Conservation – or going “green” – is the big thing now. As Americans, we have been used to excess of every kind for so many years that simplifying, recycling, and saving are concepts still foreign to most of us. I remember what we did with our trash when I was a child spending my summers in the mountains of New York: we separated it into paper, that was burned; cans, bottles, which were each recycled, and food refuse, which was given to the farmer for his pigs. Plastic was so rare then that recycling it was not an issue.
However, I did not finally sit down to write on this blog to discuss conservation in the larger sense; rather, since I have been on a self-imposed diet, I have been thinking about what that concept means to me personally, in terms of food, money, and time. I started with an app, which gave me a general idea of how many calories in what proportion of nutrients I should be consuming each day, considering my age, current weight, goal weight, lifestyle, etc. Given only 1370 calories to play with in a day was very sobering, especially on the first day, when I just continued my normal eating habits and ended up more than 800 calories over; it was no surprise, then, why I had been gaining weight! Each day brought new discoveries. One was that if I ate two hardboiled eggs, with just salt on them, I was still going over my cholesterol allowance, despite the fact that eggs are high in protein and low in calories. I soon realized that I needed to drastically cut down portion size and quit my chronic nibbling. A Starbucks soy vanilla latte is a lot of calories, but, once I opted out of the sugary vanilla syrup, I still couldn’t figure out why it still “cost” me so much. My attitude has quickly become that of having a certain number of calories to “spend,” being careful not to waste them. Snacks like Tostitos, at 140 calories for 7 chips, are clearly not worth it to me; I’d rather eat half an avocado for 21 more.
Since I am eating less and eating more consciously, I find myself really enjoying my food, savoring each bite, wasting not a tidbit. I evaluate food choices on whether they are worth the calories, and, if I determine they are, eating them becomes a gift I give myself – like the zucchini muffins and the hamantaschen I made. I no longer have to eat lots of something to enjoy it; eight Ghirardelli chips are enough to satisfy my chocolate craving.
This attitude has carried over into my spending habits as well, not to the same degree yet, unfortunately, but I’m getting there. When I began to make the connection between calorie counting and spending, I started seeing how much money I waste on things that may be nice, even good, but are still unnecessary and unprofitable. If I spend less on these little things, I can start saving for the things that are really important to me: visiting my kids overseas, for example. Our expenses here in North Carolina in the country are so minimal that I should be able to sock away quite a bit, if I am as careful with my money as I have become with my calories.
The biggest issue for me, though, is time. Wasting time is something I have become very good at. It’s not that I am lazy, nor is it that I don’t have enough to do; I like to work hard and keep busy. However, there are many moments during each day that go unclaimed, that are not profitably spent, not even as conscious times of rest. In a class I took on prayer, we examined how much time we spend frustrated by waiting – in lines, on the highway, on the phone – when we could reclaim that time in active prayer. Even, and perhaps especially, my busyness can be a waste of time – time that God has allotted to me in this life that I need to be using in and for Him. It is much harder for me to be intentional about my use of time. One of the rationales for my purchase of this nice new Apple computer was so that I could more effectively blog and also finally start to write some stories. The discipline it takes to actually sit down and do this, not just check my email, wander onto FaceBook, and watch Korean dramas, has been sorely lacking in me. I could say that our life was at first so stressful after our car accident that I couldn’t write; lately I have felt that I have just been floating along with no apparent crises, so what is there, then, to write about? If for no other reason, I need to write, whether or not anyone reads my reflections or agrees with them, because that is how I best process what is going on in my life and what lessons God is teaching me, if I would just take the time to stop, listen, and learn.