Chocubiquity Or 5 Things I Learned From Lent 2017 (And What I’m Going To Do About It)
Thankyou so much for stopping by, I always appreciate it – this is a follow up to my previous blog, so if you haven’t yet read about my Lenten promises, then go back and clue yourself in.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Have you read about them? Good! Let’s get started!
5 Things I Learned From Lent 2017….
For those of you who didn’t read the blog (even after you just claimed you did, you cheeky scamps) I was abstaining from the following: Chocolate, Alcohol, Chicken, Hard Cheese and Bread (and all bread-like substances including cake).
It is a week after good Good Friday as this is posted, meaning I have officially completed my Lenten challenge, with only the most minor slip ups.
Time to go crazy! EAT ALL THE THINGS!
Let’s see what I learned.
1. Chocolate Is Everywhere
Right now it’s in my belly! YEAH!
In my previous blog I said that it would be relatively easy to avoid chocolate, because I don’t tend to eat much of it anyway. But there is a huge world of difference between not eating something much and not eating it at all, full stop.
What I meant when I said that I don’t eat it much was that I don’t eat it on it own – but I soon realised ubiquitously it is shoved into everything. Biscuit, cake, cookies, flapjacks, pastries puddings, you name it – anything sweet is impregnated with chocolate.
At weekly gatherings with friends for a bit of the old Roleplaying (not Dungeons and Dragons but often Savage Worlds) the table is oftentimes awash with chocolate bars, chocolate biscuits, chocolate brioche and just plain chocolates. It was hard to resist, believe you me.
Early on, feeling the need for a treat, I got a little cheesecake pot – caramel flavour it said – only to discover to my howling indignation that it had a chocolate topping! It languishes in my fridge even now. I will eat it when I return from my Easter weekend away.
On another occasion, feeling low, I ordered myself an incredibly extravagant hot chocolate, complete with marshmallows, cream and a shot of syrup, before realising that ‘hot’ is only half of the description.
I gave it to a friend and had tea instead, salty with my longing tears.
In the closest I got to breaking one vow, I got cookies to share with a friend – a lovely friend deserves lovely cookies so I got some Tesco Finest (yeah, classy me) with ‘FRUIT AND NUT’ in big letters on the front. Only upon opening them did I realise that they too had fallen prey to the ubiquity of the cocoa menace – ‘belgian chocolate’ was printed right above the FRUIT AND NUT in easily missable tiny script. But the cookies themselves, I’d say, had a very unbalanced fruit-and-nut-to-chocolate ratio. It was impossible to take a proper bite without stepping on a sugary landmines of broken promises.
I nibbled a bit and I *think* I managed to get away untainted. I hope so.
The easiest thing to avoid was alcohol – as I said previously, I’m not a big drinker, but the real advantage in avoiding booze is that it is always found in isolation – you cant accidentally drink a beer when you meant to make a cup of tea. They don’t go round slipping vodka into cookies, Steak and ale pie and white wine sauces notwithstanding. I found it easy to avoid, though occasionally I did crave some cider.
2. It’s Hard Being Veggie/Gluten-Intolerant/Lactose-Intolerant
I am none of the above (yet- who knows what the future holds?), but my list of prohibitions did give me a slight window into just how hard they are to maintain day to day.
I was, after all, allowed meat that wasn’t chicken (or pig – again, this needs its own blog post)- I was still eating fish, for example, though I make the choice, whenever it presented itself, not to eat any other available meats.
I could still have gluten, even if I couldn’t have it in bread, wraps, pitta, rolls, crumpets, cake (a late addition) pancakes or other vaguely bread-like things. I could have cookies and crackers and biscuits. I could have any dairy that wasn’t hard cheese.
But is that really worth it? Image Source
But even with the flexibility most people with dietary restrictions don’t have, it was still very hard, considering the omnivorous diet I have been used to. It has made me, I hope, a little more respectful to the challenges of others…I mean, I hope I was respectful before as well, but now even moreso. Its hard to be sure sometimes.
3. The Combinations Killed
Although one or two things were quite hard to give up individually, it was often the combination of two or more things that was the stumbling block.
For example, I could have biscuits, but not chocolate biscuits.
