It’s a question of… the perfect diet

There is no escape: after the holiday season, it’s diet season. The same magazines that were encouraging me to “shed a few kilos” before Christmas in order to fit into my (inexistent) party dress are now telling me to diet once again so I can become a “new and fit” me. Apparently, all my pre-Christmas efforts didn’t go well… (which makes sense as I didn’t fully engage in any).

To be honest, the magazines aren’t the only ones subtly pushing me towards a little weight shifting. Every time I open my cupboard my clothes shout out “don’t even bother!” I have reached a point where I can only fit into one pair of jeans (because they’re the stretchy type) and am thankful for the cold weather because sporting oversized sweaters doesn’t look too strange. I can’t stand wearing my bra and well, even my underpants are tight – which must be the ultimate sign. So yes, one can say that I really do need to lose some weight.

Will I be buying diet books or following diet recipes from the magazines? Start ingesting vomit-worthy diet drinks, roam the Internet in search of the perfect diet pill or engage in some new detox fad? I think not.

First of all, I’ve learnt the hard way that I’m not the type of person to follow a set program, count calories or eat things I don’t like just because they have a low GI. I refuse to go all protein, fibre or grapefruity – for the simple reason that it’s downright cruel to my system and I wouldn’t last a week without turning into a very irritable and depressive being.

Also, I’m not stupid. Like most people, I know exactly where my unwanted kilos come from and I know that in order to lose them the best diet is also the most simple one: eat less, drink less and move more. I’m not saying it’s an easy diet – I like my chocolate, wine/beer and couch sitting as much as the next person – but it’s by far the easiest for me, and it works.

My perfect diet…

Women’s magazines have taught me a few things throughout the years (it’s not because I don’t follow their diets that I can’t read about them!), so most of this is based on “standard dieting”.

  • I eat breakfast (nothing new here), and 5 to 6 smaller (or medium’ish…) meals during the day (nothing new there either!).
  • I don’t eat after 7 pm (very hard – that’s when I normally start pigging out) but often drink a glass of wine before bedtime. The wine is more for my own comfort. I don’t care about the sugar it contains, what matters is that it’s alcohol and it’s diuretic. Basically, in the morning, I may have a small headache, but I weigh a little less (because of the water loss, but still, it keeps spirits high!)
  • I go “logically healthy” (I eat what I know is good for me). I eat more vegetables than usual, take fruit and yogurts instead of cake, continue having meat and fish and develop a true liking for soup and hard-boiled eggs.
  • I try to avoid bread and to cut down the pasta (one of my deadly sins). I keep dark chocolate in the house though. (It’s good for you and also, I’m an addict). I put even more chilli on my food than I normally do (on cheese, on chocolate, on salad… don’t know why).
  • When I get a hunger pang, I eat pickled gherkins and caperberries in huge quantities.
  • I don’t start jogging or doing sit-ups because I’m not that kind of person. But it would probably do me good. If I’m really motivated, I get out an old stretching video I have and do some moves in front of the TV. It’s the kind of exercise that doesn’t get me too sweaty but still makes me feel good (about my incredible willpower).
  • Then there’s the water issue. Supposedly, it’s important to drink massive amounts of this. While you’ll never get me to bounce around lightly with a 1 litres bottle of Evian sticking out of my bag (I mean, who does?), I do try to drink water throughout the day, but “spice it up” with lemon juice or herbs so I don’t feel like gagging after the second glass. I also replace some of my cuppas of PG tea with green tea (a little suffering when on a diet is normal after all…). I never ever try Chinese diet tea unless I have an urge to spend half the day running to the toilet!

After three weeks of this “personal diet”, I generally lose between 4 and 6 kilos – and keep them off (until I start over-eating again).

Now you may be asking yourself why, if it’s that simple, I can’t fit into my underwear today. I have no valid answer. I know I feel much better when I can wear (all) my clothes and fit into my bra. I know that it’s not that great an effort to lose a few kilos – even for the food-loving person that I am. I sit here trying to find convincing excuses but I really can’t think of any. So I suppose that means I’ll be starting a diet.

