As we approach Christmas and the holiday season, the thought of weight gain plagues me, and I’m sure many others. I’ve struggled with my weight since as far as I can remember, mainly because I was always considered the ‘fat’ one in my family – given nicknames like ‘pumpkin’ and ‘pudding’ since a baby, whilst my sisters were given affectionate nicknames like ‘blossom’ or ‘snooks’ that connoted prettiness or cheekiness, so my self-esteem has been affected ever since. I write this blog for a number of reasons, as I question the ‘weight game’ that we all play.
This year, after getting my first dog and taking him for morning walks of anything between 2kms and 6kms everyday for the last 12 months, my weight has fluctuated around 6kgs and somehow we have lost about 3kgs from this time last year to now. More exercise, healthier food and possibly an alcoholic night 1-2 times a month… yet not much of a change. I was thinking that something was wrong with me, and that was confirmed when I went to donate blood for my usual quarterly visit, and I was declined because my haemoglobin was low. So I took myself off to the doctor with my blood results and had further tests to test for everything. Thyroid, diabetes, coeliacs, heart issues, anaemia, everything… but according to my bloods, I’m actually a picture of pretty good health (accept for being slightly low in iron and a big fat blob). So I can’t blame my weight on a disease. I can only blame it on emotional eating – comfort eating, eating to stay awake on those long working days, eating because it’s there and I have no one to stop me… There.. there is my confession!
So how can I and many others stop the stupid eating? And I think that this obesity epidemic has come down to one simple fact that most of us have… open plan living. Where the kitchen is part of the living space and the food is readily accessible and isn’t forgotten about as the smells linger, the fridge buzzes and the dishwasher purrs while you sit down for your evening entertainment and relaxation.
As I research more for my new book about the French way of life, the French ensure that their kitchens are ‘closed’ after the last meal for the day. They have their main meal and dessert, but once the dishes are washed and put away, the kitchen is off limits. The door is closed never to be seen again until morning daylight. They don’t have easy access to their kitchens or larders, they entertain themselves with music, reading, conversation and evening television, but not with food after their last meal. And because their kitchens are out of sight, out of mind, it makes the hankering disappear. But American homes, Australian homes and even some English homes are now all designed to incorporate the kitchen and main living area into one large room. There is something to be said about that.
The other thing the French do is create smaller portions of unbelievable delicious food. They shop daily for only what they need, and usually only from the local fresh fruit, vegetable and meat markets, boulangeries and dairies choosing only what’s in season. They learn to only buy the best and savour the taste with their slow eating that allows them to be satisfied with their small portions.
Admittedly, it’s a time issue – our busy lives don’t allow us to shop everyday, or take careful time to create a menu for the day and shop and cook accordingly. We eat fast to ensure other things can be done in our time, from helping the kids with homework to going out to a late night meeting, so we eat to fuel ourselves with large portions of unplanned meals just to get through the next hurdle of the day. Yet the French take a couple of hours off during the middle of the day to rest after their dejeuner (lunch) making the meal an event rather than a passing need. If we changed our lifestyles to be satisfied with less so we can be happier with the richness of organic local produce in smaller portions, would we be able to take the weight off and live a life of pleasure rather than stress?
It is completely ironic that we choose to live a stressful lifestyle that is dictated by governments, society and the cities we live in to indulge in rare pleasure of daily fulfilment because we are too busy paying off our mortgages, sending our kids off to the best schools or keeping up with the Joneses. And what for? To continue to look like the lard we eat?
I dream of the day that I can slow down, be satisfied with a simpler life in the country where I can write, cooking wholesome fresh meals for my boys and be happy with less is more. And I am working towards it… working towards a day where my tummy, hips and thighs speak for my daily happiness.