It’s that time again.
That time when you’ve played the party horns and sung a very loud and sweet rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” to usher in the new year. A fresh and clean slate of 365 days to play around with, make the most of, and damn it, we food lovers are going to be healthy and delicious this year. It will be our year!
Sugar and meat become heathens and are exiled into the great oblivion. We triumphantly vow to go a step above macrobiotic vegan, and (re)discover the priced-per-ride circus that can be Whole Foods or our local health food markets. (I still remember my uncontrollable laughter when I saw my store was out of kale but still had all the other greens leftover. I grabbed all the broccoli I could before, God forbid, it could became trendy!)
With the wheel of holiday parties now having run its course, it’s no wonder we Americans continue to follow this notion that a new year means new fitness and diet goals. It is a completely noble cause to make a commitment to better one’s self. However, just as we run to the horizon with much spirit and will, we also tend to fall together just as grandly.
For food lovers who spend every other moment thinking about, cooking, researching or discussing food, this can be even more complicated. Our food obsessions push a sense of one-upping on social media, and the most decadent foods are worshipped. We lust after the latest designer milkshake and crave obscure Italian cookies. And most of our social activities with friends and family revolve around finding said obscure food items.
Food shapes almost every part of my life, as it might yours. My “new me” push lasts a good two months, and then it gradually declines back to the old ways. I hate the big January rush of constantly crowded gyms and the produce section at the store packed with resolutioners. The pork belly and bacon have often returned to food lovers’ fridges by mid-January. But is a little bit of pork belly really the problem?
The reported revenue in 2016 for health and fitness clubs worldwide was $81.2 billion dollars, with $26.8 billion of that in the U.S. alone. It is estimated that women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade, which includes a big piece in food and health marketing.
Boutique fitness, tonics, pills and powders — it seems that everyone has an answer to what can help create the setup of one’s better self. It is not surprising that the marketing tug-of-war continues to loom in a rivalry between active apparel companies as well. Safe to say, everyone’s engine is revved to grab a piece of the “ideal renewal” pie after weeks of holiday indulgence, while it’s served up hot. Food has become the same battleground.
Before you grab all the almond milk and throw out all your full-fat dairy, think about the effect your food has on the environment. As the growth of the global organic food market continues to prosper, both our future environmental and medical health will receive its long-term benefits. It’s not just about your diet, but about how your choices affect the world. Yes, the price of organic can be an inhibiting factor, but making different choices and selections with each food shopping trip are entirely yours. As with everything, start small.
I look at New Year’s Day like rollover minutes on a phone plan. The year might be a different number, days are still days and I decided this year there would be none of that particular craziness. Carbs aren’t evil, fat isn’t evil, but just like all evils, we’re going to have to learn from each other. Resistance is futile, friends. There is a way to harmonize it all.
The key to long-term changes, in my opinion, lies in changing lifestyle rather than merely diet. On that note, here are four easy tips for resolutions from a stubborn food lover and cook.
You claim to love your local farmer’s markets, but in reality, you only visit once a month. To make a change, mark the greenmarket, CSA and specialty vendor days on your calendar, and visit regularly.
At your local food vendors and farmers’ markets, you’ll find that being healthy is easier there than at the grocery store. You’ll find what’s in season at your fruit and vegetable stands, the best cuts of meat from your local butcher, the catch of the day from your fish vendor, the harvested honey from your beekeeper, and the diverse mushrooms from your local forager.
The clean flavors and quality of what you’ll find will hopefully serve as great motivational factors. Eat whole foods, even if they’re a bit of pork belly and other saturated fats, rather than eating foods full of preservatives or artificial flavors.
Meat provides good nutrients, sure, but it also provides a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. Try an adapted southern method of using quite a small amount of ham hock to flavor some greens, or the Korean method of making the saturated fat the small side dish and the fresh, green, lightly-blanched salads the centerpieces.
Put down that Snapchatting phone. Many food lovers eat alone and post their beautiful dishes online, but in the new year, think about spending more time talking to friends or savoring your food, not Instagramming it.
Food can be the greatest reason for folks to get together, but there are other fantastic things to factor into a social gathering. Try to factor quality time and focus on the food and eating it into each meal. My friends and I have done our catch-ups over museum trips and long walks punctuated by quality meals where we talk and linger rather than rushing.
If you’re a food lover who goes to restaurants seven days a week, it’s time to link your love of exploring eating in restaurants with the promise you’ll carry some these tastes home to your own kitchen. You’ll cut your sodium intake by leagues, since restaurant food is very salty.
The goal isn’t to become the world’s greatest chef, but to enhance who you are on the knowledge and skill circuit. I can’t begin to tell you the joy I got from learning how to make my dad’s kalbi or cooking with wine for the first time, or how I can still laugh at my own kitchen blunders. When you cook with more mindfulness and joy, food will taste better, be healthier, and you’ll save a bundle.
Indulgence — it happens. Like me, you might love to eat a bowl of Michael White’s cappelletti every day, but for the few times you make it to Osteria Morini, it makes it entirely worth the wait. The bottom line: treat yourself in moderation, but don’t beat yourself up so much you set yourself back.
In the end, I’m certainly not going to tell you drop the pizza — especially if it’s John’s of Bleecker Street. What I can say for all of us is to have a few slices, or hell, have a whole pie because you want it. Then make sure some of your daily bites celebrate green on your plate, green for the world, and hopefully, more green in your pocket.