I have never been very good at doing things in moderation. I am an all-or-nothing-kind-of-gal! If there are chocolates in the house, they get eaten. If the bottle of wine is opened, it gets drunk. If I fall in love, I jump in with both feet. You get the picture! I have a pretty addictive personality and, up until recently, the only way I could really manage my addictions was with abstinence. When I quit my 30-a-day nicotine habit in my late 30s, I had to just quit completely and I will NEVER touch another cigarette. A few years ago I quit the booze for a couple of years and was sugar-free for a similar length of time. I felt great….super-healthy, clear-headed, vibrant, energised, glowing.
However, since moving to France 4 months ago, I have faced a bit of a challenge and my old ways of managing these addictions doesn’t really work for me anymore. There is a beautiful patisserie in nearly each village, we are surrounded by some of the best vineyards in the world, and our local wine shop (chateau) is only 5 mins away from our front door and looks like this –
Personally I just don’t see the point in living here and not allowing myself to enjoy these simple pleasures. They are so much a part of the way of life and I really want to enjoy ALL aspects of my new life here in a healthy, balanced way.
So, for the last few months, I just relaxed into it all and indulged myself but I did it mindfully and consciously meaning I watched with curiosity what I was doing. I watched my waistline expanding and my energy getting a little sluggish (not unusual for me during winter months) and I watched habitual behaviour slipping in. Suddenly it had become normal for us to have a glass of wine with lunch (which we never did in Ireland). I have spoken to lots of people who have moved to live here and they all report a fairly sizeable (excuse the pun) weight gain over the first year. There is so much temptation on offer and, after all, “it would be rude not to”!
And so I realise that what I really want to find is balance.
Balance has been an ongoing theme in my life for 15 years or so now. I quit my TV production job back in 2005 because I felt so off-balance that I was on the verge of a breakdown. I was strung out, stressed out, worn out. I had been working too hard, playing too hard and worrying too much and it finally took its toll.
Since then I have been experimenting with my life in order to find balance with my work-life, with giving and receiving, with doing and being, with action and passivity, with my feminine and masculine aspects, with food, with drink, with finances, with socialising and solitude. It has been an on-going living experiment and I truly believe that coming to live in France is an important part of that experiment.
Is it really possible for me to live a relaxed, simple life here while still running my businesses in Ireland? So far, so good. Actually, the Positive Living Network and Source Wellbeing Centre are actually growing more since we moved here and now only work about 10 hours a week (on average) which is a bit weird (but great)!
Is it possible for me to find an equilibrium with my relationship with sugar and alcohol while I live here surrounded by them?
Thankfully I believe that, as I approach my 50th birthday later this year, I am finally on the road to finding a happy balance with this. I read a book 10 years ago called French Women Don’t Get Fat and, whilst the title is not actually true, the premise of the book is that French women eat with all five senses, allowing less to seem like more. Basically, they eat for the pleasure of it and they do it mindfully. I have had really interesting chats with my new French girlfriends about this and it seems to be true. They don’t comfort eat the way so many of my Irish friends do. Their relationship with food is quite different and they love it in a different way. I am now consuming my sweet treats and wine this way and, so far, so good.
I am also back on the 5:2 programme which worked so well for me a few years ago. This means that I can eat normally for 5 days a week but on Mondays and Thursdays I choose to limit my intake to a poached egg in the morning and some dhal in the evening amounting to less than 500 calories. It feels great and my body really enjoys it. Again, it is all about balance and being loving towards my body which really doesn’t enjoy over-indulgence any more as I move towards menopause. Alcohol and sugar exacerbate a lot of menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
Today was a beautiful sunny winter’s day so I took the dogs out for a 2 hour walk through the gorgeous countryside around us. It was purely pleasurable exercise and I soaked up a lot of much needed Vitamin D. So, as I ate a gorgeous coffee eclair this afternoon, I enjoyed every mouthful of it with equal amounts of pleasure and without guilt.
For me, living a good life is really all about finding and keeping my balance! Watch this space to see how I get on…..