by Toula Nikas
I guess I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater—someone with an affinity for vegetables, Greek yogurt, eggs and whole grains. Of course, I’m also a sucker for late-night shawarma and the decadent pastries at Toronto’s Sud Forno. But on the daily, I like to keep things simple.
2015 was quite possibly one of the busiest years of my life. While I wanted to keep my diet healthy, it also had to be easy and routine. From school and extra-curricular activities, to applying for jobs and maintaining a social life, I did not want to fall down the mac and cheese in a box rabbit hole.
I could only survive my long days if I started them with a filling breakfast. More often than not, it was a bowl of oatmeal made from oats and unsweetened almond milk, drizzled with maple syrup and topped with fruit of some sort. Lunch usually consisted of eggs—scrambled or boiled—accompanied by tomatoes, avocado and whole grain toast. I lived very close to campus, which meant that I could home and make lunch almost every day between classes. On the days that I couldn’t come home, I tried to find a wholewheat veggie wrap or sandwich somewhere on campus. (I’m not vegetarian, but I try to steer clear of deli meats).
Since breakfast and lunch were so repetitive, I tried to incorporate variation into my dinners. I began venturing into the one-pot territory, perfecting an amazing sweet potato and black bean chili over Super Bowl weekend, as well as a simple pasta with slow-roasted garlic and tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
After I graduated, I said a solemn goodbye to my routine-based, healthy eating. I was a cocktail server at a busy restaurant in downtown Toronto. I worked six days a week, ten to twelve hours at a time. Because I was so tired in the mornings, I would only eat half a grapefruit before my shift. While we had breaks, I was too tired to pack lunches beforehand and didn’t find the restaurant’s food entirely appealing. So, when I came home in the wee hours of the morning, I would make myself a grilled cheese and sit in cheesy, ketchup-y heaven, shower, then drag myself to bed. I lost fifteen pounds in one month and my nails began breaking from both stress and malnourishment. I needed to gain my routine back and part of that was my having to say goodbye to my amazing coworkers and my not-so-amazing job.
Now, I’m working an awesome job with regular hours, which means I can now go back to my routine. Unfortunately, I can’t come home and make my lunches like I did during school, so I do a lot of batch cooking on Sundays. I roast large pans of vegetables for salads and pastas and usually bake up a healthy banana loaf or a batch of breakfast muffins to make sure I still have breakfast on the mornings I need a little more sleep. I feel much healthier and happier now that I can regularly and properly nourish my body again. I learned that no matter how busy you are, your body is the only thing that keeps you going. Being busy is only sustainable if you eat well and take care of yourself. This is what I will remind myself as I take on 2016.