Next Monday.

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It’s a question of… New Year’s Eve traditions

Up until I was about 17, I always spent New Year’s Eve with my parents. After that, it started getting complicated. I remember the first New Year’s party I went to “on my own” as a big deception, ending with me cleaning up while my drunken friends were either being sick or doing things they’d later regret.

For years on row in fact, the celebrations were, well, not much fun. It would start with weeks of discussing where to spend New Year’s Eve and with whom. Once this question had been solved, there would be the endless “what shall I wear” one… followed by a party that never lived up to expectations.

There are however a few New Year’s Eves I remember fondly. One was with friends I have known since school at what might have been the first real New Year’s dinner we put together. We had finally reached the age where eating real food sitting down was no longer “uncool”.

It must be mentioned that not many of these friends originated from the same country. So as we were approaching midnight, everyone started preparing different things to welcome the New Year.  Where I come from (Denmark) we either jump over string or off a sofa when the clock strikes twelve (to symbolise jumping into the New Year). Pretty simple compared to my Peruvian friend who started running round the block with a suitcase (to assure that she would be travelling) while my Spanish friend was frantically popping grapes into his mouth 12 seconds before midnight (a grape and a wish each time the clock chimed). Another friend (Italian) was strangely throwing things out of the window (to get rid of the old year), I think my Salvadorian friend was the one eating lentils (for luck) and I later found out (I won’t tell you how…) that another of my Latin American friends was wearing yellow underwear (to attract money). (I’ve forgotten what my Swedish friend was doing under the table, but it might not be related to New Year’s Eve traditions…).

In other words, thanks to all these different traditions, we had a wonderful night – and all jumped into the New Year with grapes and lentils in our mouths and a saucepan filled with coins (I can’t recall why and whose tradition that was).

This year, I’m spending New Year’s Eve with my parents. It’s become a “new” tradition since my son was born and it’s a wonderful way to start the year (and not only because of the good food). The program will be the same as every year: we’ll listen to the Queen’s speech, we’ll watch Dinner for one (“same procedure as last year”), my father and my son will shoot off fireworks, and at midnight we’ll all hold hands and jump over a string into the New Year.

Wherever you are and whatever traditions you have,

I wish you and your love ones a very Happy 2010.

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It’s a question of… the blue moon on New Year’s Eve

In my family there are certain things you do before sitting down around the New Year’s Eve dinner table wearing silly hats. I don’t know if it’s something my mother once invented to make me tidy my room, but belief has it that the way you leave the old year sets the global direction of the new one. In other words, you’re supposed to have done things like clean your home, pay your bills and shave your legs before downing the champagne and lighting up the fireworks.

As I’ve never been a particular good cleaner or bill payer (not to mention the hair growth on my legs – I’d probably lose a few kilos if I shaved them), I was glad to find out that moon energy can also help me get a good start this year. It so happens that on New Years Eve 2009 there will be a full moon, a blue moon and a partial lunar eclipse.

Whereas a full moon normally occurs once a month, a blue moon – the name given when a full moon appears for the second time in the same month – is a rare event, especially on New Year’s Eve. There hasn’t been one since 1971 (and the next blue moon on New Year’s Eve won’t occur till 2028).

Why is this so important? Well, it’s believed that the (alleged) powers of the full moon are magnified threefold when it’s a blue moon. The blue moon is also considered to be the “purpose moon” – an ideal time for setting new goals that stand a real chance of being attained. Add this to the lunar eclipse – which symbolise endings and letting go – and you have a perfect occasion for creating a new and special start of 2010.

