Wed 6 Feb 2013
Yep, you read that right – today, I’m officially 40 years old. (Took the pic this morning, the first of my 40s!).
In all honesty, I’m not embarrassed to admit it. In fact, I’m embracing it. While it would be great to shave a few years off that number for the sake of grey hairs and a few laugh lines, I like myself better now than I did in my 20s.
I feel better about the choices I make – there’s a certain confidence that comes with age and experience. The things I used to obsess over when I was younger don’t even occur to me anymore, maybe because there are a whole slew of NEW things to obsess over now (like grey hairs and laugh lines!).
I remember in my 20s and even into my 30s I spent a lot of energy worried I’d miss something. It was hard to say no to invitations – what if something amazing happened and I wasn’t there? It was very important to feel included, whether it be in a club or in the telling of a joke. I hated missing out. You know the saying, “She goes to the opening of an envelope…?” Well, that was me. These days, I miss a lot of things…on purpose. I leave the bar after a couple of drinks. I politely decline invitations on a regular basis; my favourite Friday nights are the ones I stay in with Mountaineering Man with a bottle of wine and some home-cooked food. If I walk into a room and have no idea what the conversation is about, I’ll leave it.
I’m much kinder to myself today than I was when I was younger; the constant self-loathing and beating myself up…what was that about? I was my own worst critic, even if I didn’t show it to the outside world. Too chubby, fat arms, not smart enough, not interested in the right things, not interesting to the right people, too mainstream…these phrases were a regular part of my internal monologue for many years. It was exhausting.
I was painfully insecure, though I often acted the opposite. When I think about how that lack of confidence manifested itself back then, I cringe. I used to manage a group of designers at a job I had in my late 20s and during my most insecure moments I pulled rank with them. I tried to prove my authority and demand respect rather than earn it, and needless to say it didn’t work. Now I see the people I manage as equals and we work together and help each other out. It’s more productive and frankly, a hell of a lot more fun.
I spent a lot of time fighting: fighting fat, fighting fear, fighting frustration – you name it and I jumped in, [metaphorical] guns blazing. I wanted people to bend to my way, so I fought with them to make it happen. If didn’t like the outcome of a scenario I struggled to change it, despite my inability to turn back time (ha!). Patience was a foreign concept to me and my desire to get things done and get what I wanted when I wanted it usually had me on the defensive.
What changed me over the years is that at some point, I decided to stop talking and start listening (mind you, I still talk a lot!). I can’t tell you how much I’ve benefitted from observing others, the ones who are doing things with patience and kindness and who lead by example. You also realise that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and that if you miss something life goes on. And while you’re fighting fat with yet another diet, someone else is fighting loneliness or fighting to keep their job or fighting for their life. Sure it’s all relative but I’ve learned to pick my battles and understand the problems I have aren’t earth-shattering.
Don’t get me wrong, the road to self discovery is a long one and I’m not even at the half-way point, but the drive is much smoother than it used to be.
Nutty Asian Stir Fry (vegan)
When I was younger I was always on a diet and watching my weight – but my approach was all wrong. I bought a lot of frozen diet meals, like Lean Cuisine, and stocked my larder with low-fat cheese, low-fat bread, diet drinks, sugar-free cookies, baked chips and a million other manufactured “diet” foods. With all the preservatives and chemicals in those foods I clearly didn’t care about being healthy, I just wanted to lose weight! Of course now I embrace unprocessed, natural foods and feel much better (and look better!) than I did back then. These are a couple of my favourite healthy dishes, starting with this quick and easy stir-fry.
1 teaspoon ground nut oil
1/2 red cabbage, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
Handful of toasted whole almonds, chopped
Chopped scallions for garnish
4 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
Heat the oil in a large wok or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add in the cabbage, peppers, onion and carrots and cook until tender – about 10 minutes. I like a bit of bite to mine so I cook it a little less, but it’s entirely up to you! While the veggies are cooking, put all the sauce ingredients into a jar, put the lid on and shake vigorously. Pour the sauce over the veggies in the wok/pan and coat – then cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Serve over brown rice and top with chopped almonds and scallions.
Cuban Black Bean Soup (vegan)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and deveined, diced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tins of black beans (420 grams each), drained and rinsed
1 ripe avocado, sliced or cubed
Fresh corriander for garnish
In a large soup pot, heat up the oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic, carrots, onion and jalapeno and cook until the vegetables start to soften – about 7 minutes. Add in the cumin, oregano and cayenne and toss to coat and let cook for another minute. Add in the vegetable broth and turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
Add in the black beans and stir – now scoop out half of the soup mixture and blend in a blender or food processor. Add that back into the soup pot with the rest of the soup and bring back up to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Serve topped with avocado. Garnish with corriander. To make a meal of it, pour over brown rice.
Chocolate Tofu Tart (vegan)
12-15 chocolate biscuits of your choice – if you want to stay vegan make sure you read the label first!
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted
350 grams of 70% dark chocolate, chopped
400 grams of silken tofu (must be SILKEN – get at Asian market)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 170C.
Put the chocolate biscuits into a ziplock bag and, using a rolling pin, crush by pounding them through the bag. Put the biscuit crumbs in a large bowl and pour over the melted coconut oil. Mix thoroughly and then press the biscuit crumbs into a 9-inch pie dish. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
In the meantime – over a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate until shiny and smooth. Set aside to cool. Place the tofu into a food processor and blend until very smooth – you will need to scrape down the sides and blend a few times to ensure there are no lumps. Add in the vanilla and salt, and then the melted chocolate and blend until smooth. Pour into the cooled biscuit base and refrigerate for at least three hours. Slice and serve!