I could have non-chocolate sweet things, but not cake (too bread like, I decided)
Pizza, with its bread-like base, copious cheese and often chicken-y topping, was right out.
So were burgers, wraps and sandwiches.
For an example of how frustrating this was, over the course of the past few weeks I have frequented a very nice cafe bar for some meetings with friends (we’re working on a show, if you must know) and my time there is always pleasant.
On the first visit I wasn’t really planning to eat out, but nevertheless I had a quick glance at the menu and realised that , thanks to my lent promises, I could barely have a single thing, except a baked potato, which I do very well at home thankyou very much.
This was made even more painful when I friend actually volunteered to treat me at said cafe on Wednesday the 12th, only two days before the end of my trial – I asked for tea and a side of fries.
4. I Can Lose Weight Without Trying
Well, ‘without trying’ is not quite right, as I’ve intimated there was a lot of resisting temptation involved, but without being an actual diet, this was an incredibly effective weight-loss regime.
By drawing a hard line and cutting out some of my consistent traps (bread and cheese being the key ones) I was able to eat more healthily by default, getting into good habits, rather than sticking to some kind of outlandish meal plan. I am at the last reading a respectable 62.6kg (10 stone or 138 lbs), with a target of 60 in mind.
NB: I’d like to stress at this point that weight loss is a BYPRODUCT goal of mine, an easy marker of healthy diet and personal control. It’s not for everyone, and I don’t want to join the cabal of beauty brands and gym nuts telling you you have to do it or you’re a bad person. You keep on doin’ what you doin’.
5. I Don’t Need These Things
Yep. Like I said on my previous blog, you surprise yourself sometimes with your strength of will.
Want and need are very different things of course; often I dearly wanted one of the banned articles, and felt like a masochistic member of some strict monastery, chastising myself for half-remembered sins. Who was this abstaining penitent?
Wow, easy on the thorns there, buddy! You’ll damage your hairshirt!
‘The Penitent’ – Albrecht Durer, Image Source
The younger me, jealously clutching packed lunches of corned beef sandwiches, club biscuits and cheese and onion crisps, wouldn’t recognise the salad-munching, bread-avoiding virtually vegan (in their eyes)!creature I have become. Perhaps young Spekti would admire the future version, perhaps be ashamed, confused, aghast. Why visit such torments on ones flesh?
But I pulled though, the cravings did not defeat me.
So, perhaps, I can make some changes.
…And What I’m Going To Do About It
Currently here is my plan for staying on track, being healthy and more ethical in future, after an Easter indulgence or two.
Continue to drink none or a minimum, never have more than one drink in a day, either while going out or staying in.
Instigate a moveable ‘treat day’ once a week for a chocolatey indulgence – this will not only mean I am healthier in general but also will make me more discerning and epicurean about my choices. Do I throw away my weekly chocolate allowance on a mass-produced Mars bar or similar factory-farmed frippery? Or do I do justice to this king of confections, and linger over an artisan brownie, a towering slice of Mississippi Mud Pie or a wholly indulgent homemade hot chocolate? Not that these treat days will be a licence for me go overindulge – that would defeat the point – but rather to allow for small, exquisite pleasures in a generally more spartan regime.
Avoid all meat (other than fish) if at all possible. Thankfully, it turns out that it really is incredibly easy to avoid eating meat.
In this day and age we have everything we need in supermarkets, in restaurants and cafes to not HAVE to eat it at all. Even the all you can eat buffets have substantial veggie selections. ‘If at all possible’ in this case is tantamount to vegetarianism (well, pescatarianism) because we are all so damn lucky.
Don’t buy cheese in grocery shopping; just have it when out as a treat. I have had some success limited with homemade vegan ‘cheese’ substitutes (see this blog here and also this recipe for Vegan ’pepperjack’ cheese) so these may help to tide me over between inevitable pizza binge.
Much like cheese, I shall do my best to not buy bread for the house, but occasionally have it in my rare outings. I will probably MAKE bread at home for the culinary challenge, but the extra time and effort involved should prevent it becoming an every day thing as it once was for me.
Well folks, that’s me! What about you? What did you give up? How do you find it? And what are you going to do now? Look forward to hearing from you.