What if We Approached Cooking Like We Do Physical Activity?

Can you imagine… What would life be like if we approached basic home food preparation in the way we approach fitness and physical activity?

Most people wouldn’t cook! They’d would go hungry, be malnourished, and feel terrible about it.

It Would Begin in Childhood…

Little kids would love to play in the kitchen and make their own food. They would be so excited to experiment and invent new dishes with their friends.

Then they’d go to school.

  • In school cooking would be forced, supervised, and competitive. Just making yummy snacks for fun wouldn’t be allowed.
  • There would be cooking classes where they’d cook the same thing every day — something they didn’t like — and the cooking coach would whistle and yell at them if they weren’t washing their fruit fast enough.
  • Sometimes kids would have to spend the whole cooking class period prepping piles of vegetables as a punishment, if they didn’t seem to be trying hard enough.
  • Kids who were great at cooking, who’d had been cooking since they were four, and had parents who were cooks, and who had private cooking coaches, would be celebrated by the whole school.
  • Kids who struggled with cooking would be shamed and ostracized.

Most kids would decide they hated cooking, and would never set foot in a kitchen again after getting out of school.

We’d Feel Guilty, Overwhelmed, and Hopeless

Many people would feel like they ought to cook, but would feel like there were too many obstacles to overcome.

We would see billboards, magazine ads, and videos of beautiful, healthy people effortlessly cooking amazing meals, and get so discouraged about ever being able to do something so amazing that they’d entirely give up on the idea of even throwing together a one-pot dinner.

People would have all sorts of beliefs and stories they’d tell themselves:

  • “I’m not disciplined enough to make food.”
  • “I just can’t find the motivation.”
  • “I tried cooking years ago, and hated it.”
  • “I’m afraid to try cooking because I might do something wrong.”
  • “I can’t stir a pot because I have a old elbow injury.”
  • “I know I really should cook more, but I can’t afford a personal chef or fancy home kitchen.”

Doctors would ask patients if they are cooking their own meals, regardless of the reason for their appointment. Broken wrist? “It looks like you’re not cooking enough.” Every visit would include the stern admonition to “try to cook more,” no matter how healthy people actually were.

We would see billboards, magazine ads, and videos of beautiful, healthy people effortlessly cooking amazing meals. People would see them and get overwhelmed and discouraged about ever being able to do something so amazing. They’d entirely give up on the idea of even throwing together a one-pot dinner.

We’d Need Special Equipment and Attire

For folks who were into cooking, there would be all sorts of specialized things they’d need to buy.

  • Most people wouldn’t have a kitchen at home, because seriously, who has that kind of space?
  • Some people would buy a refrigerator or stove and put it in the corner of a back bedroom, or in the basement, where it would gather dust after the first few weeks.
  • Cooking equipment would look like it belonged an industrial warehouse or garage, not a home.
  • There would be whole stores of kitchen-casual clothing brands, because you know you can’t squat down to get a spaghetti pot out of the cabinet or roast bell peppers in your normal clothes.
  • Cooking shirts would have snide slogans like “My appetizers are bigger than your entrees,” “Cook hard or stay home,” and “If you haven’t cut off at least one finger are you really even cooking?”
  • We’d be sold the idea that we need special non-slip, supportive, stain-resistant shoes before we could be in the kitchen, specially designed for moving between the sink and cutting board, and carrying plates of food to the table.
  • Everyone who cooks would have purpose-made bags for carrying their spice bottles, cooking aprons, and special kitchen shoes.

A lot of folks would never make their own food because they couldn’t afford the right clothes, or because they didn’t know what to wear, or were embarrassed about how they look in the special kitchen attire.

Big Box Kitchens and Cooking Studios

Some people would cook on their own, at home, but many would stop by a membership-based kitchen before or after work, and do all their cooking for several days at once.