There are different ways to do this but for me a little “moon magic(k)” seems the appropriate way to go. As I don’t have a particular need or possibility of going skyclad (i.e. doing a ritual in the nude) and will probably have a hard time finding even five minutes of silent alone time for moon meditation on New Year’s Eve, I’m opting for the pen and paper wish method. This is done by writing down what you want to leave behind or let go of – or writing what you want to bring into your life. And then burn it. For extra “wish power”, it apparently helps to write it on a bay leaf (but you should know it’s harder – and smellier – to burn!).

Even if you’re not inclined to blue moon beliefs, penning down your vision of 2010 still isn’t a bad idea. According to psychologists, listing your goals and dreams on paper makes them 10 times more likely to happen. So start scribbling – all whilst remembering that blue moons, bay leaves and lists won’t do everything. To make 2010 to what you want it to be, your own energy and willpower will be needed too.

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It’s a question of… online dating

A guy I know recently changed his relation status on Facebook from being “in a relationship” to “single”.  According to the usual procedure, his 150 listed friends were immediately informed and one of them reacted by publically writing not to worry because he could now join the ranks of men who (I quote) “get laid thanks to online dating”.

I’m not sure the comment comforted my recently separated (and obviously depressed about it) Facebook friend but it got me thinking about the change there’s been in online dating these past years.

When I first signed up on a dating website six or seven years ago, it totally changed my life. Within a day I went from single mum who had forgotten the mere existence of males aside her son, to being a woman who actually looked at men in the street again and, oh yes, regained her flirting instinct too. All this because of e-mails I had gotten from total strangers.

I did not put a picture of myself on my online dating profile – something that would not have gone down well today. Most men now demand it (and by ‘demand’ I mean as in ‘command’), along with a whole lot of adverbs impossible to find in one single person. At the time, the market was somehow less competitive and more flaw forgiving.

Not having a profile photo didn’t prevent me from “meeting” a lot of nice guys who sent me long, personal e-mails and read mine in details responding to them with wit and concern. After a week – and for several weeks to come – I was in daily e-mail contact with three of these men. They never once wrote about sex or sexual encounters.

Somewhere down the line, we got to the “phone contact” point. It went fine with man n° 1. We talked for hours, and went on to more explicit texting, but never actually met. (Like me, he had “multiple contacts”, hooked up with one of them and thus gallantly ended our “relationship”).

Man n° 2 I never actually spoke to on the phone, because too much e-mailing nullified all dating prospects and sent us into a friendship zone in which we stayed for several years before losing contact.

As for man n°3, he was the proof that online too, I sometimes misjudge men terribly. The first time he called he somehow got talking about his ex-wife and how she’d “falsely accused him” of “slapping her around” and that he’d had “nothing to do” with her broken nose or arm… I didn’t give him the benefit of doubt.

Despite this last “mishap”, these first online dating experiences were totally uplifting and did wonders for my then battered female ego. I ended up moving in with the next man I met online. He was the kind of guy I’d never have met in real life – or if I had, we wouldn’t have been even faintly attracted to one another. It lasted two years, in part for these reasons.

I have since signed up a few times on dating websites but the whole thing has sadly lost its appeal. Men my age are now all searching for women at least 10 years younger (!) and expect photos and phone numbers to be exchanged immediately. (And for a reason I can’t fathom many think I want a picture of their genitals). Instant messenging is preferred to e-mails and instant virtual sex seems to be preferred to the whole “getting to know” process. The trouble is, having tacky cybersex with a virtual stranger is rarely a good starting point for a relationship.

Online dating the way I first knew it has changed. The supermarket effect is worse now than ever. I feel a complete idiot filling out a search page to decide if the guy I’m looking for can have a moustache, be a teacher and like Chinese food, or spending hours answering random questions about myself so I can get a selection of “compatible” men e-mailed. And don’t get me started on the specialised dating websites, like the ones for Christians, Muslims, Jewish or Pagan singles, for Sci Fi lovers, dog lovers, farmers, vegetarians, golfers, geeks, plus-size singles… Everything is calculated, arranged – and in my eyes, ultimately, that’s not how the laws of attraction work.

