Just Eat an Apple
In the past, when I planned how to maintain healthier choices in my diet, I always thought in terms of substitutes. Like most people, I have favorite foods and cravings, and they prompted my search.
Enter low-fat cookies, low-salt crackers, sugar-free ice cream, gluten-free pasta, soy cheese pizza, turkey bacon, and other mutants from the world of manufactured food.
I spent hours researching my options and plenty of money trying to satisfy those cravings. Almost every replacement food had one or more ingredients at least as bad as what I was trying to avoid. Artificial flavors and sweeteners and unpronounceable chemicals abounded. Even in the so-called "health food store," 80% of the space was given over to factory-produced products. And more often than not, the substitute wasn't even that tasty, so I was out time and money yet still unsatisfied.
The effort I put into this search was the opposite of minimalist. I was finding complex solutions to a simple problem. I spent a lot of money even though the healthiest options are the cheapest, and too much of my time and energy was focused on something as basic and natural as eating. I was missing the obvious.
Then I read about something called the Apple Test.
The Apple Test is meant to help you determine whether you are actually physically hungry. The next time you are craving a snack, ask yourself if you would want the snack if it were just an apple (or another natural food that you like but are not tempted to overeat). If the answer is yes, why not go for that apple (or other natural food) to nourish your physical hunger? If the answer is no, then the craving you're experiencing might be something else – physical thirst or a mental or emotional need.
Maybe what you really need is a big glass of water, a few minutes in the sun, a hug, some encouraging words, a bit of exercise, or more sleep at night. Maybe you need to write in a gratitude journal or do something kind for someone else.
Apples are high in fiber and vitamins, naturally sweet, and inexpensive. Oranges and bananas have similar benefits. Nut butter (the kind you grind yourself in the bulk foods aisle, that only contains peanuts or almonds and nothing else) on celery or carrots, a couple of eggs, or some plain yogurt (maybe with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon) will provide protein and fats which our bodies need.
So the reminder to "just eat an apple" (or another simple, unrefined food) minimizes all of the tasks that go with feeding ourselves.
"Just eat an apple" can be applied to many (maybe most) situations. We're so often led to believe that the solution to every problem is something complicated to buy or add to our lives. For example, the modern solution to making a grocery list is to buy a smart refrigerator. We get used to thinking that technology makes everything better, and forget that the most straightforward and minimal solution is often the best.
How do we get control of our daily schedule? We buy smart devices and download apps that promise to send reminders and keep us productively on-task. But the simplest solution is obvious: don't schedule so many work meetings and social events, and get more done by focusing on one task at a time.
How do we get control of our screen time? We make complex rules to govern when and where we use our phones or check social media. We limit (and then constantly negotiate) computer and TV usage with our kids. The "eat an apple" approach would be to delete accounts, keep phones, computers, and TVs out of the bedroom and away from the dining table, and prioritize creativity, conversation, and sleep.
Minimalism is not just about the amount of stuff we own. When we apply the same principles used for decluttering clothing, kitchenware, and tchotchkes to our diets, schedules, and habits, that minimalist mindset can help us live with greater balance and less stress. There's no need to over-complicate simple decisions – just eat an apple.
Photo by Tuqa Nabi on Unsplash