Every morning it’s my hope that I wake up refreshed, realigned, and bursting with energy. But hoping is different from setting intention. These few rituals start the alignment process before I go to sleep so by the next morning I feel more than ready to go.Read More
Some days, the very last thing I want to do is go to the grocery store. I know it’s the same for you too; crowded aisles, long lines, everyone's in a rush. When I feel this way I pause and try to remember what a gift it is to be able to go to one store to buy everything I need from all corners of the world. It’s easy to get caught up in the annoyances of shopping, but it truly is something to be grateful for. I often find myself getting pushy with other shoppers or bothered by prices—but in the big picture, grocery stores are such a convenience in our cooking lives. Here are a few ways you can change your shopping experience at the grocery store for the better.
Pick your key ingredient before you go
The best way to go shopping is with a list. You know exactly what you need and where to go. But I know that realistically, you don’t always have the time or the bandwidth to pre-plan your shopping. If you don’t have a plan, pick one key ingredient that you feel like eating for the meal. The other night I really didn’t feel like cooking, but I knew that going to a restaurant or getting takeout would not be the solution either. I needed some inspiration. I went on Pinterest and scrolled through healthy dinner meals. I stumbled upon a recipe for a steak and arugula salad that looked amazing. On another day, I might write down the entire recipe and follow it, but not that day. Instead, I went to the store with the question: what will go really well on my steak salad? I found the arugula and the steak so the rest of the shopping trip was about finding the supporting players for the meal: radishes, olives, goat feta, cherry tomatoes. The shopping experience became more of a palette creation rather than a chore I had to get done. It's much more fun to explore than it is to check items off a list. And the meal turned out great!
Buy your vegetables last
Grocery stores are cleverly designed to get people spending more money than necessary. There is a deliberate flow in the store that keeps the pleasant sensory items near the front (such as flowers, produce, and baked goods) and the most needed-items at the back (like milk and dairy) so you have to wander through the entire store and hopefully grab something else you see on the way. It makes sense to start at the produce: the colours are incredible and I know that the bulk of my shopping should be vegetables and fruit anyways. From a psychological standpoint, this is great for stores too. Shoppers have a pleasant experience right off the bat and are more like to be in a better mood for the rest of the shopping trip. And spend more. People that pick their produce first will also be more likely to buy junk food because they feel so good about all the healthy food they have in their cart. Try getting your other aisle items first, such as coffee, pasta, canned goods, meat, and frozen items. I find that I’m less likely to browse through these aisles (and pick up some treat) when I know that the bulk of my shopping is still to come.
Deal with crowds using the mantra of “choice”
Right around 5 o’clock the rush really begins as commuters come in to pick up something for dinner. Nobody likes shopping at that time, but it must be done. The store is crowded, everyone is in your way, and it takes twice as long to get anywhere. I’m a girl with very little patience which makes these shopping trips especially difficult. So I employ the mantra of choice. This is a trick I tried at the mall during the height of the Christmas season. Every time I get caught behind someone going slower than me I would tell myself that it’s my choice to go this slow. I want to take this aisle nice and easy. I choose to stop and look at this display of kidney beans. I find that this ownership of pace evaporates my impatience immediately. Why not walk a little slower? When getting stuck behind someone feels like it has purpose it's much easier to relax. Try it, I think it will really surprise you.
Avoid your “red light” foods
This is a tool I picked up as a Weight Watchers member. Personally, every single trip to the store is a personal struggle. There are so many bad foods that I just want to buy like chips or ice cream. Every time I go, my junk food brain tells me that I should pick myself up a "little treat.” But I go to the store every two days, which would mean far too many treats would end up in my belly. So every trip is a struggle to avoid those foods around which I can’t control myself. In my grocery store, the bulk nuts and seeds are directly across from my #1 red light food: plantain chips. The best tool for me is to avoid eye contact. When I’m at the back of store and ready to buy, I head up an aisle without glances at any of the shelves. Too often, scanning for something you think you missed means you’ll buy something you don’t need. When you’re done shopping, head straight for the till and try to stay away from the aisles that have the most tempting foods.
When the last thing you want to do is grocery shop, how do you motivate yourself to go? And when do you order takeout? Click here and tell me in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!
Do you ever find yourself just eating for no particular reason? It happens to me after a voice in my head tells me to snack. You need something sweet. You need something crunchy. How about a bedtime snack? I call this voice The Obsession. While the Obsession can crop up at any time of day, for me, the urge is strongest in that quiet time between dinner and bedtime.
