THE SIMPLE LIFE: You Are What You Eat

Author Chris Wyman is a modern day renaissance man not satisfied with being second best or afraid of taking on a new venture or challenge…especially after a breakfast of bacon and eggs. 

Ever think about food preparation as either simple or complex based on how long it takes? Is eating out or ordering in easier, simpler and better? Or is it actually more complex? Food simplicity is a paradox. The “easy” way to prepare or eat food is actually far more complex that it should be, or than we intended.The problem is that we often confuse meaningful effort with wasteful effort. It takes more time to cook a meal from scratch so we often order out or buy prepared meals that we only have to warm up. It seems like the best solution for our lives because we’ve conserved effort.

Think about it. We meander through crammed aisles at the grocery store, and pick out a box that promises a meal in less than 10 minutes. At home,after eating our microwave meal, (complete with crusty edges and a color that doesn’t quite seem right), we feel awful and wonder how something so seemingly simple could be so wrong.

Yes, it takes less time to buy a prepared or processed meal. This fact is indisputable. And the fact that more and more of us buy prepared meals is a direct result of declining household size and an increased tendency to live alone (and eat alone). There’s just something seemingly not worth the effort and somewhat depressing about cooking for one. Despite this, individual meals will never be able to defeat the idea of an economy of scale. When you prepare meals yourself, you often buy a quantity of raw ingredients that exceeds what you need for only one meal. So while the initial cost is higher, if you effectively use the food that you buy, you can prepare multiple meals and save exponentially more.

So if it costs less to make better food, why isn’t everyone doing it? My belief is that besides our laziness and socioeconomic factors, is that we don’t understand the difference between meaningful and wasteful effort. We benchmark progress by time saved, money saved, increased output, decreased waste, and other industrial-minded tenants. In order to mark lock-step with the rest of society to the beat of those principles, we sacrifice our desire for quality.

Effort can be broken into two categories wasteful and meaningful. Wasteful effort is effort expended on a task that yields a lesser quality product but requires more time. Meaningful effort is effort expended on a task that yields a higher quality product regardless of time expended. If you’re creating something better than you could have through a less time consuming method, you didn’t waste time you invested it.

Tomorrow you can make a decision to invest your time through meaningful effort to gain a better result. Instead of throwing some Poptarts into the toaster, make a couple of scrambled eggs. At most it will take you 15 extra minutes but you will have an extremely nutritious breakfast. You’ll feel alert through the day and avoid putting high fructose corn syrup as well as a dozen other processed components that I don’t recognize partially because I almost failed chemistry in high school but mostly because they aren’t food. Try eating simple for just one meal and then try telling yourself that you would rather eat processed food. 

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