I now weigh less than I ever have as an adult. The last time I weighed this much I was a junior in high school. I honestly thought that I would never return to this weight level because I had a story I internalized, a story I think most people in the U.S. can relate to. I would tell myself that it was pointless to hope that I could be as lean as I was in high school because there was no way I could be as physically active as an adult as I was in high school. As with most stories we tell ourselves to feel better about where we are they simply are not true.
As it turns out, there is a lot of research that shows the negative effects of what amounts to a standard diet here in the U.S. Most of the problems come in the form of processed foods and sugary drinks. I think most people understand very well that these are the leading causes of diet related health issues in the U.S. What I believe most people don’t have is a strategy for avoiding those foods and replacing them with foods that are healthy for us. So, how did I lose 10 pound in under three months without exercising?
I started with the same happiness framework that I have come to know and love, the web of goals strategy, whereby I first view my life as a system and then approach solving what my perceived problem is by addressing multiple issues at once. When it came to being less than happy with my weight and my energy level I ran into the same questions most people encounter. Won’t this cost me more money? Won’t it take more time to cook all of this food? Will I have enough energy to do this every day? By taking those questions seriously I was able to address them all in one effort.
I followed my systematic approach to improving my life circumstances during this process. Cooking is what I would consider a required task, and, so, in my structure it would be something that is a prime candidate for optimization. Why optimize cooking? Because eating is something you will do most days for the rest of your life and the basic components of preparing a meal are relatively similar in nature. That repetition and sheer number of iterations means how you prepare and eat your food can have a dramatic effect on happiness, health, and wealth.
So, how exactly do I put it all together? First it is important to understand the idea behind batching. Batching is simply condensing something into fewer iterations than normal in-order to achieve efficiencies by reducing the total set-up costs, total tear down costs and increasing economies of scale. By utilizing a batch cooking methodology I reduced the total amount of time, energy, and resources required to cook the same amount of food.
Specifically my fiancé and I spend between two and four hours every Sunday preparing food, cooking food, and cleaning up our mess after in an effort to make two massive meals that provide us convenient home cooked meals throughout the week. These meals are cooked in our kitchen while some fun tunes are playing and we dance around like fools as we make deliciousness. We focus on having fun while we cook and making the experience of cooking a fun activity in and of itself. We also strive to find the tastiest recipes we can and hone our kitchen craft. I would say one of our life long goals is to be excellent cooks so we can eat tasty food whenever we want and we can share that tasty food with people we care about.
On the life circumstances side of things, batch cooking allows us to save money and time while we increase our enjoyment. We save money in some obvious and some not so obvious ways. First we are able to buy things in larger quantities because we are using more at once. We also use less energy to cook the food, and clean the dishes. This is a very real example of economies of scale at work. Finally, what we found is that by spending the two to four hours cooking these two meals on Sunday we then don’t have to waste time cooking lunch and dinner Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. All of this means we can spend more time doing things that make us happy and more of our money goes towards savings and charity than otherwise would have.
Below is a simple diagram to help conceptualize the benefits of the two frameworks in action.
I honestly believe that focusing on ways to improve how we cook and what we eat is the first best step in a practical approach to living a happier and healthier life. I believe that because food has a biological effect on us because we partake in eating most days it is something people can get behind with relative ease.
P.S. Another post on making home cooked meals convenient was written to augment this article.
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