I spend a lot of time around food.
I don’t even really cook all that much, frankly, but I spend a lot of time on the couch with the Food Network on -- and I know that has to count for something.
Food is a stress reliever.
For some, it’s eating food that manages to get the job done -- the type of eating that involves spooning directly out of the ice cream tub while tears fall in synchronization with some Ben Folds record.
For others, it’s actually cooking the food.
And for the lazier folk with a taste for the culinary arts, it might be a pair of Rizla slims and a Guy Fieri mini-marathon, which, let me tell you, always does the trick in times of sorrow.
Still, whether you hit the market for fresh ingredients yourself or enjoy watching someone else go through the motions, it’s hard to ignore the therapeutic side of cooking.
There’s a release to it. There’s an art form to it.
Cooking, like all other art forms, is a form of expression. Yet, sadly, I don’t feel as if many people view it as such today.
For many Millennials, cooking is a chore. It’s a nuisance.
I mean, Seamless is only but a few clicks away -- and homemade food is hardly ever Instagram-worthy -- so the idea of cooking up something delicious (and/or healthy) ourselves has become an archaic practice.
Instead of viewing cooking as a hobby or a pastime, many of us have grown to dread it. In turn, we’ve learned ways to avoid food shopping, cleaning dishes and doing it ourselves by any means.
And while we might’ve found ways to eliminate cooking from home, we’ve also picked up a lot of bad habits along the way.
First of all -- in case you weren’t aware -- a lot of the restaurants you frequent, in lieu of picking up the frying pan yourself, usually don’t offer the healthiest eats imaginable.
The “American way of eating,” as described by Todd Essig of Forbes, “is neither globally nor personally sustainable -- if the climate change doesn’t get you, the obesity, diabetes and heart disease will.”
And when you’re browsing for restaurants with your wallet in mind, you’ll often sacrifice nutrition and quality for the cost.
Put it this way: I doubt many Millennials who graduated in the last two to three years have a budget comfortable enough to splurge on ceviche on their lunch breaks -- at least not when there’s a Chipotle across the avenue.
If you just hit the market and bought the ingredients yourself, however, you could pretty much cook (or try to cook) most of your favorite dishes yourself -- as long as you’re proficient on Google and somewhat capable of following a YouTube tutorial.
And you’ll feel better, too. In fact, there are a number of different psychological reasons to cook a meal yourself that will translate to you leading a healthier lifestyle, beyond the food.
They say you are what you eat, so take an interest. Here are the benefits of cooking at home.
It gives you more control.
Cooking helps you feel like you have more control of not only your caloric intake but also your general health, as explained by Clay Routledge, Ph.D. of Psychology Today.
According to Routledge, preparing meals yourself can provide the “feeling that you are autonomous or able to make your own decisions, [which promotes] a sense of meaning in life, as well as greater self-esteem and well-being.”
You get to make all of the choices. If you want to cook a themed dish one night, the decision is in your hands.
The ingredients are up to you, and this allows you to monitor exactly what you’re putting into your body.
In a way, this attention to detail can very likely translate to the rest of your life choices. It’s just awareness.
It will save you money
The other day, I took the time -- regrettably -- to do a little mental arithmetic and tried to calculate my spending each morning on COFFEE ALONE.
I figured hey, I usually start with an espresso -- that’s $4. Then, I take an iced coffee to the office -- $8 all together. Then, at about 10, 11 am, I’ll get another -- $12.
By, like, 2, 2:30 pm, I’ll typically need a bottle of water to de-acidize my stomach from my morning coffee -- so we’re up to $15 (I have this weird thing about Evian). And lastly, I fancy a cappuccino around 4 pm -- so roughly $20.
I spend $20 -- A DAY -- on coffee.
And while I’m fully aware my coffee expenditure is f*cking ridiculous, I’m also certain I’m not alone.
If I spend $20 each day on coffee, I shudder to think about what I spend on those days when I’m eating three meals out.
Cooking is a means of saving your money. A dish you might spend $30 on in Manhattan you could probably make yourself (albeit a lot worse) for a fraction of the price -- and purchase food for your next five meals with the money you saved.
It leads to longer-term happiness
When we avoid having to go through the motions of cooking ourselves, we usually do so for instant gratification.
We hit up Seamless because it saves us the time of calling up and placing an order, and it saves us the energy required to go pick it up ourselves.
We click two buttons, and -- ding dong! -- it’s at our doorstep. Instant gratification.
Then, we eat -- or, in other words -- we shovel the platter of chicken fingers and sweet potato fries down as fast as we can (because we all still have the taste buds of an 8-year-old).
And then, when we’re done, we feel like sh*t. But, yeah, instant gratification.
Cooking and eating healthy, on the other hand, requires foresight -- or, as Routledge describes it, “playing the long game.”
Once you begin to cook and use healthy ingredients at home, you will soon start to feel better, too.
Routledge describes a greater sense of purpose and energy that people feel once they take control of their diets.
Ultimately, just have fun with it -- that’s the first step. You’re the product of your habits -- that’s what life is.
If you don’t like or enjoy doing something, it will never become a habit. By trying to implant this idea of cooking yourself without any foundation of pleasure underneath it, it’s never going to stick.
Find a way to enjoy cooking first. Then, focus on sustaining your efforts for the long haul. A lot of people like to get ahead of themselves, especially when it comes to dietary matters.
My advice on the matter? Do it with someone you enjoy.