  • There would be huge group kitchens people could join, with row after row of ovens and stoves.
  • You’d drive there, put all your stuff in a locker, and change into your special cooking clothes before getting started.
  • After cooking all your food for the next few days you’d shower to be sure you didn’t smell of garlic or fish before going to work, and change back into your regular clothes for the day.
  • No one would dare to show up to cook at the group kitchen in the Wrong Clothes.
  • Half of folks would be too afraid to even go to a group kitchen because they might do the wrong thing, look stupid, and be laughed at or harassed, or even end up humiliated in someone’s viral video.
  • There would be random chefs wandering around the group kitchen, being helpful. You could pay extra for cooking sessions with them, where they’d show you what to do, then stand there and cheer you on while you cooked your meals.

Cooking Pros for Instruction and Accountability

It would be generally accepted that we need special help expert advice to prepare our own food.

  • It wouldn’t be enough to just scramble some eggs and sautée a handful of greens in the morning, or throw together a salad and cold piece of salmon for dinner. We’d need cooking plans, videos to cook along with, online cooking challenges, and tracking apps.
  • People with enough money and time could hire cooking coaches at a group kitchen, to cheer them on as they scramble eggs, steam broccoli, and bake casseroles. The coaches would help them improve their technique, and teach them how to cook new dishes, too.
  • Wealthy people would have personal chefs come to their homes several times a week to supervise and encourage them while they cooked their own food.
  • In-home personal cooking coaching would cost $100 an hour, and you’d still have to clean your kitchen yourself.

We’d Be Afraid to Try

Cooking and eating would be seen as potentially dangerous. One could get hurt or sick! Only people who already know what they are doing should attempt cooking.

  • Before anyone could learn to cook, join a group kitchen, or read a cookbook, they’d be advised to see their medical provider first, to see if they are healthy enough to begin cooking.
  • All chefs would be required to have a current CPR/AED certification, in case anyone choked or had a heart attack while eating their food. (This actually isn’t a bad idea at all – everyone should get basic CPR/AED/First Aid, Mental Health First Aid, and Stop the Bleed training.)
  • Before showing someone how to cook you’d have to have them sign a liability waiver.
  • Before you could help anyone learn how to cook you’d need a relevant college education plus a professional cooking certificate, continuing education credits, and expensive insurance.

We’d all know somebody who try making their own food for a while, but they burned their hand on a hot pan, just proving how risky it is.

It’s a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?

It would be silly, right? Preparing our own food is a fundamental part of human life. It doesn’t have to be complicated or trendy. We don’t need special clothes or tracking apps. Just a handful of basic skills and a willingness to give it a try. Anyone can cut up some fruit, make a salad, throw together a sandwich, or bake a piece of fish and some veggies.

Nobody is starving to death because they can’t figure out how to make basic meals. True, everyone doesn’t eat the exact right things every day. People make mistakes and have to throw out their burned pizza, but they try again! It’s perfectly normal for an ordinary mortal to wander into their kitchen every morning in their PJs and make coffee, toast, and eggs, using whatever old pan they have handy, and their beat-up coffee maker.

So simple and universal shouldn’t seem complex, mystifying, and alienating. But that’s just what’s happened with physical activity.

Let’s Normalize Being Physically Active

Let’s normalize doing active things without being so weird about it. Remember when you could just run around and have fun?

  • It’s OK to take a walk in whatever clothes and whatever shoes. If you’re comfortable, you’re good to go.
  • It’s OK to do squats holding a bag of dog food.
  • Be an example showing your office-mates that it’s normal to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • You don’t need a “tactical” sandbag to carry extra weight on a walk or hike (“rucking”). Throw a few water bottles in any old backpack and just go.
  • Don’t only invite friends to come sit with you (eating, watching movies/sports, playing games). Invite them to come outside and play. Frisbee, keep-away, tag, hopscotch – or just a walk or run. Have a snowball fight. (Only willing participants, please!) Be the leader who sets your whole friend group in motion.

Just like in cooking, a few basics will take you a long way. Have fun with it, experiment, and learn as you go.