Irish bacon, spuds and cabbage

One of the biggest changes in the last few weeks since I moved from Los Angeles to Ireland has been my diet. Actually, let me rephrase for maximum effect: Everything, from what I eat to when and how I eat has been completely flipped on its head.

Back in Los Angeles, I had somewhat of a routine when it came to what I ate on any given day. During the week, I cooked my own breakfast, lunch and dinner – with the exception of a weekday happy hour outing that also included a few drinks and shared appetizers. On weekends, I often hosted dinner parties at my house or went out to nice restaurants with friends. Generally we’d eat and drink a bit too much but it was the weekend, after all. Still, come Sunday morning, the guilt and the promises of a clean start for Monday would kick in.

A typical weekday breakfast for me would include one egg, a whole-grain English muffin and a slice of soy cheese. Lunch was typically a big salad with some grilled chicken and light dressing, or a hearty lentil soup with lots of vegetables. Dinner at home could be any number of dishes, from Pizza Margherita made on whole-wheat tortillas to a baked salmon and side salad. While I will admit to making sure I had my 5 servings of fruit and veg, along with a good intake of fiber, lean protein and good carbs, and got to the gym at least 4 days per week, I didn’t obsess over it. I don’t think I obsessed over it more than any other woman in LA!  In the body-conscious bubble of Los Angeles, it’s easy to become a label-reading, daily-weigh-in, calorie-counting machine, and while there’s nothing wrong with trying to be healthy, all of these habits can take the joy out of food – one of life’s simplest yet greatest pleasures.

Sinead’s mom baked up an apple tart just for a Wednesday night dessert. Lovely!

For the last week, I haven’t given a single thought to whether I’m eating too many calories or not enough vegetables or any of the nonsense that used to fill an inordinate amount of space in my brain when I was in Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not on a binge or anything. I’ve just been eating without analyzing everything I put into my mouth. In the morning, I’ll have a farm fresh egg (I love how absolutely orange the yolks are) with a slice of hearty brown bread and a cup of tea. I’ve skipped lunch a few times, only because I wasn’t hungry or decided on another cup of tea with a biscuit instead (gasp!), or I’ll have a chicken sandwich or wrap at a cafe. Dinner tonight was real basic Irish food at its best: Irish bacon, cabbage and mashed spuds (courtesy of Sinead’s mom, Nancy); actually, I’ve eaten potatoes with every dinner so far, a major “no-no” in carb-conscious LA. You know what? It was absolutely delicious, and relatively healthy to boot!

A real LA salad: Spicy Vietnamese Beef with brown rice. Delicious!

Even though I’ve completely deviated from the rigid eating routine of LA, I’m not gaining weight. I think that’s partly due to the cold weather (body has to work harder to keep warm), but it’s also because I’m not thinking about food all the time; rather, I’m enjoying it. Before moving here, I wouldn’t even keep chocolate or cookies around in the house unless I was having company over. Here, people eat one or the other (or both) with tea after dinner every night, myself included. It’s always just one cookie or a little chocolate to go with the tea, and it’s a really nice way to end the meal. Although I will eventually join a gym here, walking around town or Collon’s country roads has suited me just fine so far.

Maybe it’s the fresh country air or the distractions of a new environment but I’ve had no time to dwell on the trivial matter of calories and fat grams and BPMs. Whatever the reason, it’s been a nice break. Life is what happens when you’re busy counting calories, and I don’t want to miss it!