The Utility of Discomfort

As a typical human being, I spend much of my life attempting to maximize comfort. I have a job that pays the rent so that I have a roof over my head. I buy groceries so that when I am hungry I have something to eat. I surround myself with positive, passionate people so that I can buoy my own spirits and avoid unpleasant interactions.

While such practices represent a healthy, rational approach towards life I have found that existing solely within the realm of the comfortable provides very little room for growth. After five months of living in the woods while hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, I’d like to think I learned a thing or two (or two thousand) about pushing boundaries. From that period of relative discomfort I gained incredible insight into how very little I truly need to be happy. And, in situations of self-doubt, I can always remind myself and those around me that I did hike the Appalachian flippin’ Trail from end to end, after all.

The first time I tried a Whole30 challenge, I kept things as comfortable as possible by sating any and all cravings with their closest “paleo” replica. The results were unspectacular and I remained a steadfast believer that every meal deserved dessert of some kind. Chocolate, after all, is quite delicious with coffee.

The second time I did a Whole30 challenge I decided to play around a bit with discomfort. Nothing dramatic, mind you. More like a conscious observation of what it means to crave a warm chocolate chip cookie and witness how remarkably functional and happy I could remain without said cookie. I even began to daydream about weird things like steak and brussels sprouts and the delightful crispy crust that forms on the bottom of sweet potato hash (best enjoyed after a rigorous workout…). I grew to love real, simple, fresh food.

So this time around, here’s to seeking out a bit of discomfort.

I can cook chicken and ground meat and eggs and maybe I’ll pan-fry a thin little steak if you ask nicely. Give me a piece of fish or a solid hunk of pork and I’ll probably go bat my eyelashes at the chef-in-residence, seeking a bit of guidance (or simply dinner on the table at 8, please and thank you). No such luck this time around. Time to broaden my culinary horizons–pork chops, fish, you name it.

It’s been a successful two days of discomfort, in fact. Yesterday I turned out two solidly passable (albeit slightly dry) pork chops, broiled to form a tasty crust and served with a heaping pile of broccoli and cauliflower.

Tonight, thanks to the inspiration and reassurance from my friends at work, I prepared a genuinely tasty piece of salmon.

It went something like this…

Salmon, All Greened Up


Fresh salmon filet (about a half pound made enough for my hungry little self)
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped until you have about 1/4 cup
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
A tablespoon or so of olive oil
Salt and pepper


Make It:

1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Grease a baking dish and place the salmon filet on it, skin side down.
2. If you have a mini food processor, throw the remaining ingredients in there and whiz them up until they make a potent, vibrantly green paste. Sans food processor, get chopping! A mortar and pestle can also help you get everything to paste status.
3. Spread the greenery over the fish and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the filet.
4. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes and enjoy!



One thought on “The Utility of Discomfort

  1. Ah! I walked from Harper’s Ferry to Vermont on the AT in 2010! Totally planning on going back and doing the whole thing in a couple years :D. What was your trail name? I was Second Breakfast 😉

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