It’s 7:30 PM on a humid July night and I’ve started chopping and slicing some vegetables. I’ll soon start making a nice, simple meal from these veggies - tonight’s dinner. Meal-prep is alien to me and I hate precooked meals that you can just heat up. Cooking my own meals, on the other hand, is bliss.
For busy professionals, it might sound a little too much. And after an exhausting workday, it does feel too much. But I find the energy and patience for it every day because it helps me calm down, regulate my mood, and stay healthy. But my cooking journey was a result of necessity...
Bad Eating Habits Did a Number on Me
As soon as I graduated, I was selected by a famous tech company for a prestigious but difficult role. I had to move to Bangalore, embrace a change in lifestyle, make new friends, and take on the big responsibility of looking after
myself. Being ambitious and afflicted by perfectionism, I spent all my time and focus on my career, neglecting my health - mental and physical.
When it came to nutrition, I would simply order-in from the multitudes of restaurants, grab a plate in the office canteen, or get a happy meal from McDonald's. And food was the only thing that brought me comfort during this phase so I ate a lot and often.
As a result, I found myself 12 kgs heavier in a year. I felt bloated and lethargic all the time. Everything irritated me, especially calls from my family. They would always ask me how I am and even though I felt horrible about myself, I couldn’t tell them that.
My journey toward lasting better health started in August 2018 after one such call. I told myself enough is enough and decided to make healthier food choices, exercise, and stop the pity train once and for all.
Choosing healthy meals meant that ordering-in was out. Snacking on junk food was out. Ready-to-cook meal packs full of preservatives were out. My future healthy lifestyle demanded homecooked meals.
Learning How to Cook to Get Fit
Since good cooks were hard to come by in my area of residence in Bangalore, I knew I had to learn how to cook myself. When I went home for the extended Diwali vacations that year, I focused on cooking my own meals.
It turns out that cooking simple, healthy meals is actually really easy. And it's something you realize as soon as you start doing it. The fear is all in your head. I learned some basic dishes at home and then started experimenting heavily when I came back to Bangalore.
Of course, I made a few mistakes during this journey - adding too much red chilli
powder, undercooking the chicken, and spilling gravy over the platform. But are you really learning and pushing your boundaries if you don't make some mistakes? As long as you’re willing to learn from your mistakes, you’ll do great. Although I started cooking in order to get fit and shed the gained weight, I made it a part of my lifestyle because of a different reason altogether: I found in cooking a relaxing practice.
Cooking is a Form of Self-Care for Me
As I’m steaming my veggies and nodding and bopping to my playlist, I feel a sense of relief and happiness wash over me. Whenever I perform this "ritual", it's like I’m telling myself: I care about my body and my mind. I'm willing to do things to look after it. I'm making efforts to ensure that my body and mind remain
comfortable and happy.
Unlike restaurant orders, I know exactly where my food is coming from, how it was prepared, and how hygienic it is. Making my own meals gives me a sense of control over my health. It’s like I’m singing out loud that I’m doing what I can to be my healthiest self.
different ways to create something delicious.
Cooking Saves So Much Money
This is a biggie. With cooking, I can make a nice vegetarian meal for less than Rs. 70. A non-vegetarian meal would cost me no more than Rs. 150. This is about three to four times less than what I would pay for a typical restaurant meal with the same quantity but poor quality of food.
I didn’t realize how careless I was being when I would order from restaurants day after day after day. A paisa saved is a paisa earned. The monthly savings from making your own meals add up to a big chunk that’s nothing to be sneezed at. And all it took was telling myself enough is enough.
I Stopped Thinking that I’m Just Too Busy to Cook and Eat Healthy Food
I cringe at my former self when I used to tell people that I don’t know how to cook. I would say “I’m too busy to learn how to do that” or “It’s too difficult for me”. There are no set rules when it comes to cooking.
Recipes are more like guidelines that you follow but you can deviate from the instructions once you know what you’re doing. Once I stopped holding myself back by making excuses to not cook, I found cooking to be a relaxing and enjoyable activity. What excuses do you give yourself to not cook? Maybe we can unpack them together.