Work to Live, Eat to Live

It is often said that there are two kinds of people: those who live to work and those who work to live with the latter being the ideal we all strive to achieve. Your work is what you do to support the life you want to live, it funds the things you want and goals you hope to achieve. I have come to the realization that the same is true of eating: there are those who live to eat and those who eat to live.

You should like your job and you should enjoy the work you do – after all, you are most likely doing it eight hours a day, five days a week or about 35% of your waking hours in a year. Loving your job makes the days go by faster, gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement. For those who live to work, work is everything. They work late nights and early mornings, they take calls and answer emails on the weekends. Personal time? Not really – maybe the random family obligation here or there, perhaps a few casual relationships but the job takes precedence and there aren’t many (if any) personal responsibilities that won’t be sacrificed in order to fulfill a work responsibility.

On the flip side, for those who work to live, what matters most is that your job provides for you, enables you to enjoy the other 65% of your waking hours. Maybe once in a while you get swamped and work late, but overall, when work begins to interfere with your home life, you make changes. When long hours keep you away from home for extended periods of time or miserable working conditions leave you irritable in the evenings or weekends, you address the issue – cut back on hours, talk to your boss, confront whatever is making you unhappy or simply find a new job. Work to live means making the life you hope to lead, your home, your family and loved ones and your dreams your priority. It means letting your job provide for that. This is the way I strive to balance my work and life. I love my job, enjoy my coworkers and I feel fulfilled and proud of the work I do but at 5pm, I leave it all behind. Whether you work to live or live to work, the one thing you don’t get is both. You chose what is most important – the work or the life – then you run with it.

As both a vegetarian/vegan and as a healthy eater, I have heard on a number of occasions, “oh, I could never eat what you eat – I would rather enjoy life.” This is an implication that that food, whether a filet mignon or Double Stuff Oreos, is the thing that drives someone, even if it drives that person into an early grave. The notion that any food is worth shaving a year or two from your life expectancy seems absurd to me now but it shows me that, much like with work, there are those who live to eat and those to eat to live. There was a time when I was a live-to-eater; when my days weren’t more than a collection of hours spent acquiring and consuming food. When I wasn’t eating, I was thinking about what I would eat next and when I wasn’t thinking, I was leap-frogging all over town from one fast food drive-thru window to another. It is inconsequential whether the food I desired me was a sophisticated pyrotechnical display of culinary mastery or bags of Donettes and orange Circus Peanuts; both were forays into overeating, overconsumption of calories and lack of balanced nutrition. I didn’t think I was choosing to eat over all the activities and experiences I desired but that is exactly what I was doing. Like I said, you can’t have both. I wanted my bacon cheeseburger and my banana milkshake but I also wanted to feel good about my body, to be fit and healthy, to be active. The way I chose to eat obliterated any chance of achieving my the dreams I dreamt about what I saw as an ideal life.

At some point in my life, that switch was flipped. I began to look at food the way I look at work. I enjoy the food I eat – I should, after all I eat it all day with my daily meal plan of three meals and two snacks. My food gives me a sense of satisfaction, it is delicious and filling. I actually enjoy my food now in a way I never did before because it isn’t simply a sensation of flavor and texture; it is also a feeling of well-being in knowing what I am eating is good for my body and my soul. Ultimately, food is what fuels the life I want to lead. When I think of my life, imagine the most perfect version of it, I am happy and healthy. When I think to my future and my bucket list, things like climbing Machu Picchu and white water rafting down the American River come to mind. I want to parasail and kayak, I want to travel the country in a tiny Airstream trailer with David. I could do none of those things at 290 pounds, I could do none of those things when I was living to eat. The food I was eating was interfering with the life I wanted to lead, it was making it impossible to enjoy the hours between meals. So I made a change. That isn’t to say that I don’t indulge on occasion. Every time we pass through Santa Cruz, we stop at Saturn Cafe and split vegan chocolate-peanut butter milkshake – it is an experience, a shared moment and a memory made and we can have a milkshake once every few months and continue to live the life we want. We have our memories of sharing way too much pizza and diving into a decadent slice of Opera Cake because these are special days, not routine. Every week, when I sit down to plan our meals, I make sure that we are eating healthfully and our bodies are being nourished in a way that make it possible for us to do whatever our hearts please with our lives and bodies, make us feel limitless and strong.

It was a journey that brought me here – from live to eat to eat to live – and it was a transition that took time. It required I changed everything I thought and knew about food, it required I change how much I value my self and my body. It required a willingness to not follow the crowd, not do the popular thing. It required I devoted myself to learning everything I can about diet and nutrition. It required I re-learn how to cook. It required my palette to change and my body to stop craving processed foods and refined sugars and start craving natural fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. It was a journey but I am here and I have to tell you – this is SO MUCH BETTER! You may think, “oh, I could never do that, I would rather enjoy life” and you should enjoy life – but food is not life. Life is so much more, life is so much better. I have never eaten anything (and, believe me, I have eaten a lot) that tasted as good as I felt the moment I ran across the finish line of the Crescent City Classic for the first time. I have never eaten anything that tasted as good as I felt the day I realized that plus sized clothing was too large for me and I could start shopping the regular departments at my favorite stores. I have never eaten anything that tasted as good as I felt during my last physical at the doctor’s when I was told I was the picture of good health. I don’t mean for this to sound preachy, I don’t mean for it to sound judgmental. Truly, it is with nothing but love in my heart and wishes that everyone could be the best possible versions of themselves that I tell people how much better it gets, how worth it this all is. Eat to live – eat to live the greatest life you have ever imagined in your wildest dreams.

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WEEK SEVEN CHECK-IN
Taking some time off from weighing in. Just eating right, working out and not stressing on the numbers.

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