A New Year. Endless possibilities. A whole world of opportunity and adventure. And the chance to get back to more healthy eating and avoid the never-ending indulgences of baked goods and cocktails. It all sounds simple in theory.
But I’m sitting here wishing there were just a few mincemeat tarts left, or maybe one more lebkuchen. My cup of tea is lonely. I did work out this morning, so I would be deserving of a wee something, wouldn’t I?
It’s hard to start fresh. The pressure of new goals, new resolutions, hopes for improving oneself; it’s all a lot to handle. I wonder if it didn’t come on the heels of all that Christmas spirit, would even bother attempting such lofty efforts? Who can blame us if we need a little help in getting over the hump?
The Epiphany is the closing gesture on our holiday season, by some accounts the twelfth day of Christmas. I like to celebrate in the French tradition, with a Galette des Rois, but I have also enjoyed the New Orleans version with an English name: King Cake. Either way, it’s a nice treat to share, shaking off the after-Christmas blues and giving us that kickstart for the New Year.
Food is sustenance, in many different ways. Perhaps as a gourmand, I need more sustenance than the average soul. The ambience of a good meal shared around the table is as fulfilling as the meal itself.
One of my kindred spirits, Winnie the Pooh, expressed this philosophy best.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
So whether a piece of cake does the trick, or the company of a friend with whom to share that cake, it’s still time well spent (and calories well consumed, if you ask me.)
This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.
Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids. Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…
Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)
We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.
I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.
Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?
By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.
I want to preface this list by saying that I am NOT an expert in fitness or healthy living. I am not a trainer, and not even very coordinated when it comes to organized workouts. (I was the one in the back of the aerobics class who was always up when everyone else was down.) I tell you this because I want you to know that ANYONE CAN DO THIS. It is worth the effort, and you will feel better.
The biggest step is in choosing to make a change. Yesterday I shared my good fortune and cause for inspiration in my column, Good Genes, Vanity and the occasional Cream Puff. A girlfriend of mine was much more elegant when she said,
‘Take care of your body. It’s where you live.’
Any way you put it, the secret is to just get up and get going. Maybe you don’t “work out” like I do, but get interested in something and move! Use your muscles, use your mind, and most importantly, use your heart. Be inspired, and share your passion. Compliments and encouragement I have had from others has been my biggest motivation. My husband has been my rock, and he spurs me on. Your comment might be what inspires another person.
You do need to be accountable to yourself. Find a reason to want to keep going, not an excuse to stop.
If you do choose some kind of physical exercise as a part of your life, here is what has helped me:
- Start small – set yourself up for success. Don’t begin with something like “Insanity” unless you’re already in good shape. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with anyone else in class. This is about the long haul – if you kill yourself now, you’ll never get to see the results.
- Find a workout you enjoy, even when it’s tough. If you go to a class and you don’t like how the instructor talks, pick a different class. Not everyone likes to be barked at, but some find it motivating to do boot camp. Find your groove.
- Include energy snacks like smoothies around workout time. Women especially can be bad for having enough fuel in their bodies. Let me tell you from experience, you don’t help your diet or your fitness by working out on empty. Get used to having some kind of snack half an hour before your workout, and something afterwards too. You will perform better and improve faster. These are smart calories.
- It’s okay to look silly. Especially when you first start, you have to learn the routine. Remember, the instructor you see at the gym or on the DVD has been doing this for a while. You will look better soon.
- Use a mirror to help get the moves right. (go back to tip #1 if this stresses you out). Listen to what the instructor says and think about which muscles are working, how they say you should feel (e.g. abs tight, triceps pushing, etc.) You will see your improvements as you get better.
- Don’t be afraid to take a break – just don’t give up. The instructors might not be drinking water or stopping, but they do this for a living. When they tell you to drink, do so. If you feel like you need to catch your breath or relax your muscles, that’s okay. Take a short break and then get back in there!
- Find someone to encourage you during your workout. Maybe this is a buddy who is with you, or it might be a virtual helper. I have my hubbie who sometimes is there working out and cheering me on when I get tired. I also have a picture of my dad on the wall; he was my first coach, and seeing his face when I feel “blah” always helps me. I know music or motivational talks help others. Find your shot of adrenaline and keep it handy.
- You will feel sore, even 2 days after a workout – it means your muscles are getting stronger. (see #10 below for help, and #6. ) The first time I did the “Insanity” program with Shaun T, it took me 90 days and not 60 – and the first 2 weeks I had to pull myself up the stairs using the railing. But I made it. That was 3 years ago.
- Eat and drink properly. Drinking at least 2 litres of water is one of the best healthy habits you can have. Eating as much natural food as you can is another. Eat to enjoy the food, to fuel your soul. It will thank you. (remember, this includes the occasional cream puff!)
- Vary your workout, and take days off. You might really like a certain DVD or class at the gym, but your muscles need to be confused to really improve. Changing exercises helps you work all the muscles and not just certain ones. (I have 20 different workouts I rotate through.) Days off also help your muscles recover enough so you can push harder without injury. *This is where you might want a trainer to help you out, especially if you work out on your own.
I hope this helps. I’d love to hear your comments, whether you are new to this or you have secrets you want to share. For me being healthy is just as much about being in shape as it is eating good food. I want to live long enough to enjoy all those meals on my bucket list. I want to share those memories with loved ones. I want to pass along my passion to young people so they can live happy and healthy lives.
The last part of this puzzle is our body image. Especially for women, this is an ongoing battle that continues to frustrate many. I can’t say that I love where our society is at in representing the female form; I thought we would be better about appreciating individuals by now. It seems to me if we can be happy and healthy in our own skin, then that shape is our ideal form. We are not all meant to be “skinny bitches”, if you’ll pardon the term.
I’d like to close on positive thoughts: Get some exercise to feel good. Eat good food. Love yourself. Share all those good things with others. It’s what I call the good life. We all deserve it.