy ones sprinkled in and I never want to return to that way of living. But mostly healthy choices with a few less healthy ones sprinkled in? To me, that IS living. To me, that's the difference between being a person and a persona. I'm choosing to be a person -- the kind whose kitchen gets dirty and clothes gets spilled on and makeup is often nonexistent, the one who worked for a long time to make a homemade quinoa dish but also has no qualms about using microwaved popcorn. It's balance. It's living. It's life.
For more about living a fun and balanced life, check out this wonderful blog from a fellow Fit Girl I adore: Balance Bride.