Lancaster resident Stacey Kielman writes about food and fitness.
First off, apologies for not writing in forever! With the new year came a new computer for me, so that should make for more frequent blog posts that won't involve any technological gymnastics on anyone's part. My old computer became completely unusable in November. Writing blog posts on a Droid, while possible, is quite unpleasant and left me with crossed eyes after attempting it twice.
Anyway, enough about that. Are you a Maker of New Year's Resolutions? Are you a Keeper of New Year's Resolutions? I am not a big believer in them myself; I think if you want to change something or start something new, any time is as good a time as...well, any. I actually think the beginning of the year can be the absolute worst time for trying to start something new and challenging. You're already dealing with post-holiday blahs: you might have just gone back to work after some time off, you might have just sent unhappy kids back to school after time off, and you may or may not just be plain ol' exhausted. Why, oh why, do we pick THIS as a great time to throw a wrench in the routine?
A quick search on Google brought up various historical precedents for a renewal of self at the beginning of the year. Many were religious in nature, involving promises to one god or another to pay debts, keep up good bahavior, and the like. This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of the practice, but the point is that we humans have been using the beginning of the year as a time to refresh ourselves for a long time running. I doubt the conviction to do so will end any time soon, so let's find some ways to help ourselves make our new, more positive, more healthy selves last past February. What say you?
I spent quite a few years working in various capacities in the fitness industry and more in the bicycle industry. Gyms are horribly crowded during January and for about half of February. Then the attendance abruptly drops off. A lot of bikes get sold to non-riders in January (well, in Arizona they do), and they get ridden a lot for a month or two before becoming wall art and garage clutter. These people have resolved to exercise more in the new year. The energy that drives their conviction is awesome and their ambition is one that could serve them well if they were to stick to it: they will feel better physically, look better, and be happier and more calm. They are entering uncharted territory though, and they are doing it by means of an unmapped route, as I see it. Not only are they introducing a new thing (exercise) into their lives, but the are doing so by means completely and totally foreign and possibly really uncomfortable. Why not take a walk around your familiar block? Or go to the playground with your kids and play WITH them instead of watching? Wouldn't that be a more gentle and enjoyable way to get used to more activity in your life? Rather than making a big deal out of it, be kind to yourself and ease additional activity into the schedule by familiar means rather than shaking the boat so hard that you are forced to learn about capsize-recovery at the same time you're figuring out how to put the thing in the water.
Same thing goes for that other popular resolution: "I will eat healthfully in the New Year." Eating healthfully does not have to mean that you radically change your whole idea of eating. In some cases, that might be where you find yourself eventually, or you might know that's what is necessary for health reasons, but in all cases, taking small steps rather than bounding leaps is more likely to actually get you to your destination.
I am a strong proponent of cooking and eating at home because of the physical and emotional health benefits for the whole family. I also believe that it is best if you know what you are putting in your body and the only way to guarantee that is if you make the food yourself. However! I also love going out to eat. I love sitting in a cafe with a pastry, nursing a cup of coffee for three hours. I love trying new restaurants and I have a weakness for old fashioned diners and the sinfully buttery magical breakfast potatoes they have.
I think it is not only possible but in fact preferable to eat healthfully AND still allow yourself the pleasure that can and should be part of eating. If we don't enjoy the way we are eating, we will alter it and go back to old ways because we enjoyed them more. So, if you enjoy eating out once in awhile, by all means, incorporate that into your new mode of eating rather than viewing it as a deviation from the plan. Deprivation + Change = A January of Unfulfilling Eating and a Quick Return to Old Habits.
You just have to be sensible when you go out. Food that makes you happy does not have to be bad for you. In fact, you'll likely find that in fact the food that makes you the happiest is the food that is the best for you, and truly nourishes the body and the senses. It's all about balance and mindfulness, like so many other things.
Vietnamese food has it all: a wealth of refreshing flavors, varying textures, and comforting aromas that all combine to create a cuisine that is not only delicious and comforting, but also pretty darn good for you for the most part. The soups are amazingly satisfying yet light; the rice dishes tease your nose to guess what herbs might be playing there. I swear that Pho has healing properties...my mind has on more than one occasion become more settled and quiet after slowly and deliberately (for there is no other way to eat Pho) downing a big bowl of the stuff. And the body follows: it becomes calm, satisfied, and ready for the next thing.
That, to me, is truly what eating healthily is all about. Your food should nourish your body and mind and help you be strong to face the next thing, whether it's bed time or a twenty-four hour mountain bike race.
Happy New Year!