The Problem With Quality

This post has what might what be a controversial title. The problem with quality? How is quality a problem? If anything, the problem is usually a lack of quality. So many things are overpriced and under-deliver. I can go to the dollar store and find a thousand things that will break within five minutes of use. The problem with quality? No, the problem is no quality!

Oh Dilbert.

Yes, yes, I agree. Obviously quality is superior to a lack of quality … but that’s exactly the problem. Imagine driving a top-of-the-line sportscar, something by Ferrari. Maybe you get it for a month, all expenses paid. Rides like an absolute dream. Afterwards, though, you have to go back to driving your used economy model. It will feel terrible, clunky, awful, everything negative you can think about.

You had a taste of superb quality, and now it’s so much harder to accept mediocrity.

I’m currently experiencing this in terms of my diet. Last November, I gave up all junk food, which was great … but I didn’t eat the healthiest meals. I didn’t eat bad, but I didn’t eat great, either, and after my holiday season I reverted back to my old eating habits. Then, just after my birthday, I decided to eat very healthy, having the best possible food for every meal. This I managed to do … but I couldn’t quite give up the junk food. Snacks are my weakness.

Actually, that’s not completely true. I could easily never eat another cookie or chip for the rest of my life … if I had my own private chef. It’s the convenience, not the taste, that gets me. I don’t like cooking. I mean, I really don’t like it. I’m not good at it, it takes time, and I’d rather just be doing anything else. If I’m hungry, I want to eat, not wait 20min and then eat.

There are few truly healthy snacks. Fruit is good, but you can eat too much and make it bad. The same is true for nuts. I didn’t know this before, but apparently many nuts have anti-nutrients. In small doses they are no problem, but eaten in bulk over a regular period can be problematic. Also, to be honest, nuts are tough to eat. Sure, if you smother them in salt and sugar, they’re great, but that’s starting to defeat the ‘not eating junk food’ part of the equation.

BBQ peanuts looks suspiciously like Cheetos under this light.

If I get hungry between meals, then, what do I eat? For the most part, I would just eat a smaller meal. Steam some veggies, add some rice, make a small salad, voila. Throw in some chicken and that’s my dinner most nights. That’s great, and obviously 100% healthy, but that also means a lot of cooking. Every time I get hungry I need to cook, and I really don’t like that.

I plugged away for three weeks, and in that time I felt great. That was three weeks of eating as healthy and nutritious as I ever have, but it was mentally draining. I spent so much time in the kitchen, and I really didn’t want to. Seriously, let me do anything else. Then, one day, I went shopping and caved in, grabbing some delicious, delicious donuts. When I got hungry, I just needed to reach in and grab a donut. No cooking required, and I loved it … even as my insides rebelled.

And rebel they did. After going most of the month eating as healthy as possible, the metric tonne of sugar and artificial ingredients smothered me. I felt terrible within minute of eating such junk. I don’t mean emotionally, either. People often feel regret when they cheat on their diet. Regret indeed feels terrible, but this isn’t the terrible I mean. I’m talking legitimately, physically terrible. My stomach would ache, I’d get cramps, I got surprisingly drowsy, my energy levels dropped, the list just goes on and on.

There was no mystery here. I ate objectively inferior food, and so it’s no wonder I feel like dirt. It also happened so quickly. Rarely do you get such immediate feedback from your body about what you eat. This was near instant. Obviously the junk food was to blame.

I hated feeling this way. I went so long with quality fuel powering my body, and now feeling cranky and bloated simply wasn’t going to cut it. I had experienced quality nutrition, quality health, and now I could accept nothing less … but, dammit, the last thing I want to do is cook …

We can thus see the problem. I’ve had a taste of quality, in this case nutrition, and I loved it. After a while, though, I’ve started to blanch at the cost, which in this case involves cooking and preparation, not actually money. In fact, I have no qualms about the money. This is unusual, as it is often the monetary cost that deters people.

Yes, yes it is.

Many people who have tried a strict paleo diet, for example, have encountered this: it’s expensive buying organic meats, fruits and vegetables. That’s all you eat. You have no cheap filler, and that can burn a hole through your back account. For myself, I felt too good to complain about the price. My improved everything justified the cost, 100%. There’s nothing better than feeling better.

Time, though, is much harder to overcome. I frequently got lost in my activities. I can play chess or spin poi all day, completely oblivious to the time. Suddenly I’ll realize I need to go to work in 20min and I need to eat. If I cook a good meal, that will take most of that time. If I just throw together a quick sandwich, that will take less time. And if I just grab a slice of pizza, that’s even faster.

Similarly, when I get home after an eight-hour shift, I just want to eat. If I’m still hungry after dinner, the last thing I want to do is head back into the kitchen to make something new. I try to cook ahead, always having a meal ready for such cases, but if I eat that for a 10pm snack, then I won’t have that tomorrow for lunch or diner. Easiest thing to do, then, is have a bag of chips.

Perhaps the worst thing, though, is how I feel I’m wasting time. The whole reason I eat near my computer is to save time. Every minute I’m in the kitchen feels like another minute wasted. I could be studying or playing or learning or cleaning or anything, but here I am instead, watching a pot boil.

And they say it wouldn’t boil if I watched it.

Now, I would have absolutely no problem if I didn’t care about my health. Indeed, I’ve spent most of my life eating fairly good meals with copious amounts of junk food as snacks, and it’s been fine. Why not just keep doing that? Oh, that’s right, I tasted quality nutrition and felt how amazing it was. Now I want that feeling all the time … but the cost is a tough pill to swallow.

I don’t know how I solve this particular dilemma. I suppose I could just grow up and deal with it, as I’m sure some readers have thought as I whined and moaned, but that’s not really an answer. If anything, it would just lead to a situation like the beginning of April, where I did great for three weeks but then fell off the wagon at the first sign of weakness. Do I really need to use willpower for the rest of my life to eat properly? That’s the long-term solution?

Another possibility might be to cook really far ahead, spending one or two days a week to create a lot of prepared meals, something I can just heat and eat on demand. That might work, but it would require some planning and creativity in storing everything in my small fridge and freezer.

Whatever the answer ends is, I know that it exists. I cannot give up on this. The quality is too good to pass up. It may force me to just bite the bullet and cook a lot more everyday. That’s the problem with quality: I can no longer get away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.