Why Home Cooking is the Ultimate Form of Self-Care
Self-care is on-trend in a big way and many ways. Candles and facemasks. Spa days and beach cabanas. Netflix and Uber Eats. Meditation and Yoga. Shopping and Sunday brunch.
Pick your potion.
The message is everywhere, from wall art, with sayings like “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you,” to wellness wine branding and subscription boxes filled with candles and fuzzy socks. Marketers want you to know it’s all right to give your body some pampering and your mind some rest.
And who doesn’t want to take time for themselves?
I like a little meditation and yoga during the week and a good book under a beach umbrella on the weekends. But my most important self-care happens in the kitchen, with a chopping knife and a mountain of produce.
I like knowing the majority of what I fuel my body with comes from whole food, organic and unprocessed, and prepared by my own hands. Often, I wear a t-shirt while I cook, reminding me to “Do more of what makes you happy.”
Cooking makes me happy.
Consider this point: When you massage essential oils into your skin or sit with an avocado mask on your face, you treat your skin from the outside layer, which is already dead. But when you consume fresh, whole foods, you create healthy new skin cells from the inside out.
Why spend money on pampering your outside if you are feeding yourself junk? Sugar, sodium, fat, and chemicals cause inflammation in the cells that even the best masseuse or the most expensive products can’t touch.
I’m not saying you should cancel your spa appointments, give up your meditation, or throw away your scented candles (unless they are toxin-producing paraffin, in which case you should trash them.) Self-care involves a multi-faceted approach, including stress management, quality sleep, regular activity, social interaction, and mindfulness.
Just don’t forget about the inside-out approach.
Try this exercise. The next time you are standing in front of a full-length mirror naked, look past the things you obsess over, your bumps and curves and creases, and look inside. Visualize your brain and all the miraculous chemical reactions taking place every second. Check out your heart, never ceasing to supply life-giving oxygen to every cell. See your lungs expand as you breathe. Trace your digestive tract, where immune cells are born and food turns into fuel.
If we change our focus from eating to look good on the outside to eating to nourish our insides, guess what? Our outsides change too. We lose weight, our skin clears up, and aging slows down.
I often hear people, women mainly, say they are done cooking, “I cooked for my family for years, and I’m finished.” Others lack experience, or they don’t want to spend time in the kitchen. I tell those people to try it again, with a different mindset. It’s not a chore, a job, or punishment.
It’s self-care, and it’s self-love.
Cooking is the greatest gift you can give yourself. You indeed are what you eat: either living energy or processed, chemical-laden trash. Want a good wall art quote? How about this Aruvedic saying, “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” It may not be cute, but it sure is accurate.
When I say cooking, I mean “from scratch” cooking, using fresh whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, organic if possible. When you cook from scratch, you can experiment with a bottomless pot of food choices. Explore different ethnic and cultural foods, play with family recipes or create your own favorite dishes. Expand your spice collection from garlic salt and chili pepper into a “medicine cabinet” full of flavorful herbs and spices.
When you cook, you significantly reduce the levels of chemicals, sodium, calories, cholesterol, and other fats while increasing nutrients, fiber, water content, and flavor.
You also raise your self-esteem.
Cooking is a skill that you can improve with time, so if inexperience or past failures have you fearful of the kitchen, don’t throw in the dishtowel. There are now thousands of cooking videos and shows on the internet that allow you to follow along at your own pace.
Pick out a recipe or cooking video, put on some music and a t-shirt that makes you happy, and get started. As the wall art says, “You’re worth it.”