It is often said that the kitchen is the heart of any home. I’ve watched enough HGTV to conclude that there’s some truth to that as most home sells are either made or broken based on the style and flow of the kitchen. Interesting enough even in my own home I’ve observed that no matter where the initial gathering is my guest seem to always join me in the kitchen, drawn in by the smell of food being prepared or the visual display just before consumption. Additionally some of my most cherished memories are those where as a family we would join one another in the kitchen doing everything from dancing, singing, homework or watching television while my Mom would sigh for it was evident that she needed more room to work since we were constantly underfoot . I get a warm fuzzy just thinking about it and if I close my eyes I can smell a pot of spaghetti simmering coupled with the sound of fish frying in a pan – it must be Friday.
Little did I know that this very same room, my kitchen would hold the “magic formula” I longed for to not only help fight obesity but lessen my chances of high blood pressure, diabetes, a heart attack or stroke. You see in a desperate attempt to once again lose weight I reestablished my gym membership and like a child learning to ride a bike for the first time I clumsily maneuvered the frightening equipment short of killing myself. I gave the illusion of doing well thought out routines but really had no clue what I was doing and my cardio time was more finger action because it took forever to pick a program, change the speed, set the incline etc.
One evening at the gym I was offered a personal training session, guess I looked that helpless, and while I gathered a lot of useful tips concerning the proper way to use the equipment nothing was more impactful than the following statement the PT shared. “This is an 80/20 process, 80% diet/20% exercise”. He further explained that the more effective and fail proof way to reach a healthy weight and obtain a body I could be proud of was first made in the kitchen. He continued with asking me what was currently on my shelves/fridge/freezer. I was confident that I was giving him all the right answers – packaged foods advertised as being “healthy”; items whose labels read “reduced fat”, “8 points”, “100 calories”. He appeared a bit sickened by my kitchen’s contents so I opted to remain closed mouthed about the chips and other comfort foods that I had tucked away. Desiring to hear nothing more, he presented me with a challenge, he asked if I would be open to having him prepare for me a meal plan that , though he didn’t call it “Clean Eating” consisted of clean foods. Since I’m not one to shy away from challenges and I was eager to drop the pounds I replied with an affirmative yes. I left the gym that evening with a list of clean foods, a meal plan and a set of instructions that changed my life completely.
At the top of my instruction sheet read the following “This is not a diet but a lifestyle change”. I took a couple of days to get this principle embedded in me to ensure that it would have a lasting effect vs my normal 90 day trial, fail, quit approach. So it wasn’t until the following Saturday that I with instructions in hand gave my kitchen a major overhaul.
1. Upon inspection I pulled everything from my shelves/fridge/freezer and divided them into two groups A for clean vs B for not clean. A = frozen chicken breast/salmon/fresh and frozen vegetables/oatmeal/ can tuna; B = white flour/granulated sugar/white bread/white rice/white potato/soda/sugary snacks i.e. (fruit snacks/ 100 calories packages/cereals) to name a few
2. All group B items were quickly removed from my house either gave them my neighbor or simply disposed of.
3. Made a grocery list complete w/ complex starchy carbs (sweet potato/beans/rice cakes/brown rice) fibrous veggies (broccoli/cabbage/cucumbers/green beans) fats (natural peanut butter/almond butter/flax oil/olive oil/walnuts or almond (for complete list of clean foods see attachment)
4. I stuck to what was on my list and fought off every urge to pick up a little treat I also didn’t allow myself time to peruse the store like a visitor for the first time.
5. I designated Sunday afternoon for meal prep which required a bit of schedule adjustment
6. I prepare enough food to have lunch and dinner for 7 to 10 days (chicken breast is cooked in crock pot or oven and when weather permits I grill in the yard) fresh veggies are cooked separated and bagged. This also guaranteed that my daughter had a sensible meal after school or soccer practice versus snacking until dinner was made.
7. Established a few rules like if a product has more than 2 week shelf life I don’t buy it, carefully plan out meals so on shopping day I only buy what is needed.
8. Adjusted my view of my kitchen rather than it be a place of refuge where I crept at night to drown my sorrow by binge eating, it is now my sanctuary where I go to get refueled that I may continue on with living.
While the contents of my kitchen have changed drastically, it’s still our central gathering spot, my daughter the dogs and I together, she texting while the dogs wait for an accidental releasing of food and I with an occasional sigh - wrapped up in the memories of my past and the new found appreciation I have for my kitchen.