Week 6: Putting It All Together

Outrageous experiments in sensible eating.
Feb. 7 2011 7:52 AM

Week 6: Putting It All Together

When I started Clean Plate on Jan. 1 to try to improve my eating habits, I had a question in mind: Could someone like me--a busy urban professional--eat healthfully without it ruining her life? I had hoped the answer would be yes and that it would be easier than I'd anticipated: that it wouldn't take all my money, time, energy, and brain power. I identified what I thought to be the five largest obstacles to eating sensibly-- confusion , money , time , outside influences , and inertia --and set out to conquer one each week with an experiment related to that obstacle. During Week 1 focused on getting the nutrients my body needs. In Week 2 I attempted to spend as little money as possible. In Week 3 I slowed down the act of eating itself by performing eating meditation. In Week 4 I monitored the outside influences that affect my eating and tried not be sidetracked by temptation or pressure. And in Week 5, last week, I tried to expand my palate by trying new foods. By isolating each obstacle, I'd hoped to discover they weren't as obstructive as I thought or, if they were, to find ways around them.

/blogs/cleanplate/2011/02/07/week_6_putting_it_all_together/jcr:content/body/slate_image
Ellen Tarlin Ellen Tarlin

Ellen Tarlin is a former Slate copy chief and writer of the "Clean Plate" blog. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBrooklyn Bridge, Bark, and  the RISK storytelling podcast. Follow her on Twitter.

Focusing on one obstacle a week was the easy part. In this, the final week, it gets difficult: I have to put all my goals together. What I'm seeking is balance. I'm looking for the perfect formula for eating nutritiously, spending as little money as possible, taking time to eat slowly yet not taking up all my time, buying and preparing all my own food, planning ahead, fulfilling my needs and wants, and eating in the best way for the environment.

Advertisement

But I already know this formula doesn't exist. These goals come into conflict with one another all the time. You can't spend as little money as possible and buy everything organic. You can't buy and prepare all your own food without putting some time into it. You can't plan ahead and be spontaneous. You can't eat only nutrients and fulfill every eating desire. You can't always find or afford organic or locally grown foods.

And so I will have to decide what my priority is going to be. Should my main food concern be health, money, time, satisfaction, or the planet? And once I choose my main priority, what else will go down the trash compactor?

Experiment No. 6: Putting It All Together

/blogs/cleanplate/2011/02/07/week_6_putting_it_all_together/jcr:content/body/slate_image0

The goals for this week are manifold: to continue to eat healthfully, to make smart shopping decisions, to eat slowly and mindfully, to eat foods that satisfy me, and to make the best eating choices for the environment.

I will keep track of which of these come into conflict when and report on it at the end of each day. When I'm standing in the supermarket trying to decide whether to buy conventional or organic bananas, which should I choose: lower cost or planetary health? When I know I should eat a piece of fruit for dessert but I want chocolate, which should I choose: health or satisfaction? When I'm late for work, should I be even later by making my own lunch or pick up something on the way? Should I choose time or money or health?

In the last five weeks, I didn't fully succeed at the experiments. I was particularly bad at spending as little money as possible. For me, desire trumps money: I gotta have my pineapple. On the other hand, there's only so much I'm willing to spend when it comes to organics. It's impossible for me to justify spending $7.49 for 6 ounces of dried organic cranberries when the non-organic ones are only $2.99. But why eat dried cranberries, which are sweetened, at all? For me, desire still comes into conflict with health constantly. When it's time to eat, I still tend to ask myself What do I want? instead of What does my body need? I still have difficulty eating my vegetables when I'm not in the mood. And I continue to struggle with time: I resent having to spend so much of it planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. Other things in my life I care about have fallen by the wayside, so how will I cope when­ I have to face all of these issues at once?

There's little doubt I'll need your input and advice this week. What is your priority when it comes to eating? What do you think mine should be? In what order should I prioritize these goals?

I look forward to reading your comments.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 23 2014 12:16 PM Another Intervention?    Anti-ISIS airstrikes aren’t about keeping Americans safe.  
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 23 2014 10:03 AM Watch Steve Jobs Tell Michael Dell, "We're Coming After You"
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 23 2014 11:33 AM High-Concept Stuff Designed to Remind People That They Don’t Need Stuff  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon That Wasn’t
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google Exec: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.