Juliene Salad - © diethood.com

Ask Yourself: When Have I Looked And Felt My Best?

I had an inspiration last night, just before I closed my eyes to settle for sleep. I promised myself I’d conduct a thought experiment today to determine my own personal guidelines for a healthier, more sustainable diet and exercise regime. What better time? My diet and daily activity patterns are all screwed up during the COVID-19 lock down, anyway…

Simple, delicious Fried Rice - © life.rayli.com.cn

I’ve read lately that one’s usual work day routine and home life regime play a huge role in whether they can, or have the desire to, pursue healthy eating and activity patterns. So I reasoned that a thought experiment, to try to recall when in my life I’ve looked and felt my best, and reconstructing my daily eating and activity patters from that era, would be help guide me in straightening out my currently upheaved and warped COVID-19 lock down lifestyle. Turns out my instincts, which governed how I lived during my ‘best times’, mirrored what experts now recommend as the ‘healthiest’ diet and activity patterns…

When was I ‘in my prime’?

I revisited times in my life defined by different places I lived, different careers/jobs I was trying out, and different kinds of ‘relationships’ I was in.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • I was healthiest when I was living alone, and had total freedom to make the decisions governing my diet, activity and other choices. This meant, to a large degree, following my instincts.
  • I was least healthy when I was in a committed relationship which emphasized spending a relatively large proportion of my time with my partner, and trying to maintain a balance between the other’s needs and desires, and my own.
  • I was healthiest when I was free to use my time as I alone saw fit; least healthy when I had to compromise to make my ‘schedule’ fit with a partner’s.
  • There were breaks between times that I felt tops – usually defined by whether I was in a relationship or not, how demanding my work was and how much I was enjoying my work. The less my enjoyment/ fulfillment, the lower my overall well being and less-healthy eating habits.

I was even able to pinpoint my ‘best’ supper

One meal that I favoured over all others during my healthiest, happiest times was actually simple and fast to make – and which coincidentally mirrored selections and portions of different food types now recommended by the various healthy diets and official Food Guides – was my a universal go-to. And looking back at it objectively, I can truthfully say it always seemed appropriate whether I was having ‘supper for breakfast’ after an all-night shift, or supper before going in for a 4-11 evening shift, or late before going in for an 11-7 overnight shift, or whenever.

What I was doing

I’d put on a pot of Brown Rice to boil and throw in stuff that sounded good: A handful of frozen Green Peas; a handful of diced frozen Carrots; a handful of frozen Kernel Corn (see photo, left). Then I went to work making a sort of Julienne Salad to top it with: Slivered Deli Ham or Roast Beef; chunks of pre-cooked Boiled Chicken; a dozen chunks of Cheddar Cheese (diced 1/2 in. / 1.5 cm) – some or all of these protein selections.

After draining the Rice thoroughly and dressing it with a generous drizzle of Premium Light Soy Sauce, I’d spoon a cup (8 o z. / 250 ml) or so into a deep cereal bowl and top with the toppings, and I ate taking alternating forkfulls of the Rice and Veggie Mixture, and forkfulls of the Proteins. I remembered distinctly that I drank only Ice Water, Tea or Watered-down Fruit Juice with this meal.

This meal  – in retrospect – had it all: Grain and Legumes, a variety of Veggies, and relatively small amounts of Lean Meat Proteins. The Soy Sauce provided all the seasoning and flavouring it needed. It was ‘complete’ in a nutritional sense, even without leftovers or a Julienne or Chef’s Salad (see photo, top of page) to provide toppings.

How I was living

All the time I was on this regimen – which I would consume probably 4 or 5 days out of 7 per week, whether on work days or days off – I was also putting in a lot of steps running back and forth between news conferences and the City Hall or Parliamentary media gallery. I thought nothing of taking three flights of stairs if an elevator wasn’t immediately available when I pressed the call button. I was also playing tennis three days a week with a friend from work who pulled the same (awkward) shifts as I did.

At another time of my life, when I was no longer involved in media as a frontline reporter, I would walk an hour each morning before I did anything else – even made a cup of Coffee – and would typically fall back on my Rice, Veg and Toppings meal about every second day, when I didn’t have specific leftovers from the previous night’s supper to use up.

What I’m doing now – which is all wrong

Now, I get up early every day (right around 5 a.m.) so I have ‘me time’ to use to organize the household bills and chores, write this daily blog, and do some creative writing each day. I have to do all that early because I am full-time caregiver to my 95-year-old mother whose mobility is severely affected by arthritic knees and hips, and who has other more-intimate issues with she will allow no one other than me to assist her. She is not comfortable unless I make myself available to her at all times during her waking day (which starts around 10 a.m. and does not end until 10 p.m. or later). And, often, for lunch and supper, we are eating what she says she thinks she can digest – or fancies – from day to day.

But I am lucky in one respect: I have my ‘me time’, during which I usually prepare my own, personal breakfast, and which (like in the ‘old days’) is mine and mine alone to control. So I could start doing my old ‘go-to anytime supper’ again, employing leftovers from previous night’s supper as toppings.

The big issue would be how and when I would be able to fit in my daily walk. Even when mother is asleep, she expects me to be ‘on call’…


~ Maggie J.