Here’s the scenario: you’ve just had supper. The family is fed, the kitchen is clean, and you’re finally sitting down after a long day to unwind before bed. And it happens. The Obsession. There’s a niggle in your brain and it only wants one thing: to snack. It doesn’t want you to pay attention to what you’re eating. In fact, the best case for this Obsession is that you watch TV so you barely know how much snacking you’ve really done.
Why do we do this? There are lots of emotions that drive us to eat beyond our comfort level. Just like you, I know when I am eating mindlessly and endlessly. I will be writing more about what’s happening when we are eating emotionally, but in this case, I want to talk about those moments when you just want to snack. There doesn’t seem to be any emotional reason bubbling at the surface. You just want to “stuff your face,” so to speak.
So you do. You just give into the voice because the food tastes good and the act of snacking is satisfying. So why is it so easy to give in?
The obvious reason is the food will taste good. Junk food sets off all kinds of pleasure centers that we continually crave. Studies have shown that sugar acts the same way drugs do in the brain. And once you start, it’s difficult to stop. But I believe that’s the secondary reason you give in.
I believe the number one reason we give into the Obsession is because we don’t want to hear it anymore. That niggling voice that says I want it, I want it, I want it, is like a hammer in your head. It’s persistent and loud. So you give into it and eat the nighttime snack just to Shut. It. Up.
In that way, I feel some relief. I don’t need that snack that I crave. I know this because I never feel good afterwards. It’s this obsessive voice that I can’t get rid of.
There may be a better way to deal with these kind of obsessive thoughts. In a form of therapy called Mindfulness Therapy (how perfect, right?), therapists believe that thoughts, particular negative ones, don’t need to be contradicted. Instead, those negative thoughts can be gently pushed aside. Imagine holding a book in your hands. This represents your negative thoughts, or in this case, the Obsession. Now hold the book in front of your face. Now it’s right in your line of vision, blocking out everything else. It’s hard to ignore it when it’s right there, isn’t it? Mindfulness therapy teaches people how to gently push the book out of the way so that it’s no longer in their line of vision. It’s still there, but in the peripheries.
I’ve been dealing with this obsessive voice for my entire life. I know you have too. So instead of giving into it or violently resisting, what if we just gently move the voice aside? Lovingly, gently, mindfully. Soon, it won’t mind that it’s not in the spotlight.
Is the Obsession voice something that you deal with too? I want to hear from you. Tell me about your experience. What times do you feel most vulnerable to snacking? How have you dealt with it in the past? Click this link and let me know in the comments below.
Until next time!
I lost my job a month before Christmas. I adored the company, so it came as a shock when they had to go through downsizing to save cash. It’s all part of the start-up industry: while it’s a thrill to build something new and meaningful with a team, the flip side is dangerously unstable. And suddenly I was the one being rocked off the boat.
While I’ve been getting used to longer morning coffees and always having time to plan dinner, there is a level of paranoia that accompanies me through this phase, which is not uncommon for the unemployed.
But it’s not the dwindling bank account or job search that’s freaking me out, but something bigger than that.
I want to tell another story and I promise to turn back to this—just hang in there with me. While listening to a Radiolab podcast, I heard a story that’s stayed with me ever since I heard it. From the perspective of a tour guide, Sean Kelley shared the story of his mother’s friend who served in the Peace Corps. At that time he was living in Gabon Africa, in villages deep jungle where the vegetation was so dense, it grows back in just two weeks if left alone. Villagers would carve out only the space they needed for their gathering places and homesteads. After two years living in this thick jungle, he left the village to visit a friend in Kenya, on the plains. When he got there, he said his eyes couldn’t physically focus on anything beyond this ten feet. He’d been so focused on what was only just in front of him he lost the ability to see in the distance. So the entire time he was on the plains, he felt incredibly exposed and vulnerable, like there were things behind him he couldn’t see.
Back here in the present day, writing from a typical Vancouver coffee shop, I don’t have a plan in front of me. Where do I go from here when I don’t even know what I’m seeing?
My journey is not unfamiliar from others — after high school I went straight into University, and the months leading up to my graduation I launched into a full-time role at a Vancouver tech company. Full speed ahead, I reacted to decisions as they unfolded before me. Picking a school, the courses, and a major, all while earning a pay cheque felt like the typical pace of my generation. Even after my paid-for education, “go, go, go, don’t slow down” felt like an ethereal chant humming from the office walls. This grace period of me-time has shown me that I made very few long-distance decisions in my career. I live in a world of reaction over reflection.
