For those that don't know my background before entering the fitness industry, in a previous life I was a professional chef (please dont ask what my favourite thing to cook is, no chef likes that question - they’ll be too polite to say anything but they don't like it), when i was at school that was seriously all I wanted to do - see the world and cook food for a living. Things change along the way and obviously I went with a change of career a number of years ago, that said one of the reasons I left the professional kitchen behind is I love cooking and if I kept working in that industry it was probably going to reach a point where i no longer loved it - leaving when I did has meant that despite donning track pants each day and hanging round a gym I’m still super passionate about food.
Now the reason for the slightly excessive preamble is to give a bit of insight into why I have the opinion that i do on food and eating, working in the fitness industry I am pretty passionate about health and performance but taking from my previous life I don't believe that means having to survive on steamed chicken and kale, food is one of life’s little pleasures and if you’re a little smart about how you approach it - you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too. When it comes to diet combined with training I often hear - “food is fuel”, this is true but your fuel doesn't have to taste like shit either.
The crux of this article is I want to discuss how cooking your meals from scratch affects your relationship with food, in my opinion there is a vast difference if you gathered all the ingredients to make a loaf of bread from the beginning and 6 hours later turned that into a sandwich than dropping thru the servo on your way home and grabbing a pre-made ham n cheese special. From a macro nutrient point of view the two meals may have an indistinguishable difference in breakdown of protein, carbs and fat (I would suspect the home job might be slightly superior but that isn't the major point) but from a psychological standpoint the fact that you have gone through the physical process of preparing one of those meals from base ingredients over an extended period of time is going to give you far more of an appreciation for eating that sandwich than the split section rapid fire almost unconscious act of purchasing a sandwich. This relates heavily to one of the key principles of the EGSGTG Challenge - AWARENESS, how can you control what you’re eating if you don't even know that you’re eating it? Habits are unconscious acts, Im always banging on about understanding habits to people and regular post links about it on the website, to use habits to your advantage you need to first become aware of them and look to alter them to ensure they are a positive behaviour.
Its something that a lot of people don't consider, they think of food as food and nothing but you do have a “relationship” with food - be it positive or negative. Like your relationships with people, a positive relationship with food is going to be more productive (and far less stressful) than a negative one. If you finish a meal and one of the first feelings that you have after you brush the last crumbs out of your beard is guilt, then pretty much any positive effect that meal might have had on your well being has been instantly nullified as well as potentially starting a cycle of guilt, negativity and self punishment ie doing exercise / training as a form of penance (rather than seeing all the benefits that regular exercise has). Im not saying that gathering all the ingredients and baking a batch of brownies from scratch makes it healthy, sugar is still sugar, what I am saying is going through the process of cooking is more wholesome and should be viewed somewhat differently to impulse buys and junk food gorging.
Some of the straight up positives to dusting off the pans and cooking yourself include but are definitely not limited to -
- you get busy in the kitchen and you’re going to be burning calories in the process (try whisking hollandaise by hand for 15min!)
- you know exactly what's in that meal in front of you (amazing - food can taste okay without the addition of preservative 342 and colouring 231…)
- flat out you will enjoy a meal you cooked yourself more than a meal you know you shouldn't be eating anyway from the shops (even if you are a bit rubbish in the kitchen)
- its cheaper - Im not talking about comparing 2:4:1 pizza night with what it costs to make it yourself, it is cheaper to gather quality ingredients and prepare them yourself than it is to go out for the equivalent quality meal
- it carries over to other aspects of your lifestyle (success breeds success), if you’re taking the time to plan and prepare your meals each week, its going to make you feel more organise and pull other things into line (ie sleep, training, everything)
- going to fresh food markets is awesome. If you don't already do it - go check it out and get inspired, there are markets on every side of the city now. My personal favourite it Gepps Cross on a Sunday morning (herbs by the kilo, yes indeed!)
I appreciate that everyone isn't a chef and people are time poor so convenience is a factor - but if you want to make time, it can be done. Look at incorporating it as part of the EGSGTG Challenge and start small, there are loads of recipes of the internet (like millions) - aim to try cooking 1 meal a week, make it a thing, rather than go out - cook dinner and something you haven't tried before, you might fail and cook a big plate of ass but thats life (and occasionally life dishes you out a plate of ass) and it shouldn't deter you from trying again. WEA runs regular cooking classes in all sorts of cuisines, there is also an AWESOME thai cooking school up in the hills, we have previously run a cooking class at the gym, if there is interest we can run it again (hassle me out if you want it to happen)
Buy Some Food, Get Inspired, Get Cooking.