9 October 2016

71 –Three Simple Things, Pt. 3: Cleanse

This is the third and final essay in a three-part series of essays.

You may wish to have a gander at #69 and #70 first. Otherwise, let’s hope you’ve got an appetite. This one’s about eating.

I bring the same lunch to work almost every single day. It consists of a vegetable salad with no dressing, an apple, a smoothie, and nuts. It’s simple. It’s unfancy. And it seldom draws a reaction from the lunchtime Food Gossipers.

Yet the reactions of the Food Gossipers are important. They say a lot about how we’re conditioned to think about food.

The sight and smell of a microwaved frozen dinner gets the Food Gossipers excited. They can’t seem to resist it. Yet the sight and smell of my lunch seems to suck the air out of the room.

That’s best kind by me. I don’t want Food Gossipers gawking over my shoulder while I’m eating anyways. More importantly, my lunch doesn’t suck the air out of me.

My lunch serves a tangible purpose: it helps me look, feel, and perform better. I tackle my workload after lunch with more energy than in the morning. And I never feel bloated or in dire need of a nap.

Don’t believe me? Try keeping up with me in the warehouse on any given afternoon.

You won’t. I’ll eat you up.

What we eat has a direct impact on how we look and feel. I know this through experience. Long story short: several years ago I shed almost 60lbs of fat by making good, little changes to my diet and moving more. And recent experiences have provided me with another powerful reminder of how important what we eat really is.

I fell into a mild funk during the late winter / early spring of this year. Part of that funk involved eating poorly. For the better part of two months my diet consisted mainly of pizza, cheeseburgers, and french fries. I washed that down with ice cream or potato chips for dessert.

At first I said to myself:

Fuck it! I eat good almost all the time. This is kinda nice for a change!

And it was. But it didn’t take long for ugly side-effects to emerge.

My personal awesomeness suffered. I felt bloated and winded after eating supper every evening. I felt hungover every morning. I felt sluggish all day. And I felt exhausted when I got home from work.

My mental alertness suffered. I struggled to keep my mind from wandering at work. I struggled to write even the simplest words and thoughts. It felt like the reservoir of creativity I normally drew from had dried up.

My exercise routine suffered. I began experiencing severe inflammation and joint pain in my shoulders. A week would often pass before my shoulders could tolerate another workout. And that cycle repeated itself for several weeks. Yoga didn’t help much either. I was right dunched up every time I did a session. Poor eating contributed to poor workout performance and recovery.

My physical appearance suffered. I could see and feel the fat slowly congealing around my midsection. After only a few weeks I stopped wearing the old belt I needed to keep my pants up. And pants don’t lie. They told me I was putting on unhealthy weight.

And then one day I told myself something else:

It’s time to get your shit together.

And I did.

I cleaned up my eating habits in late May. I stopped eating burgers, fries, pizza, ice cream, and chips. I started eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, chicken, and salmon again. I began putting a spoonful of chia and flax seed into my smoothies once more. And Greek yogurt, nuts, and organic cereal became my go-to desserts again.

The ugly side-effects disappeared within a month.

By late June I felt awesome again. I no longer felt bloated after supper every evening. Nor did I feel hungover in the morning. And I was ripping through each work day like a demon.

My mental alertness sharpened. I could once again flip the switch and focus like a laser at work. And the ideas and words began flowing out of my brain on to the page and screen once more.

My exercise routine rebounded quickly. I felt energetic and strong again. The inflammation and aches in my shoulder joints vanished. I felt limber and loose when practicing yoga once more.

And my physical appearance improved. The fat melted off my midsection and I needed to dig out the old belt again. Now I’m pulling the belt tighter than ever before. Once again, pants don’t lie.

Glove don’t lie neither. 

In a month I went from feeling loose in the cage to feeling like a lion bursting from a cage.

I didn’t do anything drastic. I didn’t embark on an Olympic-level training program. I didn’t starve myself to lean out for a bodybuilding contest. And I didn’t resort to physiotherapy or pain medications to fix my shoulders.

I simply cleaned up my eating habits. I replaced heavily-processed edibles with real, clean food. And I started looking and feeling better almost immediately.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. Nor do I ever hope to be. Searching for perfection is futile. We’ll never find it.

Though if you are looking for perfection here’s a suggestion: go get your eyes checked. You’ll find that you’re better off looking for happiness instead.

I’m like you. I make mistakes, I let good habits slide on occasion, and I enjoy a good indulgence every so often. I’m not trying to go through life without eating any more tubs of chocolate cookie-dough ice cream. Because I’ll definitely buy a tub when it’s on sale for half-price at the foodstore again. Fuck it. I might even buy two.

But I also want to be the best House Newf I can be. I want to be as able-bodied and durable as my genetics will allow. I want to think and feel as well as I can for as long as I can. And all of that depends greatly on what food I choose to eat.

Too many of us have a misguided attitude toward food. Too many of us see food as an infinite luxury and treat eating as an indulgence. And too many of us overconsume bad foods as a result.

But food is not a luxury. And eating is not an indulgence. And viewing food and eating that way is a grave mistake.

Rachel’s right.

Our mistakes, imperfections, and indulgences don’t excuse us from striving to become the best versions of ourselves possible. Excuses don’t cut it. Anyone riding excuses through life is a terrible driver.

Your body is your car. And it’s the only one you’re ever going to get. You can’t trade it in for a new one if it breaks down. You have to take care of it. You have no choice. You have to put good fuel into your body to optimize its performance.

Food is fuel. Eating is one of the most important ways by which we refuel our bodies and minds. And how we look, feel, and perform depends greatly on the kinds of food we eat. That’s truth.

I’m going to close this essay differently than I had intended. I scrapped my original closing thoughts because they were too damn preachy. Nor am I in any position to preach. As me Mudder and Grandmudder always said:

Don’t be the pot calling the kettle black.

I’ll leave you with this to chew over instead:

People tend to justify eating JunkFood by saying the following:

Well, you gotta live a little.

If those people live as they eat then they have small ambition.

‘Living a little’ by eating too much unhealthy food leaves us looking and feeling unhealthy. That’s not living. That’s existing poorly.

Eating good, clean food helps us look and feel better. And that leaves us feeling a lot happier. That’s living.

So why settle for eating JunkFood that only lets you live a little, when eating more real, clean food will help you live a lot more?

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.