Thoughts on undepressing food.

One of the things in the last year or three that has kind of gotten me down is depressing food.

I don’t mean depressing in the new-agey “natural foods are medicine and processed foods are poison” bullshit sense (but, umm …. no judgement, new-agey hippie organophile types?). Rather, I’m talking about the easy, boring food. The stuff it’s easy to just sort of stuff into your face-hole and be full without really taking pleasure in.

So recently I took a week of what I guess you could call a “staycation”. I basically had 3 goals for every day:

  1. Have the usual regimen (wake up, shower, wear clothes)
  2. Leave the house for some reason — maybe something as mundane as “go get a haircut”, maybe “go drive a hundred and fifty mile loop starting at 9 pm on a weeknight while listening to XM Chill, because you actually really love driving as long as it’s not at 5 miles an hour in bumper-to-bumper beltway aggro-mode”, or maybe “go for a walk in the woods until you’re so tired you don’t know if you can find the energy to walk home, and then walk home instead of pussing out and taking a bus or something, because really two more miles isn’t that far”. Maybe even just to…
  3. Eat un-depressing food.

Right, so mission accomplished all around. The first two are part of almost every day anyway, but that last one was actually a fairly big change, and I’ve decided I’m going to try to keep it going.

So what do I mean by un-depressing food, exactly?

First of all, un-depressing food doesn’t come from a drive-thru window. I’ve eaten so much Wendy’s over the last few years that it just feels like failure every time I get it. So drive-thru is probably out. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying it’s out forever, just that it’s out for now because I’ve had so much of it — to the extent that every time I pull up to a speaker and order some food, it makes me sad.

Then again, I’ve had one single Subway sandwich in the last maybe 6 months, and it was also depressing. So maybe once a place is well and truly burned, there’s no going back. Or maybe at some point I’ll get tired of variety and want something boring? It’s a good experiment anyway :p.

Second, whether it’s restaurant food or not, no more eating dinner in front of tech. That next random YouTube video can wait, I don’t really need to update twitter while I eat. The act of eating should be more of a deliberate, mindful, even ritualistic thing. Less face-hole stuffing, more tasting and savoring. This also helps with unplugging and with being more aware of what I’m eating.

Third, un-depressing food is something I haven’t eaten lately. I’m fine with my in-workplace barista recognizing that I always (always) want an iced coffee, and it’s OK that in any given week I’m probably going to order takeout from my delicious local Chinese restaurant, but it’s not OK if that takeout order is the same thing I got the last time.

I’m hoping my third requirement will drive more going to new and different places and trying a bigger variety of foods. Pretty much it’s an anti-rut measure.

Importantly, I’m not setting out to eat every meal at home — ain’t nobody got time for that! Well, maybe you do, but I don’t. Restaurants are great! Just … you know, not always the same one.

Fourth, un-depressing food is recognizably good. Like, when I was shopping for food recently, I looked at the grocery store sandwiches (thinking “hmm, quick easy so-so meal?”) and realized, I haven’t had a grocery store sandwich that failed to disappoint me in years. Really, it’s been since my local Giant discontinued their “Sweet Turkey Naan” sandwiches, honestly… when I’ve gotten sandwiches there, it’s always been because I wanted that sandwich again and was hoping they’d have re-introduced it, and then decided that the crap that’s there was passable. But no more!

Finally, un-depressing food doesn’t try to be diet-anything or really actively count calories or sodium or fat. My reasoning is that food is amazing, but food that sets out to be low-cal, low-carb, low-fat, and low-sodium will pretty much always be depressing, and depressing food means I’m going to just go and impulse-buy and eat something terrible for me afterwards that’ll way overshadow whatever benefits that depressing so-called “healthy” food conveys.

Also, because a meal being un-depressing involves more deliberate, mindful eating, it’s more likely that I’m going to stop when I’m full instead of just shoving the rest of that sad chunk of nutrients down my throat so I don’t have to think about it later.

Anyway, that’s the un-depressing food theory. I feel like … food is too big a part of our lives, and has too big a role in our health for me to keep neglecting it. It’s easy to fall into ruts, and I’ve been in one for too long now — it’s time to break out and find a newer path. So that’s the deal with the #undepressingfood instagram topic and its so-so pictures of delicious food.