I’ve noticed that I am very hard on myself so easily. It’s almost a reaction to tell myself that I did something wrong, that I could have done it better. I react this way even in my personal life, like when I make a dinner, and think that I could have seasoned more, or roasted longer. So before I have a chance to give thanks for the thing I did make, I’m onto the next thing. Too often it’s behind me and the only memory I have of it was doing it not-quite-right.
Life is far to precious to think we could have done it better. If right now, you’re only able to see what’s right in front of you, let yourself experience it from a place of softness. One decision at a time, one tree at a time. No more blurs, only beauty.
Approximately 70 years ago, a small population of indigenous people witnessed something they had never seen before. At the peak of WWII, they saw vast amounts of cargo flying in to the Allied forces stationed there. Massive cargo planes delivered manufactured clothing, canned food, medicine, weapons and other goods for the soldiers, who shared their bounty with the local people. After the war, the military abandoned their location and stopped dropping cargo.
In the wake of this major technological interaction, cults formed, where leaders promised the people they could bring the goods back to their remote islands. These tribes began mimicking the practises they had seen from soldiers and sailors. They cleared grass and brush from the land, carving runways into the earth so that cargo planes could land. They built towers with palm leaf walls, and lit signal fires. They carved rifles into timber. Many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw. They set up all the aesthetics, without any of the knowledge behind each artifact. But of course, no bounty came down from the sky. This phenomenon became known as a Cargo Cult.
Finding Your Creative Work
No matter your craft, whether it be painting, building, writing, making music, cooking, you spent the first few years working on your own without much outside influence. This usually happened while you were a kid. You would create and work on projects simply because you wanted to.
If you were lucky, you’d follow your interest into school and pursue it even further. There, you’d learn about your craft in a more structured environment where you could test your skills and improve faster than if you were learning on your own.
When people reach a point in honing their craft, they enter the industry and something changes: they see people’s talent flourish into skill. Others are creating amazing works of art, writing best-sellers, building billion dollar companies, and becoming rock stars. An extremely high bar is set and it’s easy to get discouraged.
My partner, Matt, is an artist. He began drawing when he was just a kid. When classes in middle school dragged on, he would be drawing characters in his notebooks with a Bic ballpoint. Drawing became so second-nature to him that he decided to pursue it as a career. He spent all his spare time on campus and stayed late after class so he could talk to professors. There was no doubt that this was the work he wanted to do with his life.
In school, the praise from other students and teachers spurred him to be better and he became even more absorbed in his craft. Out of school, no one was telling him how much they loved his work. After he graduated, he went into the video game industry, where he was entering the ranks of professionals. They expected results.
Settling for Mediocrity
To get to the skill level of the industry giants, we mirror what we think they are doing: we build optimized work stations, read the books they read, purchase state-of-the art technology. But when our cargo doesn’t come in, we get frustrated and worry that we’re really not good enough. We become disengaged or let our skill plateau. We put in our hours at work and wait for the weekends to come. We give up before we’ve even begun.
I believe every single human has a creative soul. It does not always manifest itself in the arts we were offered in school. If you have an imagination, you are a Creative.
Seeing how amazing other people can be takes a toll on your creative esteem if you begin to think you’ll never be good enough. When the work gets difficult it feels impossible. And when something feels impossible, it almost makes sense to quit.
You may be one of the lucky people who is working in an industry that you were drawn to as a kid, but even that can be an excuse to not hone your craft and become a master. Matt spends ten hours a day drawing, and so when he comes home at the end of the day, the last thing he wants to do is draw. So he’ll do something else stimulating that only requires consumption, like watching TV or playing a video game.
Getting Out of the Cult
The first step to getting out of mediocrity is getting clear on what you want out of your personal and professional life.
1. Shut your eyes to the rest of the world and open them for your own work, one hour at a time. Don’t think about what someone else did, or how their technique is better. It’s theirs! Your fundamental style can only come from you.
2. Do the work you want to do. Don’t fuss. Don’t stop. It will be rough and it will probably be bad. Before a sculptor can begin his work, he needs a chunky, bulky, mess of marble.
3. Give yourself a million chances. If you set up a regime for yourself, and stop following through by day three, don’t worry about it! Every day is a chance to start again. And personally, I love day one. (I’ve had a lot of them) It tends to be the most optimistic day.
Matt is taking more time for himself. He’s taking life drawing classes, revisiting past work from ten year old sketchbooks, and even teaching me to draw.
Seeing the work of masters is incredibly inspiring and a level to work toward, but not through attempted carbon copy. Your cargo will never be the same as theirs, so make your own rituals, and create, create, create.