This is the week right between “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy New Year!” This is the week of “Have you made any resolutions for the new year?”
Most often, the answer to this question will involve one or more of these words:
Do you know what the second Friday in February is now being labeled?
“The Fatty Solstice”
I kid you not. Data collected from mobile phone apps (yes, my statistics brain does a mental eye roll here but bear with me) show a jump in visits to fast food restaurants and a drop in visits to workout facilities. In early January, the opposite is true. Good intentions and motivation have diminished in 6 weeks and resolution failure strikes again.
One more reason NOT to make food-related resolutions, right?
Maybe it’s time to make a resolution that makes us look at the new year with anticipation instead of dread. It’s not as difficult as it might seem. Here’s a non-food related example:
Years ago, when our boys were heavily involved in four-seasons of sports, my husband and I found ourselves only having conversations about how-to-get-who-to-where-on-time, what-game/practice-who-was-going-to-chauffeur, what-went-right/wrong, and can-you-believe-how-bad-that-ump/ref-was! We needed a distraction. So our resolution was to go to one movie a month. If we couldn’t agree on a movie, we would take turns choosing. If there wasn’t a movie either one of us wanted to see … too bad. Pick one. The ideas wasn’t that we would agree on how much we LIKED the movie. The idea was to have something that would get us talking ABOUT the movie. “Proof” (Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal) and “Hitch” (Will Smith) were probably our favorite of that year. The most controversial? “Wedding Crashers” … let’s just say that one invoked a lot of conversation but it wasn’t much better than our conversations on the umpires and referees! And we have a funny story to tell our kids and our friends to this day!
So how to take this concept and make it work for our food/health resolutions? Here’s a few ideas …
- Eat more ________. For me this year, it’s quinoa. I know it’s a superfood. I’ve tried to make it twice (once successfully, once not). There are recipes ALL OVER Pinterest. It’s a perfect substitute for all the pasta, rice, bread I crave. So think about something you know you should include in your diet and make it a priority to start. Maybe it’s only once a month but that may just turn into once a week because you find you like it so much!
- Cook one meal a week/month with ____________. Whether it’s your spouse, your kids, your roommate, your neighbor, or your friends doesn’t matter. Just make it an event! My husband doesn’t know this yet (sorry Dear!), but it’s him. When we both had full-time jobs, he was in charge of spaghetti, chili, and tuna-noodle casserole! Since then, I have taken over the kitchen. It’s time to hand him an apron (figuratively Sweetheart … no worries … or pictures)!
- Expand your palate. Try new foods, restaurants, and grocery stores. Specialty isles in grocery stores are exploding. Ethnic food stores are popping up in all communities. We have access to varieties of fruits, vegetables, cheeses, beer, cuts of meat, spices, and recipes like never before. Try a new restaurant or just try something different on the menu of your favorite restaurant.
- Ask questions. Don’t know how to work with that gorgeous pomegranate? Ask the produce person. If they aren’t sure? Ask your friend Google! Not sure what something is on the menu or how to pronounce it? Ask. A good waiter will be excited to explain. Or check the menu on-line before you go, Google what you are curious about (and how to pronounce it), and be brave. Ask your friends for recipes and recommendations.
- Form a dinner club. Many years ago, a group of about 8 couples who shared bleachers with us all spring and summer formed a dinner club. Once a month, we met for a themed dinner. We took turns hosting the dinner in our homes. The hosts chose the theme and provided the main dish and the drinks. The rest of the couples were assigned appetizer, salad, side dish or dessert. Some of the themes were: Oktoberfest, Italian, Cuban, Mexican, and Mardi Gras. These dinners encouraged everyone to try new recipes and foods and talk about what they liked and didn’t like without worrying that they might insult the cook. No one ever left hungry (or thirsty)!
- Grow Something. Herbs, vegetables, edible flowers … it doesn’t take a lot of space and the experience of eating something freshly picked is a true reward.
- Share. Instead of going out, invite someone over. Have a make-your-own-pizza bar, a soup and sandwich night, or meatballs. Have you avoided making a dinner because you know it is just too much food, even when you consider the leftovers? Surely you know someone who would appreciate a fully-prepared meal. Volunteer to serve at a shelter, a benefit dinner, or a church event. All food tastes better when it blesses others.
- Be grateful. Do not forget to say grace. Do not forget to thank the cook, the waiter, the grocer who answered your questions, the friend who made a recommendation, or the farmer, butcher, gardener, baker who makes it accessible and fresh.
- Slow Down. Did you taste what you ate? Do you remember what you ate yesterday? Does it take longer to set the table than to empty the plate? Savor your food. Mindless eating is wasteful.
I certainly do not want to discourage ANYONE from setting weight-loss, exercise, or health-related goals in 2017. Food is not the enemy. Food is fun and nourishing and healthy. Moderation and balance are key.
What? Never heard of “sparkling veggies” before? 😉
As movies motivated new conversations for my husband and I years ago, entertainment is a fun way to kick-start a new view on food and diet. Here are a few of my favorite food-related movies, shows and books that might inspire you:
100 Foot Journey
Julie & Julia
Delicious (Ruth Reichl)
The Secret of Hummingbird Cake (Celeste Fletcher McHale)
Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie (Beth Howard)
Chopped (Food Network)
May 2017 be filled with an abundance of simple food, good company and a comfortable place for your picnic life! Happy New Year!
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