I’m not saying my recently dumped Facebook friend shouldn’t give online dating a go. Nor am I saying that it doesn’t work for a lot of people  (It did after all work for me for a time). But I do believe that love, like sport, is not an exact science. I think a cat lover can be a match to a dog lover, and that you can dream of a red-haired millionaire and fall blissfully in love with a blond guy on minimum wage. It’s worth keeping that in mind when playing the dating game online. Love can’t be perfect and nor should it be.

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It’s a question of… musicals

In the “it was much better before” categories of life, I put musicals somewhere on the top of the list. I’m not saying Mamma Mia didn’t delight me more than chocolate mousse when it came out – it did (I mean come on, Abba songs!), but in general, modern musicals just don’t measure up to the ones I watched when I was young(er!).

Where have they gone, where are the reruns on television? I mean, it’s Christmas, so where’s my Wizard of Oz and Meet me in Saint Louis? (Now replaced by reruns of Home alone 1, 2, 3 and 4 – talk about “Christmas classics”!). For years and years, Christmas wasn’t Christmas without watching Judy Garland sing Somewhere over the rainbow (my all-time favourite song), hiding under a pillow during the part with the flying monkeys and secretly wishing for a pair of ruby slippers. I really miss those magical moments and feel sorry for all those children who will never be in awe before this wonderful black and white movie suddenly turning into a coloured one…

I have my mother to thank for first introducing me to musicals. She took me to see South Pacific and Sound of music when I was around 10, and those songs have stayed with me ever since. How anyone can go through life without singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens is beyond me. And it’s priceless to have a song like I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair as an alternative to I will survive when you get your heart broken.

Because that’s what musicals do: they give you songs to get through life – and even a few quotes. Though I must admit that living by my favourite quote from Gigi has kept me in stupid situations a few times (that would be the “I’d rather be unhappy with you than unhappy without you” one).

Singing – and the dancing that often goes with it – has a tremendous liberating effect and no songs fit better into your life than the ones from a musical. I dare not imagine how my teen years (and twenties, and thirties) would have been if I had not had Grease songs to sing (and yes, I do know them all by heart!).

So if you don’t get reruns of musicals where you live either, I sincerely hope you’ll find a few well-chosen DVD’s in your stocking.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year – full of old musicals.

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It’s a question of… believing in something

This morning I watched a woman on TV help people find their “inner elf” (while giving them a massage…). Despite my love of all things mythical and my fondness of elves, I didn’t quite buy her theory about us all having one by our side. I mean, wouldn’t the elf’s presence interfere with that of the guardian angel also supposed to be hanging around?

Knowing what to believe in is something that’s getting harder as I grow older. Take Christmas for example. When I was a little girl, it was pretty simple: there was the story about baby Jesus and the one about Father Christmas. Then you get a little older and understand the real meaning of virgin (as in Mary) and things get a little confused. From that moment on, everything goes downhill. You read that Jesus was in fact not even born in December and that the real “Father Christmas” was a Turkish saint and didn’t wear the red suit trimmed with fur and a belt till he appeared in some Coca-Cola advertisement.

I willingly admit that Christmas for me today is not a question of the Christ’s birth. (If you think about it, a Christmas tree, Christmas food and heaps of presents have nothing to do with it either). I do however celebrate this time of the year with gusto, sing carols about the “little lord  Jesus” and sometimes, even go to church on Christmas Eve.  Why? Because it’s tradition, because it’s cosy and because it  brings together the family. And I believe in that. I love the rituals surrounding Christmas; I like the smell and the taste of it. And I don’t mind telling my son about Jesus or Father Christmas, because they’re great stories and well, without them, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas the way we do. It also makes the “season of giving” spirit easier to explain.

