For the last week and a half I’ve been holed up in the Chicago Hilton for a work assignment. While I can count the number of hours I saw daylight on one hand, I don’t have nearly enough digits to count the amazing, young activists I met at the largest young worker conference in the country.
A unionist by day and home cook by night, sometimes I feel like the two things that feed my soul most are completely at odds. My day job takes me to cities across the Midwest (most considerably less exciting than Chi-Town). In small towns like Puxico, Missouri and Brecksville, Ohio I work long hours and some days I can barely face the friendly workers at Panera long enough to order a salad. Retiring to my room instead, exhausted, I nosh on the apple and nuts I’ve stashed away in my book bag. I try really, really hard to nourish my body with healthy foods to keep my energy up throughout the long, stressful days on the road, but sometimes I succumb to the Danishes at the free breakfast or a giant bacon cheeseburger in the hotel pub.
And once I’ve fallen off the wagon I usually wave the white flag of surrender and go about my destructive eating behavior until I arrive home and can stuff my blender full of spinach and kale. It’s a vicious cycle that constantly leaves me feeling like I have to catch up.
I started my trip in Chicago with the best intentions. My alarm went off at 5am for the first three days, and I drug myself to the gym before the sun came up. I turned my nose up at the fluffy cakes and cheesy sliders served to us at every meal. But on day four, stress and lack of sleep got the best of me. From there on out everything was fair game: nightly red wine, gooey mac and cheese, and sinful desserts. By the time I arrived home early this week, my hands were swollen, I was sick, my stomach felt bloated and nauseous, I had no energy.
And then I had an epiphany. Prepare for cheesy, sorry folks. Simply put, and disgustingly obvious to anyone with half a brain: what I eat directly effects my health. Not just five years down the road or twenty years from now, today. Like immediately. One week of stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and limited physical activity and I was laid out, sick, tired, and feeling defeated. Why this causal relationship between food and health has evaded me for so long, I can’t tell you. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been concerned about managing my health and diet for quite some time. But my motivation were the skinny jeans in my closet or a quickly approaching swim suit season, not my health.
This is a personal post. It’s not easy talking out our struggles with weight, food, willpower, or self-esteem. I write it because everyone I know has these same struggles. I hope that by writing about my own, we can establish a community of support, but also hold ourselves accountable for making the best decisions we can.
Ok, back to the reason you’re here, food! Today’s post is a little something to jazz up your healthy choices and make you feel less deprived when you pass up the cheese fries and opt for the chicken and veggies instead. I call this balsamic vinaigrette ‘awesome sauce’ because it can be used in a million applications and makes everything you put it on awesome. It’s my go-to salad dressing, marinade for my Portobello mushroom burgers, and my sauce for rich, savory roasted Brussel sprouts. Sometimes I’ll pour it over a bowl of leftover roasted chicken and veggies. BAM, meal complete! Actually throw a fried egg on top, they make everything better.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons honey or real maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¾ cup olive oil
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
Combine all of the ingredients except the oil and vinegar in a medium container with tight fitting lid. Stir to combine. Add the olive oil and vinegar, secure the lid, and shake vigorously until the mixture is homogenous and emulsified.