How to Kon Mari Your Nutrition: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Food

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Nutrition

You all know that I loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, and it’s sparked a lot of joy in my life in recent years. I’ve decluttered the crap out of my gear closet, worked through easy ways to sell and donate my stuff, and managed to become slightly less of an overpacker thanks in large part to this book. What I hadn’t really thought about it for was my nutrition, though. Over the years, though, I realized that the two actually could align really well.

I eat decently, as far as balancing my solid nutrition bases with some fun stuff (ahem, Reeses Easter Eggs). But there is definitely a lot of stuff in my food life that doesn’t exactly spark joy. So, I started to think about how to Kon Mari my nutrition, and I wanted to share what I’ve been doing—and have continued to do since I originally did this clean out a couple years ago!


Check your expiration dates

Guys, I hate to break it to you, but gels/sports drinks/etc. all expire. (I wrote about this back when I was talking about using the Marie Kondo method on your athletic gear.) Sure, most of them won’t be *too* bad if you use after the sell-by date, especially single serve stuff like gels, but if it’s opened drink mix, for example, toss it. And if you do have expired gels that you *think* will be fine but you have had sitting around since they were fresh out of the factory, it might be worth tossing them regardless of whether or not they’re ‘still good.’ You haven’t used them for this long, why would you start now?

Take stock

Now that you’re down to strictly the stuff that hasn’t expired, it’s time to get to the Kon Mari question of ‘does this spark joy?’ If you’re anything like me, you have a couple boxes of gels/drink mix that you haven’t touched because you tried one and just weren’t into the flavor. You didn’t hate it, but you didn’t like it, so you’re saving it for when you’re out of the good stuff. Unless you’re willing to start using it tomorrow to get through it, just toss or donate it now. You’re never going to use it.

Make stock

OK, this was largely just for the rhyme… But I do have a point here. When I was doing this, I realized we had a TON of bones in our freezer from a few different butchers (when we got our half-cow last year, he threw in some really meaty bones) and I had left them languishing. So, I popped them in our Instant Pot and very quickly made a few awesome batches of bone broth. While that might not apply to you, what I will challenge you to do is use up some of the stuff that’s just been sitting around, like dried beans or canned tomatoes (check those expiration dates though!). Toss the stuff that’s gone bad, but get creative with stuff that’s still good—you might find a new recipe you love!

Comically, as I tweak this post to update it for 2023, we literally have a bone broth in the Instant Pot right now, and we just tossed a bunch of expired powders. So, we do practice what we’ve preached!

Assess your bottles

Weirdly, most of the cyclists I know are bottle hoarders. This is something you should do on a regular basis: Check water bottles for matching bottle caps, look for signs of wear and tear and general grossness, and use this opportunity to chuck old bottles you never use, while running the ones you love through a dishwasher cycle (and cleaning out your hydration bladder!). This one always hurts, but it’s better to have clean, non-gross bottles only. (I’ve also started to turn down freebie water bottles at events and races when possible, because we just don’t need more!)


Look at a ‘day in the life’

Spend a day or two recording what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. (I’ve talked about the few times I use food journaling—this is one of them.) For example: I recently realized after doing this that every time I ate coconut, I ended up with puffy eyes. Not a life-threatening allergy, but a pain in the ass. I don’t love coconut to begin with, so why was I continuing to eat this food that absolutely didn’t spark joy? You might realize that your post-ride staple of oatmeal tastes great at the time, but gives you a stomachache afterwards. This is still a great tip—just don’t get so caught up in food journalling that you start to get freaked out about food and changing your patterns for the worse.

Assess your 80:20

When I wrote Fuel Your Ride, Nancy Guest, my lead expert, told me that most people can get away with 80% of their food being healthy, and 20% being indulgent. For pros, think 90:10. For Olympians in an Olympic year, 98:2. You get the idea. My point here is that now is a great time to think about what’s really worth it in your 20% (or 15 or 10, whatever) and keep that in mind. Does that two-day old donut really spark joy? Does that 5th Reeses egg? (Again, ahem.) Know what foods are worth the indulgence, and try to keep that in mind when you’re feeling hungry and like you need a treat. My guess is that if you think about sparking joy, you’ll end up making better choices all-around.

Seriously, let your food spark joy

Sparking joy might come from diving into a seriously epic healthy salad for dinner, or making the perfect veggie omelette for breakfast. It might come from a gooey chocolate brownie post-run, or—ahem—that Reeses Easter Egg you’ve been craving. Basically, think about your food choices as empowering and joy-sparking: Don’t feel like you *have* to eat a certain ‘health food,’ or feel guilt from eating a certain less-than-superfood. Enjoy what you’re eating when you’re eating it! This one really goes towards my word of 2023, ‘intentional.’ I’m a big fan of slowing down for meals, actually spending time focusing on the food you’re eating, whether it is the salad or the chocolate. Or both.


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