As Winter morphs into Spring, I'm not sorry to see it go.
I have been seriously struck by the winter blues this year, and actually wrote this blog in January but just haven't been able to take the mental leap and put it out there. However the darkness is lifting, the days are getting lighter and longer and I finally feel I can take that positive "New Year" step forward and to put the full stop and draw a line under those dietary New Year resolutions I failed to keep.
You know, the ones so enthusiastically made as the pay off for the culinary indulgence known as Christmas. Glibly made whilst stuffing one's face with Christmas cheer and roasting chestnuts on an open fire, and so positively draconian when lunch, in the cold and seemingly never ending greyness of a mid January day is another portion of steamed greens and lemon juice.
All of the cliches; start the new year on the right foot, begin as you mean to go on, brimming with positivity, good intentions and hopeful enthusiasm for that ten day extreme juice cleanse that will turn yourself into a whole new you with a whole new life just by eating raw food, vegan, no sugar, no alcohol. For me... no point.
I've done so many detoxes and knowing me adapted them to make them more hardcore, because my twisted brain thinks the more extreme, the better the results.
I once did the lemon juice and cayenne cleanse, apparently a favourite of Beyonce, if you believe the magazines left in the laundrette. Promising to "drop a dress size in a week", and put on every pound you lost the minute you eat a morsel of solid food.
It left me blurry, demented with hunger and about to stab someone with a fork, with friends begging me to eat because i was so vile tempered. If, by some monumental effort of willpower I made it to the end, I usually celebrated with a massive curry.
Halfway through January is the waver point; It's normally about this time when my enthusiasm cannot sustain the willpower and it all comes clattering down in a sorry pile of pizza boxes and left over Christmas chocolate lurking in the back of the fridge that I just "have to finish off" and "once it's gone it's gone", yeah right...
Someone aptly compared it to touching wet paint. The more I tell myself I can't, the more I want to, and this perceived willpower failure inspires comfort eating. I've since realised the reward and comfort should be just enjoying the benefits of the detox. I think that's what Kate Moss meant when she made the infamous "nothing tastes as good a skinny feels" remark. I know she was lambasted for encouraging eating disorders but I think she meant just live in the here and the right now; enjoy feeling clean. Make the ability to enjoy results of the abstinence stronger than the momentary craving. Mind you motivation must be a little easier when you have Kate Moss staring back in the mirror at you.
For me personally, a "detox" mind set just cements a cycle of binge/extreme diet/binge/extreme yo yo diet. So this year I have decided to do things a little differently.
Tony was the only trainer at the gym not embarking on some extreme January cleanse because he says every day is a detox for him (Bear in mind the man is a machine and his discipline is the stuff of legend). So, taking a little inspiration from him, I have been using the proliferation of January detox articles as a way to gather information and ideas to shake things up a little. Break out of the monotony of "Monday I have sweet potato, Tuesday we have omelette" and instead, gather ideas; a new recipe, ingredient or a new way of cooking to try, once a week, maybe more if inspiration strikes! Just to stay motivated when faced with a pile of broccoli stalks, or feel a sudden urge to do something interesting with kale or maybe just impress my friends with the broadness of my culinary horizons, and introduce them to a whole new variety of foods that previously they would have only have considered feeding to their pet rabbit.
Since I stopped drinking I've been living by the "one day at a time " rule... if I eat (or used to drink) something I perceive to be naughty at lunchtime, I no longer allow that trigger to let the day spiral out of control, with the excuse of starting fresh again, with too high hopes and expectations... tomorrow... and usually fail by lunchtime, and so the whole sorry not-so-merry go-round begins again.
Most of the time I reign it in and If I do decide to have a treat, I enjoy it, savour it without shame, and make it a guilt free part of the 80/20 rule, rather than furtively stuffing the chocolate into my mouth with the fridge door still open, in a quantity over quality manner, not really engaging with the food and trying to pretend it's not actually happening.
The 80/20 rule is a great way of eating. If you are mindful with the way you eat, counting your portions of veg and fruit, trying to stuff as much veg into your day as possible and choosing foods as nutritionally dense as possible, then a few squares of (dark) chocolate every day and a 'cheat' meal ie. a meal where you just "let go" once or twice a week, usually takes care of the less restrained 20%. These meals are strategic, planned, anticipated and enjoyed rather than a spur of the moment guilty binge. For me it's a meal out at the weekends with friends or a takeaway in front of crap TV and a break from cooking.
20%. It's smaller than you think. I aim for 90% and probably reasonably achieve 75%.
I am not one of those people genetically blessed with a roaring metabolic furnace who can eat what they want and never get fat. I don't think there are many of us like that. The 80/20 is a trade off. You eat your greens so you can enjoy a little chocolate. And those raw greens will probably make that chocolate taste even better. This works for me; making today as healthy as I possibly can, small daily steps, instead of applying a massive sea change of good intentions all at once, and expect my thighs to magically metamorphose into those of Elle McPherson and fall of the wagon in spectacular style when I see the same disappointing lumpiness after a week of raw broccoli and grapes.
I want to make today, this moment, this food choice as healthy as possible and to learn from each day to make tomorrow better.
That is my New Year's resolution, starting now... at the end of February.