There’s one healing activity I do a few times a day, no excuses. I call this a healing activity because of the astounding benefits that result from doing this one thing, and it’s called: cooking. It’s the one sure way to take care of you inside and out. For those that know me personally know that I love to cook, though I don’t talk about it much. I do not cook professionally (just at home, three or four times a day). No matter how swamped my schedule becomes, I set time aside to prepare my own bowls and plates — it’s become a major part of my daily self-care routine.

When I told a friend that I cook every day a while back, she asked me: “Don’t you just not eat some days because you‘re too busy?” Oh yeah, actually, I’d always use the “I’m too busy” excuse. Skipping meals is a self-punishing behavior. You might not think that, but when I suffered with anxiety and depression, I wouldn’t eat, I’d lose a scary amount of weight, and I’d have sinus problems, feel sick all the time, and was malnutrition.

In 2009, I also learned that on top of the health struggles I already have, I was also diagnosed with an anomalous coronary heart defect (coronary heart disease). I found myself planning for a second open heart surgery at the age of twenty-five, but after multiple detailed tests, I didn’t have to have the surgery (after six to eight months of waiting and tests). The defect I have causes sudden death in young people before age 40, and the experience taught me about the power of healthy food. I began cooking to heal not only depression and anxiety, but also my heart. The situation inspired me to get healthier. Someone once said that when you eat bad foods, your heart is the first to know. So, I spent more time in the produce aisle at grocery stores, thinking up recipe concoctions that specifically suited me.

I began cooking simple dishes. Nothing fancy. I’d roast a few vegetables and make sure I had enough protein. Just one month after cooking daily, I noticed a drastic change in my appearance (from dull to glowing), my skin cleared up, my hair shined, and as I reaped the benefits of cooking fresh, organic food, I got into research mode and sort of became my own nutritionist. I relied on food and to this day, I still do. I eat a balanced, refreshing diet full of variety because that works for me. Plus, it’s a fact that our bodies thrive most on a variety of foods.

Eight years after my diagnoses, (now) I’ve learned so much more about nutrition than I could ever have learned. Each morning, I start my day with a smoothie which takes five minutes. My siblings often tease me (still, in my thirties, if you’d believe it) about my smoothie making habits, and I’d say, “Tease away, because in about five minutes, I’ll feel like a million dollars and will have enough energy to run a marathon if I wanted to.” Unfortunately, because of my heart, I can’t really run, or jog, but I have an active lifestyle with swimming and I do other exercises that strengthen my heart and body. Eating a healthy diet allows me to achieve my workout goals. At the start of this New Year, I set goals to swim three-to five days a week and I’ve stuck to this goal.

See, you could do all of the self-care routines in the world, but if you’re eating garbage food, you’ll feel like garbage no matter what you do. And, since I’ve been preparing my own meals, I’m confident and know what’s going in my food and in my body. I’d prefer to know. You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to cook a meal (though, I’d love some cooking lessons from him!) I’ve learned how to prepare food and cook through blogs, YouTube, magazines, and other chefs.

The other reason why I make my own food each day is because doing so has almost cured my fatigue, brain fog associated with fibromyalgia, and it’s like I have a newfound energy and love for life. I don’t use the “I’m too busy” excuse to do what I must. I can’t afford not to. Healthy food brings me joy, makes me feel renewed, and full of good energy. Cooking has become my way of unplugging, recharging, refueling, staying in the moment, clearing my mind, and engaging in my environment and with family.

A bonus: I’ve been sleeping better as a result. The thing is, as someone with depression and mental illness; I never thought I’d find myself saying, “I love life.” I attribute part of this new, transformed me to food, produce, my pots, pans, spatulas, ladles, nutribullet, and spiralizer… It’s a fact that the type of food we eat plays a major role in how much or little we sleep, which in turn determines how we feel and function. Since I’ve cut caffeine from my diet (no coffee, coke products, hardly any tea) I’ve had more energy and sleep like a baby now. I personally thrive on good food, exercise, and of course, ample sleep. The next time you find yourself saying, “Cooking? I ain’t got time for that!” You might want to rethink and refer back to this article when you do.

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