It was about a year ago that I concocted the plan to partake of a project called “Picky Eating With Pookie”. The idea was to try every vegetable that we grew in the garden or that Schnookie brought home from the farm share. I meant to do an end-of-season review of the experiment but… I’m lazy, what can I say? I got ruminating about it today, though, and made an interesting discovery about my motivations for the project and how that effected the outcome.
Around this time last year I was emerging from a long Holiday-inspired hibernation. It was the end of January and I realized that my days consisted of getting up, sitting in the car for an hour, sitting in front of my computer at work for eight hours, sitting in the car for another hour, and then immediately upon getting home, sitting down on the couch for another six hours. Thanks to Schnookie, I never had to get up to make dinner, and thanks to Boomer there were never nights that I had to change the routine to run errands after work. It was just five days in a row of sitting, sitting, and more sitting. I began to worry that I’d never leave my hibernation period and I’d just get more and more tired. My commutes would get harder and harder as I struggled to stay awake. This was not good. I had tried incorporating a daily walk around the neighborhood after work, but in the Winter it’s too dark after work and I could always find a bad weather excuse to skip a day. I needed something I could do inside, regardless of weather. Something that didn’t take much time. Something fun.
Then I remembered the exercise routine a friend had recommended a few years ago: The Shovelglove. It’s simple. You get a sledgehammer and then spend fourteen minutes a day to use the sledgehammer to mimic movements like “shoveling snow”, “churning butter”, and “driving fenceposts”. I had tried it during grad school and enjoyed it, but had ultimately stopped because I was trying to fit it in before classes and because I had decided it was going to make me lose weight. I hated getting up early and it did not make me lose weight. This time around I said, “Don’t be a fool, Pookie! Know ahead of time you won’t do it first thing in the morning, and don’t expect to lose weight! Instead — use it as a tool to give you something to do when you get home that doesn’t involve sitting! It’ll be fun! You’ll have more energy to spend on stitching and blogging and enjoying your evening!” That seemed like a goal I could get behind!
Me and my shovelglove.
I know all the experts give advice for New Year’s Resolutions that you should always, always, always set quantifiable goals. Don’t say, “I’m going to exercise.” Say, “I’m going to run a 5K by September.” Don’t say, “I’m going to use the kitchen more.” Say, “I’m going to cook dinner once a night every month.” Well, I say, bah humbug! My decision to shovelglove with the intention of fulfilling the goal of “having more energy” was perfect for this reason: when I failed, I didn’t feel bad for failing — I felt bad because I knew I wouldn’t have the get and go to stitch or blog or stay up for the late hockey game or to drive to work without my eyelids drooping the whole way. And when I suceeded, I didn’t feel good because I had done my exercizing duty — I felt good because I was engaging in an activity that wasn’t a chore, but rather was part of my evening full of hobbies and fun!
I realized today that I had inadvertently taken the same approach with Picky Eating. The idea had come to me not because I was worried that I wasn’t eating healthily enough. It came to me because I had spent all day looking at pictures of garden-fresh produce on Skippy’s Garden. I had some serious Spring Fever and for some bizarre reason, this manifested itself entirely in wanting to eat a carrot. I began to associate everything that was good about the garden and farm during Spring and Summer with what I thought carrots tasted like. When the first produce came home from the farm in the form of snap peas, I didn’t see “peas that will be a healthier snack that chips”. I saw “snack that is imbued with farm-y goodness that you can only get now because it’s Spring, whereas those chips will always just taste like chips and you can have them all year round”. If I tried the snap peas and didn’t like them, I wouldn’t have thought I failed in my attempts to eat healthier. I would have let myself down by robbing myself of one more opportunity to enjoy the fact that it was finally Spring.
Something about taking that approach made it so that the experiment was, at least by my (admittedly low) standards, a raging success. The reason I know it’s a raging success? This dinner:
Schnookie IM’ed me during the day to say, “I’m making chicken sandwiches tonight, and I’m going to serve a side of potatoes and green beans.” And I thought, “Ooh! Green beans!” That’s right. I looked forward to eating green beans. I was shocked. And pleased. And then I thought, “Uh-oh. What if I look at the plate and I’m still a picky eater? What if I think I want them now, but when I’m faced with actually eating them, I balk?” Girding myself, I entered the kitchen at dinner-plating time. As I walked in, Schnookie took the tray of roasting potatoes and green beans out of the oven and put it on the counter. My fears? Totally unfounded. I looked at the beans and without contemplating them at all thought, “Yummy!” I reached right out, plucked a bean from the tray, and popped it in my mouth. And it was tasty! I was able to load my plate up with scoops from the tray without having to pick around the green stuff.
This is a huge step, Gentle Reader. HUGE. So huge, in fact, that in addition to putting lettuce, tomato, and red onion on my sandwich I also added sprouts.
Maybe you didn’t hear that last part. I’ll repeat: sprouts.
OK, so it was a pinch of sprouts, but it was sprouts nonetheless. Sprouts are so low on my list of veggies I thought I liked that I had in fact completely forgotten there was such a thing as sprouts. Turns out, they’re tasty! They give a nice bright crunch to the sandwich and don’t really taste disgusting at all! Who knew?
Anyway, the reason I was thinking about it today was that I had my annual physical. The doctor informed me that my bad cholesterol was a teensy tiny bit high when they ran my bloodwork in September.
Me: Well, I’ve been working on eating more vegetables.
Doctor: Great! Let’s run that bloodwork again and see if it worked!
Me: Uh… Heh. Well, it’s a work in progress. Sadly, I don’t think looking at a tray of green beans and thinking, ‘Those look tasty!’ has a very immediate effect on my cholesterol.
Doctor: No, probably not.
But that’s just the thing! I wasn’t eating more veggies to get healthier! I was eating them because I wanted them to be something that I like. And now? They are! (Well, some of them are. Whenever I try to tell Schnookie that I think I’m doing much better she mentions broccoli and I throw up a little in my mouth and realize I’m not as far along as I thought.)
Without realizing it at the time, I framed Picky Eating in a fail-proof manner! And now, here I am a year later, putting sprouts on my sandwich and thinking happy thoughts about Spring when the first snap peas come home from the farm!