The other night I came home from work. It was 85 degrees outside and my apartment was sweltering. I dropped my jacket onto the floor, kicked off my shoes and opened the fridge in search of a snack before dinner. My gaze zeroed in on a bowl covered in foil. I lifted the shiny wrapping and was greeted with the sight of leftover boxed mac and cheese — my favorite meal in the entire world.
The pungent saltiness of the fake cheese mixed with the sweetness of whole milk soaks into the cold noodles, crafting an experience of nostalgia. Yet, I deny myself this simple pleasure. Why? Because there isn’t a speak of green in the entire meal and as far Instagram and society at large dictates, you need to dumpster truck ten servings of vegetables per day. Plus, boxed mac and cheese isn’t organic, non-GMO, laden with collagen peptides and influencer endorsed so you might as well be eating ash.
My fingers picked at one or two noodles before I placed the bowl back on the shelf and settled for a bag of carrots instead. As I nibbled on a orange colored stick, my boyfriend asked if I was ready to go for a walk. It had become part of our nightly routine to get our steps in and breath in fresh air after sitting in a cubicle for eight hours.
Lacing up my sneakers, we re-entered the sticky hot air and begin the half-mile journey to our destination — the co-op grocery store for no other reason than its a bench mark. Halfway there, my boyfriend inquired about our dinner plans or more specifically what I wanted to eat. I told him nothing sounded good except that god damn cold mac and cheese. With a laugh, he said then why don’t you just have that then? Because….and then this is where I faltered.
I didn’t have a good excuse. There was nothing holding me back from eating it, except for unfounded guilt. Guilt manifested from years of scrolling through Instagram and downloading what my meals should look like. I hadn’t even realized I’ve been brainwashed until that moment.
Definite by nature, I decided right then and there that dinner wasn’t going to be a grain bowl or a salad, it was going to be a pre-packaged box of fake cheese with noodles. My own small rebellion against the wellness industry. And you know what? It felt fanfuckingtastic.
What I learned that day is that not all meals have to be Instagram worthy. As long as the food you consume sparks joy, true joy that makes you smile and hum with delight then go for it. Whether that’s a doughnut, a bowl of pasta and or a melody of roasted vegetables, there is no wrong way for how your meals should look. There is only one way and that’s your way.
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