Intervention

I’ve never been a smoker or addicted to drugs. I’ve never been an alcoholic, a sex addict, or had disordered behaviors of any kind.

But I do have a problem.

I’ve known about it for a long time, but it wasn’t until this past Christmas that my family got involved. My children discovered in horror that their chocolate Santas were missing from their stockings as I stood sheepishly in the corner with creamy cocoa breath. I couldn’t even remember eating them, but for the shredded foil wrappers in my shaky hands.

I cannot control myself around chocolate.

Easter is the hardest time. Chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, chocolate dinners (when you skip dinner and just eat chocolate); it’s all too much for me to handle.

I should probably get help. I should wean myself off of that sweet Belgium tar. I should rid this house of any and all remnants of that creamy bean.

I will. I will. I promise.

Just after I finish this gallon-size bag of mini eggs…

Love or lack thereof

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and it reminded me of two things: I love being a woman, and it’s hard to be a woman.

It’s hard for a lot of reasons, but it would be insincere of me to suggest that it’s as hard for me as it is other women in the world. I have an incredible life. But in my personal little sphere, I can relate to at least one challenge that many women face – loving the body we live in.

The minute my first daughter was born (and the moments my two other daughters followed) I considered my strategy for raising girls who love themselves. Like I’ve learned with so many parenting challenges, lessons are best delivered by example. For me, this meant I would learn to love myself, lumps, bumps and all.

I don’t hate my body. In fact, it’s been incredibly good to me, even when I haven’t been good to it. In the past I’ve abused it with ‘bad’ food and booze, gained and lost weight too quickly, and carried and delivered three babies in a span of just four years. I’m surprised my body even hangs out with me anymore, actually.

But I can’t even recount all of the devastating messages I’ve received about my body in my lifetime. Some of them indirect (courtesy of the ‘beauty’ industry and the rise and fall of unobtainable body trends) and some not so indirect (delivered by well-meaning or not family and friends who noticed and noted those extra pounds I gained in grad school). And I’m not alone.

Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve lost weight (in a slow, sustainable way) and gained some clarity on a few things.

One, I wasted a lot of time in my teens and twenties admonishing my body when there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Two, everyone struggles. Three, there’s more to life than this.

I like being strong and ‘healthy’ right now, but that’s about the extent of it. I really can’t punish myself anymore for not fitting into mould I never chose in the first place. I’m grateful for my frame, even if it is non-waif, non-pixie, non-heroin chic (HOW is that even a thing??).

I can’t protect my daughters from everything, but I can do my best to give them a good head start.

I want them to be healthy because it’s good to be healthy, not because it’s good to be thin. I want them to be active for the fun of it, not for the burden to burn calories. I want them to have food knowledge, not a fear of food.

And when my daughters playfully squish their hands in my belly and giggle when it jiggles, I want to proudly and sincerely tell them that I like that part of my body.

Because I do. I really like my body – it could even be love.

Let me eat cake.

Over Christmas, I allowed myself to indulge. In fact, I revelled in it.

I spent the month of November training and toning and tallying my calories (to a certain extent) in preparation for an all-out, guilt-free Christmas and New Years carb fest extravaganza. When I made it to first week of January with minimal damage to my waistline, I had my pre-Christmas diligence to thank.

However. New Years turned into long weekends turned into Super Bowl turned into Valentine’s Day and now, sitting beside me as I type is a seductive vanilla buttercream birthday cake.

I knew I was losing my grip last night when I said to my husband, “Would a two-year-old even know there was a piece missing from her cake when she blows out the candles?”

It’s not that I’m scared of a small piece of birthday cake. I’m happy with the balance my husband and I have struck with our eating, exercising and indulging. We’ve adjusted our lives in the last year so that we can guiltlessly enjoy birthday cake or pizza or wine on occasion, while eating balanced meals and regularly exercising the remainder of the time.

But when you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, saying yes to a small piece of cake can be terrifying. Because sometimes I don’t want just a small piece of cake. I want the entire thing.

What worries me more than an expanding waistline (which by all accounts is in my head and not evident on my scale) is the roller-coaster of emotions associated with eating “bad.”

I don’t want to think about eating “good” or “bad” and I don’t want my precious daughters – who will never have any body issues if I have to throw myself in front of a train to make God damned sure of that – to see me struggle.

So when my two-year-old blows out her candles this afternoon I will savour every delicious bite. I’ve earned that and it means more to my family that we all enjoy this birthday together than for me to concern myself with a couple extra calories.

