I stepped on the scales this morning, it was not pretty. I’m not a dieter, I don’t believe in depriving myself of anything, nor do I see any point in trying to achieve a ridiculous body complete with six-pack abs and a teeny, tiny waist. I see dieting as the anti-woman approach if I’m to be completely honest. It suggests that there is some ‘ideal’ to which women must adhere in order for them to be happy. If the pages of those glossy magazines I no longer buy are anything to go by, one must float around in sky-high heels, all flowing haired and golden skinned, one’s butt must fit into skinny jeans and on top we must wear some kind of transparent sheath which exposes just enough flesh to suggest we’ve all been good little eaters. From what I can gather in order to attain our ‘goal weight’ and therefore ‘be happy’ we must cut out butter, carbs, alcohol, gluten, sugar, dairy, fruit, pasta, bread, potatoes, eggs, corn, avocados and nuts and live on multi-vitamins, protein supplements, celery, air and water. But fear not, trusted dieters, for there is hope! If one starts to feel hungry or overindulge, simply slap yourself around the head a few times before working like a crazy person at the gym for the next month to teach yourself a lesson. It doesn’t matter that you turned down the slice of cake your best friend made for you, your arms will look like twigs with small furry animals running around in them, your tummy will be so flat that it appears to hold no internal organs and your thighs will be so slim your legs will look like chopsticks. Anything less and you’re simply not trying hard enough. Your reward? A life of sheer happiness with the man (or woman) of your dreams (ahem). Don’t worry about the fact that insane levels of exercise and dieting are probably harming your fertility, that ribs and protruding hip bones are icky, or that you are an absolute pain the arse to be around (‘Um, I only eat celery picked from the Andean mountains’) you are wearing teeny, tiny pants and when you stand side-on people wonder where you went….
I was once a dieter – a calorie counter if I’m to be exact. Each day I would sit down and tally up just how much I was eating/planning to eat and then exercise accordingly. I would obsess over numbers both what I was taking in and on the scales. But, you know, this kind of lifestyle is not sustainable. I think the lowest point for me was sitting at a friend’s house in her bathroom, contemplating sticking my fingers down my throat (don’t worry, I didn’t) because dinner turned out to be heavier than expected and I wasn’t going to get a chance to go to the gym to work it off…. That moment, as horrific as it was, was a blessing. It shook me to my core. It was a moment of clarity and despair all tied up in a neat little package. What the hell am I doing to myself? It wasn’t easy but from that point on I vowed to stop counting my life away, to start enjoying my food again and prove to myself that the most important mantra needs to be balance, in all things. Clean eating is at the heart of my approach to food these days. I don’t eat anything from a packet (except maybe pasta and other grains), I don’t really ‘do’ preservatives (a by-product of not eating packaged/overly processed food, I suppose) and haven’t been to a fast-food restaurant in I don’t know how long. I drink plenty of water, try to be active every day and try to eat as well as possible. If I overindulge one day, then I will aim to even it out over the coming days but I will certainly not obsess. This system has worked for me for a number of years now but I’m not perfect, that balance can be thrown out sometimes and lately that has been the case in almost every aspect of my life. Which, unsurprisingly, leads me to my standing on the scales looking puzzled.
It has been a while between weigh in’s (our last set broke, we never replaced them – that was a good thing) so, as I said, I stepped on the new scales I stupidly bought yesterday and got a timely reminder that despite my anti-diet philosophy, it is important to maintain a level of balance in one’s life. It is true that I’ve been going a little hard lately, the serving sizes have crept up, there’s been one too many boozy nights, pieces of chocolate cake and bowls of ice cream and then there’s the Christmas baking. There is usually a stabilising influence to my feasting being regular exercise (long walks and yoga), a mostly healthy diet and lots of water but even those appeared to have waned of late. Maybe it’s just an end of year thing but at this point, to me, everything feels out of balance – my solution? Baking.
It may seem ridiculous and the completely wrong approach to take but I guess that’s just how I roll. Baking for me is like therapy, as I stand and watch the butter and sugar cream that balance starts to return to my mind, as I roll out the dough I roll out my worries and frustrations. In pressing and cutting my creations into shapes I am reconstructing my reality – each piece, though similar on first appraisal, will have its own individual characteristics that make it unique. Some will have lopsided arms, others might spread out a little in the oven and be slightly more ‘overweight’ than others but they all taste amazing and bring joy to those who eat them. So this was my response to an entirely overwhelming sense of unease, manifesting itself in the form of a cookie (what would Dr Phil make of all this, I wonder?!). I made gingerbread, a whole lotta gingerbread, and then I gave it out to anyone and everyone I came across. I took some to work to share with my colleagues, I gave them to family and friends and shared the love around. I like to think that each piece of gingerbread contained a message of goodwill inside; ‘be kind to yourself’ and in passing them out I pass out that sense of ease and calm I am trying to find within myself.
I also made strawberry ice cream and sandwiched it between two cookies.
This recipe for Gingerbread will give you solid, crunchy cookies that are perfect for decorating and will keep for up to a month in an airtight container – perfect for Christmas gifts!
You will need an ice-cream maker to make the strawberry ice-cream.
- 125g butter, softened and cut into cubes
- ½ cup raw sugar
- ⅔ cup golden syrup
- 21/2 cups plain flour
- 1 tbspn ground ginger
- 1 tspn baking soda
- Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of your mixer until pale, soft and creamy.
- With the mixer still running on low, add the golden syrup, flour, ginger and baking soda.
- Mix gently until a smooth dough forms and then turn out onto a clean counter and work into a flat ball.
- Pop in the fridge overnight.
- The next day:
- Heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
- Roll out the dough between the two sheets of baking paper until desired thickness is reached.
- Pop back in the fridge for another 30 minutes to firm up.
- Then cut out your shapes using cookie cutters that have been lightly dusted in flour.
- Roll the leftover dough back into shape and keep doing until all of the dough has been cut.
- You might need ot pop back in the fridge again if it starts getting too soft.
- Pop in the oven for 10-12 minutes and bake until lightly golden.
- Allow to cool completely before putting in an airtight container.
- Will keep for up to a month.
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled.
- ¾ cups skim milk
- ⅔ cups caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 and ½ cups thickened cream
- 1 tspn vanilla bean paste
- 1 tbspn limoncello (optional, but helps maintain a creamy consistency when stored)
- 1 tbspn elderflower cordial
- The night before: put the bowl of your ice-cream maker in the freezer.
- Pulse the strawberries a couple of times in the blender - I like a chunkier consistency but feel free to purée if you prefer.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer add the milk, sugar and salt and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the cream, vanilla, limoncello and cordial and whisk again to combine.
- Stir in the strawberries and pop the mix in the fridge overnight to chill.
- Churn according to manufacturers instructions.
- gingerbread cookies
- strawberry ice-cream
- Scoop a couple of tablespoons of ice-cream onto a plate and flatten with an egg slice.
- Gently cut out your shapes using a cookie cutter and then sandwich between two cookies.
- Pop back in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.
This recipe is part of December’s Sweets for Santa blog-hop hosted by Christina aka ‘The Hungry Australian’. Thanks for hosting, Christina!