Festive Greetings

This is the Christmas Greeting sent out by Edition Peters, the music publishing house that is so closely connected to my family heritage. It’s so beautiful, I wanted to share it with you for Christmas.

The firm is based in Leipzig, London and New York, and they’ve found some lovely imagery of each city, to reflect the season. The ensemble is singing in the salon, which was once part of my great-grandfather’s apartments ‘above the shop’, at 10 Talstraße, Leipzig, where my brother and I recently visited. We can find connections everywhere in the world, if we only look for them, but this one is a strong one for me, and to have stood in this room as we did, listening to music as our family did in the pre-war years, before everything changed, was significant.

Happy Christmas, internet friends and followers. Thank you for staying with me through a difficult year. Thank you indeed.

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Have yourself a merry… sugar-free Christmas #weightloss #healthylifestyle #positivechange

christmas-card-2015

Christmas presents all sorts of challenges for those of us in the midst of a healthy weight-loss campaign.  This is my second such Festive Season…

This time last year, I was looking forward to my first healthy lifestyle, sugar-free Christmas with some trepidation, wondering how I would cope. I’d been working on my mental attitude and better dietary and exercise habits for four months and by then I’d lost 33 pounds – not bad going, if I say so myself. But… Christmas is Christmas, and when it comes to food, the temptation factor is off-the-scale.

Checking back in my food diary, I can see I ate well on Christmas Day:

  • For breakfast: Homemade Bircher muesli; a slice of cheese
  • For lunch: Six mini savoury oatcakes with cream cheese and smoked salmon; Roast turkey with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage
  • Evening: A little leftover smoked salmon
  • Drinks: Black coffee (copious!), a half-glass of Prosecco; a half glass of red wine.

But there was self-restraint too, I’m happy to report; I didn’t partake in Christmas pudding and mince pies, with their layers of sugar, fat, alcohol, sugar and more sugar. Nor did I drink except with the main meal. Nor, so it seems, did I trough my way through mountains of nibbles whilst watching TV. You know, that mindless time when you seem to have one hand permanently in the confectionary tin or the bowl of nuts; when you say yes to everything – sandwiches and dates, canapés and cake, jelly fruits, chocolates and a tsunami of the sort of icky, syrupy snifters you never partake of at any other time of the year, but somehow can’t get enough of at Christmas – even when your stomach is fit to burst.

My Christmas Day 2015 was still a good day’s eating by anyone’s standards (and cooking too – for it was me taking care of the day’s big feast for the family). My diary says I even made time for a good walk; 50 minutes, first-thing, whilst it was still dark outside.

The rest of the week involved a couple of meals out and, as far as I can make out, an ocean of turkey and vegetable soup.  But at the end of that week, I’d lost weight – an unexpected but joyous 1.7 pounds.

A few things have occurred to me as I look back. I was thoroughly in-the-zone then, keeping an uncompromising tight rein on my eating, planning all meals and being rigorous about regular exercise – even on Christmas Day. I know I’ve become a little more lax lately on both food and exercise fronts. I know this is why my weight loss has levelled off at 70 pounds, and I’m struggling to get it moving again.  To be perfectly frank, there are too many days when I excuse myself from exercise, too many sneaky (though still sugar-free) little treats, and some questionable portion control.

So I’m reapplying myself, as of now. I still have at least 30 more pounds to go and I’m eating for maintenance at the moment, not loss. Keeping on keeping on is the only way to succeed at this game; one day at a time, one pound at a time, until it’s all gone.

When I reflect on my first healthy lifestyle year and reconnect with all the benefits I’m already enjoying (here and here), I kick myself for stalling, as my life, health and wellbeing can only go on improving as I shed the remaining excess. But I’m also going to congratulate myself for having made it this far, because beating-up on yourself, anything more than momentarily, just isn’t helpful.

Happy Festivities and…. THANK YOU!

So it only remains for me to wish all readers and followers of my humble blog every happiness at this festive season, good health and contentment – and success in pursuing your goals, whatever they are – in 2017. Thank you all so much for reading my blog posts, being interested in my progress, commenting, supporting and encouraging me throughout the year.

YOU have all been the wind beneath my wings throughout 2016.

Countdown to Chocolate

Hotel Chocolat salted caramelsI don’t usually eat chocolate. But…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not allergic. Nor am I some kind of weirdo, the only girl in the world who doesn’t like chocolate. I adore chocolate, far more than is good for me. But without some self-imposed boundaries, I could easily eat too much of it. There was always a big bar of Galaxy in my kitchen cupboard and if I got a bit peckish I would chomp the lot and hardly notice – no thinking, no savouring. I couldn’t open a box of Milk Tray without eating every chocolate in sight (except the squishy strawberry one), or go to the supermarket without loading my trolley with great bricks of the stuff; and I couldn’t buy petrol without picking up a Twix.

You’ve noted the past tense, yes?

So to the self-imposed boundary. Back in 2010 I decided to put myself on a Chocolate Fast. I’d done it once before and lasted five years before a weak moment (and not wanting to offend a friend) brought my first Chocolate Fast to a premature end. But I went five years. Five. Years. I was surprised how easy I found it once I got over the first trip to a petrol station, the first trawl around the supermarket and so on. I pretty much forgot about chocolate. I very occasionally picked up a substitute fruit-based sweet when the need for sugar overran me. Skittles were quite good for those moments, but they’re not addictive like chocolate, so it wasn’t as if I was replacing one bad habit with another.

This time around there was no difference, even though in 2010 I was deep in the throes of the mid-life hormonal tsunami that is the menopause. It was easy again. Once chocolate goes out of your head – and out of your cupboard – it’s gone.

Once you stop buying chocolate it’s not there to tempt you, or distract you, or comfort you… or taunt you. It’s obvious; the decision, and the temptation, is in the buying. Once the buying is done the decision to eat has already been made.

For my current Chocolate Fast, instead of going the full cold turkey, I gave myself two amnesty periods each year – the months of December and April. That takes in Christmas (gluttony overload), Easter (eggs!) and… my birthday. And so far, it’s gone well. This is my fourth Chocolate Fast year under the current arrangement.

Come next month I will do chocolate in style – no greasy cocoa-lite mass-market choco-crap for me. The fun starts on 1st December, never early, and I look forward to my Chocolate Advent. This year I’ve ordered up a few of my favourite Selectors from yummy chocolate people, Hotel Chocolat. I bought chocolatey Christmas gifts for others too, but these mini-treats are purely for my own personal, private and undeniably naughty indulgence.

I have to tell you, the Hotel Chocolat box is here already – it arrived over a week ago and it’s sitting not three feet from my desk. Inside there’s a bar of 50% milk chocolate (pure bliss); there’s a little bag of liquid salted caramel chocolates (dribbly, sticky liquid caramel, so, so good); there’s a tub of rum soaked sultanas (imagine, a plump bubble of sultana soaked in rum, bursting from smooth, melty chocolate); and last but definitely not least, there’s a crinkly cellophane bag of butterscotch chocolate puddles.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to December.

The weird thing is, where I give myself a month of chocaholism, don’t tend to last the course. I know how this sounds, but I actually get to the point where I’ve had enough chocolate. My taste is satisfied – and I’m done. Last Christmas that meant I put a couple of my little Selectors in the fridge. I didn’t get them out again until my April Chocolate Fast amnesty.

You probably think I’m strange. Well, there you go. We all have a little weird about us, I suppose. I honestly don’t know how I go all those months of the year not being tempted. All I know is, come December, I don’t think there’ll be anyone in the world looking forward to a bite of chocolate quite as much as I am.