And I’ll also submit that registration for a 5K in May.

As Oscar Wilde may or may not have said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation. And buttercream.”

But first, coffee.

Perhaps I overestimated my abilities and underestimated my time when I arranged our family schedule last Spring.

Before the trees blossomed and the Calgary grass turned from brown to less-brown, I had to choose many of our kiddo’s extra-curriculars for the coming year.

I thought I had been strategic and even frugal with their commitments, but reality has set in this September and I’m totally overwhelmed.

Don’t get me wrong; the school, pre school and after school programs we’ve chosen have been excellent. It’s the pick-up, drop-off, kid-carting that’s totally exhausting.

My only savior: the joy and growth these activities provide my kids coffee.

As long as I can sit and sip just one cup of creamy caffeine at some point before noon, I’m good. But this rarely happens.

Piping hot, filled-to-the-brim coffee mugs seem to be a radar for toddlers who suddenly want to sit on your lap, climb your coffee table, or drink what Mommy’s drinking. (My daughter has now repeatedly reported to teachers that her Mommy has a special drink every day and no one is allowed to talk to her).

As a child, I remember my mother pouring her coffee and carting it upstairs as she got ready for work. My father would (and still does) wake at an ungodly early hour to enjoy his cup of joe and newspaper in peace.

My husband takes his hot java in his most precious accessory, his travel mug. I did not realize the depth of his attachment to this routine until I lost his mug – as I am apt to do – and what can only be described as a period of mourning ensued.

Whatever the vessel, coffee somehow has to make its way from bean to brew to my lips each morning for me to feel ready for the day. Yes, this is called addiction, but it is also self-preservation.

I’m protecting this moment for myself every day, so I can feel happy, whole and caffeinated.

Isn’t that just good parenting?

Let me entertain you.

One of my favourite perks of being an adult (besides choosing my own bedtime) is hosting dinner parties. Few things excite me more than an excuse to host a charming brunch or a delectable dinner.

My parents are excellent cooks and are constantly entertaining. I picked up a few practices from them and developed my own along the way.

Here are a few things I consider when planning a dinner party:

Seasonal

The benefits of fresh, local, in-season produce cannot be overstated. But just in terms of flavour, starting with fresh ingredients in their respective seasons gives your dishes the best possible beginning.

How you cook is just as seasonal as what you cook. I prefer not to use my oven in summer, but love to grill. In Fall, I’m falling in love with roasted everything.

The changing seasons also give you an opportunity to rotate your favorite dishes. At Christmastime, it’s perfectly fine to put your fresh summer salad on the back burner. Minding seasons when preparing for your dinner party just makes sense.

Sensory

I like my dishes to be just as appealing on the plate as they are on the palette. If it looks good, it usually tastes better. I also strive to serve food in its most pleasing texture. So, nothing undercooked or overcooked.

And (hopefully) the aromas of your efforts in the kitchen are enough to seduce even the most discriminating sense of smell.

Before dinner is served I usually attend to the three A’s: Appetizers, Ambiance (music, a clean home and nice table setting) and Alcohol. This is where my husband likes to lend his expertise.

Author’s note: This task also serves as a distraction so he doesn’t monitor my seasoning use. Salt is everything!

Simple

I love a culinary challenge as much as the next home chef, but when it comes to hosting I try to stick with simplicity. That doesn’t mean I won’t attempt something new, I often do, but I utilize ingredients and methods with which I’m already comfortable. I save the first (second and third) trial at cheese soufflé for a private dinner with my partner.

It’s also wise to consider the preparation involved for each element of your meal. I like to have at least one dish that can be made ahead of time. No one wants to be (or talk to) a flustered host trying to navigate a recipe within a recipe within recipe.

Sensible

Dinner parties are a perfect time to indulge, but remember that most people are making healthier choices these days (myself included). I try to consider any dietary restrictions when planning my menu. That never means the flavour has to suffer.

It’s also important to know your audience. It’s nice to impress, but when it comes to food, it’s more important to please. I want my guests to lick the platter clean. If they prefer hearty and wholesome to haute cuisine, I’m all for it.

Guests: If you or your children have off-limit ingredients (medical or otherwise), feel free to tell your host ahead of time. Or bring your own buffer dish, just in case. Your host will appreciate it and no one will have to feel awkward if you’re forced to avoid everything but the lettuce.

Finally and most importantly, your dinner party doesn’t have to break the bank. If you are on a budget, put your money towards the highest quality ingredients you can afford… and relax.

The most essential ingredient for your dinner party: the company!