So what is it that I DO with my food to make me feel so damn good?
Ok. Well the first thing I’d like to reiterate is that I haven’t suddenly flicked a switch and arrived at this point where everything regarding my food and body is rosy and glitter filled. No sirree bob! As I mentioned in my earlier posts, my battle with my food and body has been long and hard fought and I am undoubtedly still working on it today. But I am working on it ON MY OWN TERMS. And that feels gooooooooood! I am, in the words of Jack Black in School of Rock, sticking it to the man!!!
I have spent the last year or so really thinking about the foods I eat. Not thinking about them in a controlling manner, but instead thinking about them in terms of how they make my body and mind feel. Now this is not an easy thing to do. It takes practice. And I think that a lot of the problem stems from the fact that for the previous X number of years, we have accepted the RULES that other people have given to us about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. I know I was guilty of this. Low fat you say? Oh but I can eat as many sugar laden Muller lights as I want every single day?? Well ok then. If that’s what you’re saying I should do then it must be right. Right? Wrong!!! When I really stopped and thought about what I was doing, you know, for myself, I realised that: a) I bloody hate the taste of Muller lights. That sort of chemically faux sweetness. Urghh!!! B) Eating those very sweet yoghurts did not satisfy my sweet craving. In fact, they made it worse. Often setting me off on a rollercoaster which would see me hiding in the larder cupboard cramming ginger nuts or Jaffa cakes into my mouth at break neck speed so I wouldn’t have to think about the number of them that I was inhaling – or the equivalent value in syns! And C) they made me feel a bit headachy, nauseous and left a really vile taste in my mouth that not even toothpaste could get rid of. When I write it down in black and white like this, it seems ludicrous that I continued to do this to myself for so many years. I mean, seriously, you have NO idea just how many muller lights I have hoofed during the course of my life time. And all because Mr Diet told me that they were the RIGHT THING TO EAT! Obviously Muller-gate is just one example, I could keep banging on about others for days but I’m sure you get the general gist.
So as I was saying, I’ve thought long and hard, and experimented often, and I’ve no doubt, will continue to experiment for many years to come with a whole heap of foods. Which ones work for me? Which ones do I LOVE? Which ones do I crave? (and not in an emotional way …….. this is a whole other can of worms that I’ll come back to at later date) Which ones make me feel zingy and light after eating them? Which ones give me tummy ache and make me bloated and windy?! So attractive I know, but this something I’m still working on!!! I haven’t, as yet eliminated all of the possible culprits…….
What I have discovered, and please don’t think for a minute that I’m suggesting that exactly the same list would apply to you, is that I feel infinitely better when I scale back the amount of meat that I eat. I was always quite a big meat eater. I came from a sausage and roast dinner heavy family and married a man who used to quake if I attempted to present him with a meat free meal. For a long while, I have struggled with the meat thing from a moral point of view. I couldn’t ever watch those programmes where they would happily show someone wringing the neck of a chicken and I once inadvertently Facebook clicked on one of those Peta type CCTV videos that was taken from inside a pig slaughterhouse. BIG, BIG mistake. So I started to phase out meat, not in a radical way, just in a couple of meat free meals a week kinda way….. and I discovered that my body was very happy with that.
Now this has sort of escalated because my husband has recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol and a heart problem and so he is also keen to look at ways of making sure his diet works better for his health. So I basically got the green light to really experiment with the meat free thing and currently we are eating meat free meals on at least 6 out of every 7 days. However, I wouldn’t label either of us vegetarian! In fact, when we went out for a posh meal a few weeks back I fell upon a particularly amazing fillet steak and thoroughly enjoyed every last mouthful. But this is definitely a rare rather than a regular occurrence. I suppose that as a result of this, as a family we are inevitably eating far more plants and that feels and tastes great. Due to the aforementioned cholesterol issues, I have tried to stay away from the veggie trap of relying on cheese heavy sauces (one that I definitely fell into during my teenage veggie phase).
I am also still working on dramatically reducing my refined sugar intake. I know that its not such a big thing now, because everybody has jumped on the sugar free bandwagon, but I really needed to sort myself out on this front because I was a serious sugar monster. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it now but for quite some time, I was eating only sugary crap all day until dinner time when I’d whip up a fabulously healthy looking thang and everyone would think I was wonderful! No wonder I felt like crap and had a hideous relationship with my poor old body. I was filling it full of rubbish and then lying to myself and everyone else that everything was hunky dory and that I was taking really good care of myself.
I did try to go complete cold turkey on the sugar front, but if I’m totally honest with you, I have actually found that, for me, the best way to go about things is by a) crowding out the sugar cravings by filling myself full of the good stuff and b) not setting myself hard and fast rules that my rebellious child brain immediately wants to argue with. I’m now at a point where my cravings have reduced massively and I am able to have a handful of mini eggs every now and then without spiralling into a relapse which puts the cookie monster to shame!
I am cooking loads. And loving it. In fact that is one thing that I would suggest is a non-negotiable part of my regime (for want of a better word). The need to get in the kitchen and get involved with the preparation of the food that I am putting into my body. As you can see, I have A LOT of recipe books………
But I usually work from two or three at any one time, and these are the ones that are currently on my newly erected, easy-to-reach shelf (thanks Ben!) I have looked at a number of veggie cook books and, I’m almost loathed to say it for fear of a backlash, but my current favourite is Deliciously Ella Every Day. I have found it to be far more accessible that her first one, with quick and easy recipe ideas that on the whole, taste bloody gorgeous. I am also loving my newly acquired Grains as Mains by Laura Agar Wilson, which is getting me excited about grains I’ve never used before (Freekeh anyone??)
So usually on a Friday, I sit down and map out the week ahead and then I start to fit meals into the slots. I think about what we’ve all got on in the evenings and how busy I’m going to be on each day, as this has an inevitable impact on the amount of time (and energy) I’m going to have left to do the cooking. For this reason, I also like to batch cook and freeze wherever possible so that there are always at least one or two meal options hiding in the freezer for the nights when I just can’t be arsed!
I use the (hastily scribbled) weekly meal planner to write my shopping list from and, Bob’s your uncle, off to Sainsburys I trot. I tend to keep the weekends free from planning, just because this gives us a little more flexibility if we want to go out or get a takeaway and it also means, that if for some reason one of the weekday meals hasn’t happened because life got in the way, then we can roll it over to a Saturday or Sunday instead. I try to make each week a nice mix of old favourites and new recipes that I’d like to experiment with and I also like to make things where I know that leftovers can be boxed up and used as packed lunches for the following day.
I hope that has given you a little bit of insight into how I feel my meal planning is currently helping me to stay happy and healthy. As I said earlier I am by no means suggesting that this is also a plan that you REALLY SHOULD FOLLOW (shudder!) but likewise, if you would like to adapt any of it to suit you, then go ahead and fill your boots…. Oh and let me know how you get on.