Getting organized to be happier
Most people who like to cook are probably familiar with the idea of ‘mise en place’, from the French culinary tradition of ‘everything in its place’. I’ve posted previously about the importance of ‘mise’ in cooking preparation, and since then I have thought a lot about what it means to have ‘everything in its place’ in the broader context of the work that I do to help treat infertility. So I want to delve a little deeper into this idea of mise en place, both from a nutritional perspective, but also in how it can manifest itself in our day to day lives and help us to be more organized and happier with how we get through each day.
One of the foundations of our practice is the belief that if we concentrate on getting the little things right, we can have a positive effect on the bigger things. Embracing the importance of mise en place is an example of this. Nutrition is the most important element under your direct control which can improve your reproductive health, and it is your responsibility to manage.
Better organization for better outcomes
I can recommend different foods, ingredients, recipes, and all kinds of resources for ideas – but generally, you are the one who needs to do the work to take any of these recommendations and turn them into the food on your plate. Realistically you’re preparing 2-3 meals a day, almost every day of the week, over and over… One of the biggest challenges that my patient’s face when undergoing treatment is fighting a feeling of burnout when it comes to maintaining their diets over an extended period of time.
I understand. It can feel monotonous to ‘eat healthy’ for months at a time. Especially if we see it as a form of self-denial, instead of as something that we want to do, or something that we get to do, as part of preparing our body to be as ready as possible for pregnancy.
What I have found over time is that better organization helps ensure better outcomes. The more we can focus on the little things in preparing our meals for the week, the more likely we are to adhere to our plans.
Everything in its place
This is where ‘mise’ starts to come into our planning. When I make recommendations to patients about foods to eat relative to their cycle or their specific fertility goals, that is a good time to start planning for your upcoming week. If we think of ‘everything in its place’, we can take a few days to browse Instragram or Pinterest for recipe ideas and start to assemble our menu for the week. With this kind of planning, we minimize the chance that we’ll just grab some take-out because we don’t have something ready, or get into a rut by preparing the same few meals over and over. Once we have an idea of recipes that work for our goals, then we can plan our grocery shopping.
One of the best things that I’ve seen in some traditional cookbooks is the idea that we stock our pantry and fridge with some key staple items, and then we shop for the fresh ingredients and specialty items as needed every few days. This approach aligns with our idea of ‘mise’ in that we are able to think about our cooking needs holistically, in the sense of how we can make sure to cook the best foods for our nutritional needs in a sustainable manner day after day. Transforming our health through better nutrition is challenging enough, and trying to do that, in balance with everything else in our life that is competing for our time and attention, I can only suggest that the best approach is to try and keep things simple.
Establishing a meal plan for your upcoming week allows you to shop for the necessary ingredients and find time that works best for you to prepare your ingredients and recipes for your mise en place. Be deliberate in where and when you get your food. If you schedule a certain day of the week for food delivery, think about how you can also incorporate a visit to the farmer’s market for your local, fresh, organic produce. Choosing your foods item by item allows you more forethought when it comes to planning how you will prepare things. If you select your stone fruit by touch and sight, you instinctively know that it will be ripe in 3-4 days, and you can plan accordingly.
For example, if my food delivery arrives on Friday, and I visit the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, then I might set aside a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to prepare the ingredients for most of my weekly meals. If I can be organized enough on that Sunday afternoon so that I have all of my breakfast wraps prepped and ready to poach an egg, or to add my grilled salmon to my lunch salad, then think of how much simpler every day of the week has just become! I can meet my nutritional goals, my body feels better as a result, and I have the satisfaction of building better health into my routine in a sustainable way.