Rabbit Food

Rabbit Food

Typical healthy meal
Photo by Brodie Vissers from Burst

Before you break out the pitchforks and torches, take a deep breath. I am NOT going to advocate any crazy diet out there with this discussion. I’ve already gone on a rant over the stupidity of meal-planning, remember? (I also went to some lengths on the joys found in cake-tasting, so that should clue you in on the fact that I’m not some diet-Nazi) Every diet fad that’s broken from the surface of hell has peaked and crashed under the burden of scientific evidence. Also, not one works. The best these psychotic crazes manage is to dump any excess water you’re lugging around. You WILL lose weight, but it’s not exactly the fat you were looking to get rid of in the first place.

That said, you DO need to take a look at the food you’re putting into your body. Which is difficult for writers (or any freelancer, really). Why? Because when you get wrapped up in whatever you’re working on, you can’t be bothered to put together something from the…however many food groups the food…I think there’s a pie involved now instead of the pyramid they had when I was a kid. Nope, you grab whatever’s quick. Assuming you grab anything at all. I’ve gone an entire day without food or water because I zoned out completely. My writing brain took over and informed my stomach (and the remainder of my organs, I suppose) that they weren’t vital.

Awesome for the novel I was writing; terrible for my health.

So I graduated to the junk food routine. Mindlessly picking up chips or cookies while I typed? That didn’t require a ton of neurons. The package sat beside me on the desk, and any time I paused, I’d snag something. You know what that diet gets you? Fat. It gets you fat. It also makes your brain feel like crud, which interferes with the creative process. Of the two, when you’re a writer, let me assure you the second is the worse of the two. But it’s so much EASIER than:

  1. Pausing your writing brain
  2. Getting up from the computer
  3. Walking into the kitchen
  4. Putting together even a semi-healthy meal
  5. Attempting to eat and type at the same time

Who wants to go through all of that trouble?! No one. But if you want your body – and brain – to stay healthy and productive, it’s the only answer. (Trust me on this one) Which is why I grumble and fuss and complain EVERY day, but I make myself do it.

But it’s NOT a diet!

Okay, so there’s no junk food in the house in the first place. (There hasn’t been for years) So that eliminates the snacking temptation. I eat breakfast before work starts. That means I can sit down and break out utensils. When I hit the computer, I force myself to watch the clock while I work. When mid-morning comes around, I go back myself a protein shake. It’s a compromise between convenience (I can type with one hand and drink with the other) and health. It also doesn’t take very long to finish, even if I can’t chug the thing. And I’m usually at a place where I’m editing by then, anyway, so the typing’s minimal. It’s a perfect compromise.

A few hours down the road, and I’m ready for lunch. Yes, I have to MAKE lunch. If we don’t have leftovers (a rare occurrence), I have a few easy standbys. My personal favorite is rice cake sandwiches and celery with peanut butter (because I am an adult). Again, I can eat one-handed and type with the other. It’s a balanced diet, complete with protein, carbohydrates, fruit, and vegetables. But it doesn’t slow down my writing process. And my afternoon snack? A granola bar. (Yes, I focus on protein, but I also work out 5-6 times a week, so I’m feeding my muscles) Then my wonderful husband makes us a balanced dinner.

No junk, no AVOIDING meals, and my work doesn’t suffer in the process. I still think it’s annoying, and I complain that I have to GET UP and grab food. But my body likes me better. And I’m eating food I LIKE. Which is probably why I’ve maintained this so-called “diet” and haven’t others I’ve attempted in the past. You better believe I have chocolate now and then. On bad days? When everything falls apart and I want to hide? I have dessert. I refuse to deprive myself. Nothing gets cut from my world. Because as soon as you execute something, you make yourself feel miserable.

There’s a difference between dieting and eating healthy.

And that’s where all of those diet fads miss the message. They pick something out there in the world and condemn it to the depths of hell. And it’s usually something your body NEEDS! You NEED carbohydrates! They fuel your body. Protein rebuilds the muscle you break down every day. Do you need a ton of sugar? No. But is it going to kill you to have a reasonable amount? NO! It’s called a BALANCED diet for a reason. Fruits contain nutrients and vitamins your body needs – and they bring sugar with them. Maybe you need to take it easy if you’re diabetic, but you shouldn’t eliminate them from your life for good!

Diets are stupid. But eating HEALTHY isn’t. And you have to eat healthy when you’re a writer. You have to take the time to pause your brain, get up, and get the food. It’s HARD! You never want to do it. There are a MILLION reasons to avoid those meals (you can eat when you finish – in three months). But your body will HATE you. It devises revenge – trust me on this one. But if you put the proper fuel in the tank, it works happily, and your work improves as a result. It’s kind of a win-win situation.

Brain Fuel

Brain Fuel

Meal Prep on Table

Ah, meal prepping – two words that are the very bane of my existence. The concept of buying out Costco so you can rush home and spend the entire weekend (what a waste of good writing time!) cooking the EXACT SAME FREAKING MEAL one thousand times and then turn your refrigerator and freezer into an ad for Doomsday-Preppers-R-Us is ridiculous. Who in their right mind wants to eat the same thing day-in and day-out?! Have you people not watched every movie or read every book warning against such pablum?!

Stop the madness!

Still, I acknowledge that it is important to put fuel in our tanks so that we can continue to function, and our brains need fuel so that we can continue to create our writing. I also acknowledge that when we’re up to our eyebrows in our fiction and the words are flowing like waterfalls, we can barely remember to stop and go to the bathroom (don’t laugh – you know you’ve been there). Hell, I’ve lost an entire day before when I was on a roll – looked up and couldn’t figure out why it was still dark out and had to be informed it was now night, that I had typed all day, and could I please move my ass and do something “constructive” (that wasn’t my current relationship, needless to say). Getting into that creative roll is awesome, but starving your body is bad. Looking like you’re preparing for an impending Apocalypse is also bad, and denying yourself any variety in life? You got it, super bad.

Luckily, I’ve found a compromise.

First, you find a significant other who likes to cook. Just kidding (although, seriously, it’s awesome, and I highly recommend one). I do a half-ass meal plan each week on Sunday night. I have a planner where I write out what I’m going to have for the week – JUST THE WEEK – for breakfast and my snacks (my fiance’ makes dinner each night, so that’s up to him). This saves me from having to think about things in the morning when I’m still waking up, and it gives me a structure for the week when I’m planning my work. Lunch is often leftover from dinner, so I don’t worry about writing it down, or I have a few staples I can rely on and rotate through, so I’m not stuck eating the same thing every day. No two weeks have been the same yet, so I don’t get bored.

Second, you find a few recipes for breakfast, snack, and dessert that make multiple servings and rotate through them. That will give you extra you can keep in the fridge without stacks and stacks of those silly meal containers. I have a growing list of recipe cards, and when I finish off one Rubbermaid container, I make something new. It works out great, and, again, I’m not getting bored. Also, I’m usually only making one or two things at a time, which only takes about an hour out of my day (max) – not the entire weekend. It’s usually an hour I need to get up and walk around and stretch, anyway, so it works out. The fridge only has one corner taken up at a time, and I get to keep my work on track – everyone wins.

It really is that simple!

We need variety in life – not just as writers, but as human beings. Most of us have routines, regardless of what kind of work that we do, and those routines can take a lot out of us. Whether you thrive on routine or not, it wears you down. You need to have a little color and dance in there to make your life meaningful.

So put down the thirty pounds of skinless chicken breast that is going to take away your entire Sunday to grill and consider just getting a few cans of tuna…unless you’re hosting a major get-together to celebrate an accomplishment. Then I say let’s hit Costco!