January, 2013

"Cheap and Cheerful" (and delectable) Whittakers Chocolate

“Cheap and Cheerful” (and delectable) Whittakers Chocolate

Tempting Traditional Christmas Treats

Tempting Traditional Christmas Treats

It’s the New Year, and knowing just how cliche´ it sounds, it is high time I did a personal re-set. I’m not talking about creating a “Brand New Me”. That process is ongoing! However, I have often joked that my move away from full-time work and to New Zealand was akin to a personal “Eat, Pray, Love” experience and it seems that I have gotten stuck at “Eat”.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun…and I know I’m not the only one. Other newcomers and I have compared culinary delights and found them equally tempting. New Zealand has rich and creamy dairy products. I especially love the Kapiti cheeses and velvety ice cream. For a few decades now, the country’s been known for producing lovely wines (Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite, and the Marlborough region is best known for producing good ones.) Every cafe, and there are several on each block in Wellington, is chock full of a delectable creation called “slices”…ginger, coconut, you name any mouthwatering ingredient and you can find it baked into the confection. Slices are pan-baked; what American’s might call “bars”. There’s even a wonderful Kiwi chocolate, Whittakers, made here for the past 116 years, that’s all too “cheap and cheerful” (as Kiwis often say) to resist. For someone who’s always believed in moderation, it’s been hard to “just say no” to this new array of goodies to taste.

After years of trying to stay slim to fit into my work clothes, I’ve relaxed in New Zealand. It’s felt a little freeing, but it’s quickly led me to confront an underlying reality. Keeping my weight down really isn’t my biggest concern, it’s the negative impact on my health from regular indulging. There’s a growing school of opinion about how ingredients like sugar and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, as well as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (often called trans fat) can drag you down, make you fatter, feeling sicker, even clog your arteries. And common sense clearly dictates that eating more fresh vegetables and less processed foods provides better fuel for your body. So, after fueling with unhealthy pick-me-ups for years in the workplace, followed by my culinary vacation over the past year, it’s time to get back to basics.

As my move to New Zealand may have made clear, I don’t do things in half measures. So, I’m starting with a cleanse. The idea is to re-set my body and mind for the next chapter of my “Eat, Pray, Love” experience. And for anyone who thinks that a lot of hooey, throughout history – even in the bible – fasting’s been a respected way to clear out our systems, both physical and spiritual. It’s going to be hard. I am a foodie who suffers from bouts of low blood sugar and can get into a very bad mood when I bottom out. But as drastic as a nutritional “cleanse” may seem, I believe it’s the first step to re-calibrating my appetite, taste buds and attitude to a more ascetic setting.

The pay-off, I hope, will be felt quite quickly. Feeling lighter with fewer stomach growls and cravings, I will be able to better focus on what this move to the Southern Hemisphere was supposed to be about. With my April 6th walk to support Oxfam looming, I need more energy! That will require a little more discipline about what goes into my body. I’ve managed to up my walking totals and fitness for the past several months. With my team, I hiked 21 miles along a converted railroad track that climbs the Rimutaka Mountains, well groomed with a gradual incline. The weather was perfect. The views of the crystal clear river and valleys (filled with sheep, naturally) were exhilarating, Although after dining on mainly wine and cheese the night before, I was exhausted before I even started.

I had better luck with my 42k (26 mile) walk for something called the Three Bridges event in Wanganui. Funny little side note: little did I know that I’d be joining walkers who’d trained for speed, not distance. Out of about 10 contenders, I was last across the finish line, (but only steps behind the woman in front of me.) There’s still a long way to go to reach 100k. I’ve committed to doing my best, and that means an all-round effort, not just exercising.

After my fast, I will re-commit to something I really started concentrating on before Christmas (then abandoned for the holiday): eliminating added sugar from my diet. I’ve dropped it (and even honey) from my hot drinks, and don’t buy juice anymore. I’ve also started cutting out sweet treats one at a time. And much as it pains me, I’ll even cut down on the wine. I’ve always been a big believer in “everything in moderation”, so, yes, I will eat desserts now and then and enjoy a glass of “sav” when I get together with friends. The one question I promise to ask before I open my mouth: “is this a special occasion?”

This is not just about eating. It’s about having the healthiest mindset I can muster. It’s about honoring who I am as my best self. I hope that I’ll reawaken a steely willpower that I once had in my distant youth, to replace my “having fun with what I eat” attitude that’s settled in more comfortably as I’ve gotten older.

Sound familiar? If you’ve taken a similar journey and have any pointers about what’s worked for you, I’d appreciate any input. I have a few friends who have tackled this successfully and am already getting some long-distance inspiration from them (whether or not they know it.) For Christmas I was gifted what will now be my daily cookbook, “The Best of Clean Eating”, but I’d welcome any other ideas. My next step? Tackling meditation in earnest. Once I get past “Eat”, that is… As of right now, I cannot seem to focus for a full minute. Wish me luck….and I’ll let you know how that’s going in my next blog post!

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