Hustle Culture is Part of the Bigger Problem Many of Us Have with Our Food

I’ve managed to stack calls back to back to back all day, and this is not the first time I’ve done this. I’m mentally kicking myself for not scheduling time to eat that does not involve my desk, that can be eaten with one hand, leaving me free to click and scroll my way through email while I attempt to nourish myself. There are days when the calories (energy for my body) I’m consuming would, by most accounts, be classified as junk food. And, let’s be clear, I am the Executive Director of EATS. We pride ourselves on healthy and nutritious eating; in the connection, we have to food. 

The irony of this post is that I am writing it in between lunch bites in the few minutes I have before jumping on another call. I am fully immersed in the hustle culture, and let me tell you, it’s a problem, and I only see it getting worse. 

Buzzword alert! I said “hustle culture” What the french toast (I love food puns) is hustle culture? From our friends at Good Housekeeping, It’s a lifestyle where career has become such a priority in your life or the environment that you work in that other aspects of being human — such as hobbies, family time, and self-care — often take a back seat. My spicy take here is that hustle culture affects everyone. Stay-at-home parents are still part of this because your work is all the work that your partner can’t or doesn’t have time for. We all have lists that are too long and too many tasks, appointments, etc., to accomplish daily to simply be “caught up.”

Tell me something I don’t know.  I am not saying anything revolutionary here. Where I see and feel the hustle culture pervasively is in my diet. It takes mental energy and monetary resources that show my privilege that I can eat a fairly decent meal, albeit, at my desk, that is fresh and nutritious most of the time. I have phases, and they are getting longer, where if I take a career step, my personal life takes a backseat. 

Remember this NPR article where it states that our children are eating more than 60% of their calories from heavily processed food.  Wonder why? I don’t. I think we all know why. Processed foods are easy, readily available, and in a growing number of scenarios, less expensive than our less processed foods. As a working mom who has definitely been too tired to make dinner where eating out isn’t in the budget, I have made a packaged mac n’ cheese and called it good. 

While this solution does get the children fed, the problem is that it exists right along with epidemic-level chronic illness rates. If you have not heard that diabetes is at epidemic proportions in the United States, now you have. And the kicker on this specific illness, type II diabetes, is that it is entirely lifestyle-based. My mind is blown that more people aren’t screaming and taking to social media to demand reform and solutions. Except, the answer doesn’t come from a package which makes it immensely harder to add into our already jam-packed (I did it again) lives. 

I’m getting off my soapbox now to share some tangible ways we can connect with our food without completely overhauling our lives ‘cause, let’s be honest, an overhaul isn’t a realistic possibility for the vast majority of us. 

These three tips are how I am making meaningful changes to my routine and are meant to bring the connection back to our meals. 

Connection point 1: Mindful eating. Say it with me now, “Stop eating at your desk.” (I will take my advice). Schedule 10 minutes and eat somewhere else. Does your work have a patio with a bench? If you’re working from home, set yourself a place at the table. A few minutes where your meal is your focus goes a very long way in connecting to your food. 

Connection point 2: Acknowledge how your food will fuel you. Take 30 seconds and answer this question to yourself or out loud, “How is X going to fuel Y?” Our food is fuel, and our days are filled with why’s. Is what you’re about to eat going to fuel you? If not, and this is a growth opportunity for all of us, how can we do it better next time and follow through?

Connection point 3: Where did your food come from? Where did my peanut butter sandwich come from before the ingredients hit my kitchen? Can you trace the path from the plate back to the seed? Even if you don’t make a single change, and I love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, acknowledging and knowing your food journey makes you more connected to your food. It gives you a sense of where and what it takes for the peanuts to grow, be harvested and roasted, ground into peanut butter,  be packaged, shipped from one place to another, and end up on my grocer’s shelf before being purchased by me to land in my pantry for my daily PB &J. Do you feel more appreciation for the journey that peanut butter took and all of the energy that went into it? I sure do. 

For the time being, our hustle culture isn’t going anywhere. We all could use a few extra hours in the day. But now you have some food for thought (I can’t stop) about why you’re eating, how it serves you, and maybe the journey it had to take. 

If you want to feel more connected to your food and maybe even learn some new skills or recipes, please sign up for EATS’ bi-monthly email and/or follow us on social media. 

I’m grape-ful for you.

Meaghan Miller Gitlin