Of course, I also try to give him a little “outside” knowledge and point out that – as he’s already learning in school – many Christian celebrations are closely bound to old beliefs. He knows how Christmas is related to the winter solstice and Viking Yule, and of course, having friends with other beliefs, he’s aware that our Christmas is just one of the possibilities.

Many erudite men and women have established that it’s important for humans to believe in something. And while the best thing is probably to believe in oneself, there’s no harm in getting a little help from somewhere or someone else. Be it a God or a Santa, an angel or an elf – or a whole bunch of them. As long as the helpers stay helpers and don’t become judges or controllers…

I for one will be setting out a bowl of porridge tomorrow for the Christmas elf. Just in case. So he’ll be nice to me the rest of the year…

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It’s a question of… buying a vibrator

The "Bone", the vibrator designed by Tom Dixon. Price: 99 £

The feeling of “becoming a woman” supposedly overwhelms you when you get your period or loose your virginity. This may be true for others, but for me the doors to womanhood opened the day I purchased my first vibrator. I remember very clearly thinking to myself “Now, I’m a real woman” when I walked out of the store.

I was 25 and had recently changed jobs, leaving an all-male team to join a largely female one. My work conversations moved from football and sex to… sex. The real change was how the subject was discussed. (Let’s just say my new female colleagues were a lot more fun to listen to…).

The question of going out to buy vibrators came up when one of my colleagues heard about a newly opened “Sex supermarket” in Paris. The idea of walking around with a shopping trolley in a supermarket selling only sex toys and all things related widely appealed to all of us. And so, one evening after work, we took off.

The "Squeel" (from http://www.lovehoney.co.uk), "a wheel of 10 teasing tongues"

The whole experience was delightful. There was only one “connoisseuse” amongst us, but she patiently explained the pros and cons of the various models before letting us put them in the trolley. We each came out with something different and then went out to eat at a very chic restaurant with our bags and big smiles. (For those in Paris, there are now 4 of these supermarkets in town).

My first vibrator was a very plain model in pink plastic. It looked like the ones you see in home catalogues under “massage and relaxation”. Nothing fancy, but it was most certainly the best 30 francs (5€) I ever spent (prices have gone up since!). And was just as efficient as the showerhead – with the advantage of sparing me a trip in the tub.

A "Rabbit" model, made famous by "Sex & the City"

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain this, but I will anyway: vibrators are used to masturbate, not to “replace a man”. True, the result is much quicker (and the orgasm stronger) – and always 100% guaranteed. Nevertheless, men – and women alike – need not feel threatened by it. A vibrator is a masturbation device, nothing more. It doesn’t take away anything from anyone; it just adds a few extra moments of pleasure to life.

Since my first sex toy purchase, there have of course been others. Today I function with a so-called Rabbit (offered by my mother) and a pocket vibrator for travelling (offered by my best friend). If I had money to spare, I’d give a Rabbit to all my female friends – and they would be forever grateful.

Of course, a lot of them already have vibrators. One friend got hers early on from her mother, who told her it was for “combating cellulite” (she was very happy to discover its real use). Another has had to find a new hiding place for her sex toys since her daughter found her “love-beads” and hung them on the Christmas tree…

The great thing is that vibrators have become mainstream. You can discuss them freely, you can buy them easily without having to set foot in a sex shop (I’ve even seen vending machines with pocket vibrators in public toilets) and the choice is amazing (underwater models, ones that vibrate in rhythm with your iPod or your cellphone, designer models, Swarovski crystal-encrusted ones, Hello Kitty ones… not to forget the latest eco-friendly, green technology vibrator: “The earth angel“).

The OhMiBod connects to Ipod or Iphone for "good vibrations"

Surveys show that between 50 and 55% of English and American women use vibrators, as do 40% of Danish women (if someone has the percentages for French women, I’d like to know). That still leaves a lot of women who don’t have that pleasure. In other words, if you’re still looking for that “special” Christmas gift, you know what to buy. The holiday season is all about giving joy. With a vibrator, you can’t go wrong.

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