Hello best life seekers!
Is your diet off course? Does your refrigerator contain a freezer chock full of decadent treats and microwavable meals? Is the fridge section a collection of molding food containers or packed with cokes and beer? When I took a project in DC for a year, I leased a studio without checking the kitchen specs. To my surprise upon move in, it didn’t come with a full-sized refrigerator.
It came with a mini fridge, two cabinets and an oven which set the fire alarm off if I so much as turned it on.
At first I was so bummed I considered terminating the lease and upgrading to a one bedroom with a full kitchen. But I really loved the view and all the light coming through the studio’s wall to ceiling window. That and I really didn’t want to schlep my stuff to another apartment.
Here’s what happened when I accepted the mini fridge and no oven way of living and it totally surprised me. My health and weight certainly took a 180!
Reinforcing Good Behaviors
I love to cook.
I love a well-stocked fridge.
I also love pizza and cookies and pies and french fries. Not to mention chocolate moose tracks ice cream.
With a mini-fridge you really can’t have any of these.
You’ve seen mini-fridges any time you’ve stayed in a hotel. You know, the thing stocked with a few colas, water and liquor that all start at $3 each. The space is tiny and the “freezer” is laughable. You can only house the essential in these.
Welcome to my new life.
Rather than use this as an excuse to order take out every day, I saw this new challenge as a way to reinforce good dietary habits I’d wanted to adopt but with which I struggled due to being weak-willed and junk food addicted. In essence you could say what was born was the Mini-Fridge Diet and it changed my life completely.
The Mini-Fridge Diet
We tend to fill up all excess space, whether that is a garage or our plates. When you have small storage space, you have to focus on the necessary over the nice to have. Not having any meaningful freezer space limited the amount of unhealthy frozen meals I could buy and store. So did the fact that only two inches of the freezer would actually freeze while the area above always defrosted. I had to toss so much until I accepted this but I digress.
Gone went the 3 for $10 Red Baron pizzas. Ditto the bags of frozen tater tots and spiral fries. Microwavable meals wouldn’t fit. In came the frozen peas, pork chops, and fish filets that I could spread across the freezer tray without them thawing. Just from these frozen food swaps my nutrition skyrocketed within a week. My weight also began to drop as I ate healthier.
In the fridge portion, I said adios to most condiments and all colas. Not that I was a big cola or beer drinker but they take up space. In went my cooking basics – plum tomatoes, yellow and green squash, mushrooms, fruits and other veggies plus room for leftovers. No milk. No bread. No pasta sauces. I kept a can of coffee and some butter, sometimes cream. I should have thrown out the ketchup and mustard because I never used them now that I was bereft of my fries and gave up hotdogs and burgers for fish.
Since I also could only use a stove top and not the oven, my limited shelving options of two cabinets really cut down what I could have, especially with one shelf devoted to plates and glasses. I stocked up on canned beans, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, tinned tuna, smoked oysters, and sardines. Out went boxed meals like pop tarts, oatmeal, and pastas. Cookies and chips also received no dedicated shelf space. Ditto to flour, sugar, and other cooking ingredients that would aid my sugar tooth for cakes, cookies, pies and even homemade breads. I kept the soy sauce, bakers chocolate, assorted vinegars and olive oil and coconut oil. My spice rack stayed on the counter behind my dish rack.
Cramped Growing Pains
We’re used to our enormous fridges which allow us to buy and store and overfill. With a mini-fridge, you have to plan or reap the unfortunate results. This steep learning curve meant wasted money and food if not mastered. Unfortunately, this parallels our health journey. Unless we think and plan for it, we face harsh results down the road, along with the sticker shock of outrageous medical costs.
The mini fridge taught me planning. I had to think about meals and their ingredients and if I bought too much, that meant spoiling on the counter if it needed refrigerating. My limited freezer was tight and I had to learn how to not let my eyes grow bigger than my stomach (or storage space) when the grocery store had good sales or if I shopped hungry.
I had to make frequent trips to the store too. Having lived in Europe, I was used to this. Plus I love grocery stores. Love them. This needing to go every three days or so encouraged me to walk home more often since the store was on the route. This wasn’t so much a pain as the added exercise and Vitamin D improved my mood. In Washington, DC’s horrible rush hour traffic, you can often walk faster than any car or bus so I got home only 10-15 minutes later anyway but minus the stress of sitting in traffic. Again, an unlooked-for plus.
Not being able to keep prepared meals, whether boxed or frozen, meant cooking more. I love to cook but most people surprisingly don’t and see it as a down side. However, boxed and frozen meals mean added chemicals, preservatives, emulsifiers, as well as nitrates and sulphates, sugar and salt that wreck our health. While cooking takes time, it usually improves your nutrition levels leaps and bounds over the alternatives. Though I love to cook, I’m a lazy chef and specialize in 15-20 minute meals. So while I had to cook more, this wasn’t a real chore.
Another mini fridge side-effect was jettisoning ice cream and saying a final farewell to one of my biggest sugar addictions. Despite my promises to quit sugar, I remember trying to shove a pint of Ben & Jerry’s into the freezer. It barely fit but sadly, only the bottom inch froze while the rest melted. This was devastating when I went to eat the rest the next day only to find a soupy mess. While I could use the melted ice cream as an almost decent coffee creamer, I was grateful that the mini fridge lessened my addiction-fueled purchases for ice cream and frozen pizzas – both of which had scuttled my previous dietary changes.
It took a while to juggle food storage, meal planning, and all the rest. But it was totally worth it and this tends to happen anyway when we change our diets. Within mere weeks, particularly after my sugar and refined carb withdrawal symptoms eased, I started really reaping the health benefits.
Shocking Diet Results
If you read What Happened When I Gave Up Bread, you will know I saw amazing results from dropping breads and pastas along with sugar. The mini-fridge, while initially a pain to organize, was the enforcer for this change that gave me back my health. However, thanks to the mini-fridge diet I was able to not just drop unwanted foods but include better alternatives over time.
Because I only had room for the essential and healthy, my nutrition improved which then impacted my overall health. Some key results:
- Weight loss and weight stabilization
- Increased energy and vitality
- Acne disappeared, skin rejuvenated
- More even moods, less anxiety and nervousness
- Stable appetite
- Better digestion and regularity
- Improved sleep and sleep quality
- Improved focus and concentration
- Disappearance of joint pain and improved arm rotation after years of pain and impaired mobility
- Disappearance of chronic chest tightness
- Disappearance of sinus congestion
- Blood pressure dropping from 136/86 to 97/68 (normal range)
These are just some of the health benefits I saw over the year of the Mini Fridge Diet.
When Mini Means More
Sometimes what seems like an unwanted circumstance can become a catalyst for lasting positive change. I could have used the mini fridge as an excuse to order take out or go out to eat for my meals, wrecking my health in the process. Instead, I went the other route and focused on implementing the dietary changes I needed. While the transition from full fridge to mini wasn’t easy, I’ll take the amazing health results it empowered over diet pills and other medications!
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