We are coming to the end of our summer holiday season here at Le Plantis and my thoughts are once more starting to turn towards work. Although I absolutely love my work I really enjoy the two months I take off each year where I can just chill out, relax, visit friends and have family over to stay. Not that the latter gives us much chilling out time. Having just waved off nine family members at Bordeaux airport (two under the age of 3) we now have a few hours to recover before more people descend for a week’s holiday. With so many people to cater for, all with differing likes and dislikes I think we could both do with a holiday ourselves in September. I have to say though, up to press its been great fun.
Hosting friends and family here through the summer for their holiday means that we end up behaving as though we are on holiday too. For 8 weeks. Despite my best intentions I have again managed to gain 7lbs (with still four weeks of visits to come) and have drunk so much that I am sure my liver will probably be waving me au revoir at some point in the not too distant future. When your brother in law wants a beer at 12 o clock it seems rude not to join him and of course there are all the meals out, lunchtime pizzas, three course meals around the table in a evening with endless bread and bottles of wine. I haven’t a chance of maintaining my normal weight throughout July and August so I don’t know why I even try. Fortunately I eat very healthily for the other ten months of the year so I am not too concerned with the extra weight. I will just have to avoid the bathroom mirror and scales for the next few weeks.
I met a friend in town a few days ago and mentioned my weight gain to her. She told me about a three day diet that has apparently got the potential for huge weight losses. It got my interest immediately, especially as the diet appeared to have been designed by a well known UK charity that is close to my heart. I logged on to the internet for more information. The first thing I noticed was that the diet was not endorsed by, nor had any links to the charity which immediately raised my suspicions. The second thing I noticed was that the diet was very restrictive in the foods that you could eat. Personally I am not a fan of these sorts of diets. If you restrict the amount and types of food that you eat of course the chances are that you will lose weight in the short term, even if the food you are restricted to eating include hot dog sausages, crackers and ice cream. For me I prefer to eat a balanced diet most of the year and not worry too much if during the summer months I over indulge. Come September when I am back to my normal balanced diet the excess weight will fall off and within no time I will be back to my normal healthy weight.
The meal plan that I follow maintains an equal balance between yin and yang which I believe is essential for a healthy body. Below I have highlighted the points that I follow which helps me maintain a healthy body and body weight. I should say at this point I am not slim or skinny nor do I particularly want to be. I am however reasonably well proportioned, look healthy and feel healthy and have the waist measurement of the average man. This is not a diet to lose weight, it is what I would call a healthy eating life plan.
Use High Quality Ingredients
First of all the food that you cook and eat should be of the highest possible quality. Fruit and vegetables should where possible be locally or home grown and organic. If you are buying meat you should aim to know where the meat has come from and how the animal has been cared for when it was alive. If the produce you are buying has been grown or reared with love and care those feelings will have been transferred to the food. At the moment here at Le Plantis we have not yet had constructed our raised vegetable beds and so to supplement my small attempts at growing our own fruit and vegetables I buy where possible from our local market or if I have to buy from the supermarket buy the food that has been grown locally. Buying food in season means that I never pay a huge amount for food as there is plenty of it about. If it means I don’t eat strawberries in December then so be it. Next year I hope that we will be largely self sufficient and so our already relatively small food bill will be reduced even further.
Create Balance between Yin and Yang
With each meal you should aim to create an equal balance of yin and yang food. This can be quite a complex subject and so here I have tried to simplify it as much as I can. Whether a food item is yin or yang depends on three factors; the taste, how it has been produced and how it has been cooked. Yin food is easy to eat, soft and mild flavored, yang food is chewy or hard, tangy and sharp or hot and spicy. Yin food includes most vegetables, fruit, bread, pasta, rice and sweet flavored food. Yang food includes most dairy products, meat products, spices and eggs. There are exceptions. Vegetables that have been grown below ground such as onions, garlic and potatoes are yang, as are spicy vegetables like chilies, peppers and radishes. Whilst most fruit are yin citrus fruit that have a sharp taste such as limes, lemons and grapefruits are yang. Although white meats, red meats and shellfish are yang most sea fish such as mackerel, cod and tuna are yin. Although spices are on the whole yang, sweet spices such as ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg are yin. As I said it is a complex subject and even the numerous websites on the subject contradict each other. I find it best to go with the guidelines above and if I am unsure use my instinct asking myself the question, does this feel cool and mild or hot and sharp? The third factor to throw in to the pot as it were is how the food is cooked. This is the simplest of all three factors to understand. If the food is poached, steamed or boiled it is yin, if has been roasted, fried or baked it is yang.
Avoid Strong Yin and Strong Yang Foods
We have already seen that all food items are yin or yang. Some food items though are strong yin or strong yang and should be avoided or at least eaten in moderation. Food items that are strong yin are coffee, alcohol, sweet items like cakes and pastries and white bread. Strong yang food items are cheese and red meats. Don’t fall in to the trap of believing that you can balance out strong yang food with strong yin food, for example eating a burger and fries in a white bun and drinking a couple of beers. It doesn’t work like that!
Finally try and make a point of noticing the color of food. The colors in food represent the five elements and so a diet that is rich in colors will help you to have a healthy, balanced diet. When I am at home I often have a bowl of what I call my rainbow salad in the fridge. The salad contains lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, red peppers, chilies, beetroot, sweet corn, yellow peppers, onion, radishes, mushrooms, black olives, artichokes and garlic and is perfect to eat as a side dish or on its own drizzled with my homemade dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, tarragon and black pepper.
Having taken the afternoon to write about a balanced diet I am now waiting for more family members to arrive, the champagne is on ice and the fattening canapés are in the fridge. Four more weeks to go until my life and eating gets back to normal. I would rather eat a healthy balanced diet for ten months of the year though than subject my body to a series of three day quick fixes throughout the year in a bid to shift excess weight. And I know my body feels the same way