Tough love in the Summertime

It’s finally summer. At least according to the calendar (any Seattlite worth his or her salt knows that summer doesn’t really start until July 5). All I can say about Spring 2011 is this: Good riddance!
This spring was horrible, and I felt its effects acutely. There are few things worse than getting to early February, feeling tired of winter yet heartened by the fact that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (light = spring weather), only to find that there is no light after all. Not in March. Not in April. Not in May. June hasn’t been so hot, either. If I had a dollar for every time I uttered the words “I am SO tired of wearing wool,” my grad school tuition would be paid for.
The cool, gray weather, combined with my shift to full-time telecommuting (ending the visual and social stimulation that I used to get from going downtown a few days a week), and the post-grad-school-acceptance letdown (all that buildup, then the happy dance…then months of waiting before classes start!) really did a number on my motivation.
That’s the funny thing about motivation. Sometimes you have a fire lit under you, and sometimes it’s just smoldering ashes…if that. But when you make a commitment to live a healthy lifestyle, you’ve made a commitment. That means you don’t get to eat pizza and cookies everyday just because you’re feeling blah and bored and starchy carbs seem like just the thing to cheer you up!
I powered through spring without too much complaining or too much backsliding, but summer could not come soon enough, I’ll tell you. I went for a walk today at lunch and, for the first time in 2011, it was warm enough to wear a tank top. And I broke a sweat without even trying. Glory, hallelujah! According to local weather guru Cliff Mass, our summer is supposed to be “normal.” Normal = glorious, because that’s what our normal Seattle summers are. Not too hot, not too cold, but juuuust right. You can call me Goldilocks.
We all struggle sometimes with doing the right thing, nutritionwise or otherwise. So what do you do when you find yourself behaving in ways that are at odds with what you know is best for you…or fear you are in immediate danger of doing so? What you don’t do is start in with the self-flagellation (“What is WRONG with me? Why am I such a failure?”). No, you go with a little tough love. You behave toward yourself like a firm but loving parent who sets guidelines and boundaries because they love their child and want them to be healthy and well. The type of guidelines and boundaries (can you see that I’m sort of avoiding the word “rules”?) that might feel so unfair in the moment, but further down the road seem very, very wise.
Admit it, if you stick to your chosen nutrition-and-activity path, and are rewarded with weight loss (or maintenance), and maybe improvement in your blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels (if they needed improving), then you are going to be very glad that you tough loved yourself. You know it’s true.
So, when you’re doing your best to live a healthy life (especially if you have lived an unhealthy life previously), I think it’s helpful to know that motivation will wax and wane, and that you need to have a plan for dealing with those times where motivation won’t carry you through the rough patches. It takes work…just like life.
On a lighter note, let me just say this: Polenta + fried eggs + garlic-sauteed greens = Delicious (and nutritious!). Jeff had a little issue with eggs for dinner, but I firmly but lovingly (tough love!) informed him that eggs are an “anytime food,” especially when you have four spoiled fluffy egg producers in the backyard! 
The photo doesn’t do the greens justice, or the tasty, easy little veggie dish I made as a second side. Courgettes aux Olives (aka Zucchini with Olives) is from the delightful cookbook Chocolate and Zucchini by the delightful Clotilde Dusoulier, who has a blog of the same name.

I’ve followed C&Z for years…Clotilde is really one of the food blog pioneers, and you haven’t checked her out, you really ought to. This recipe reminds me a bit of ratatouille, which I love so much that I made it too many times last summer and got a bit sick of it. I’ll welcome it back into the fold later this summer! (Ironically, Clotilde suggests that this little zucchini dish would be nice served over polenta, which I didn’t even notice until after we’d eaten!)

Courgettes aux Olives
Serves 4 as a side

1.5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
12 black Greek olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 pounds zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (or a mix of dried rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme)
1/3 cup dry white wine

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add three of the olives (reserve the others) and cook for a minute, until fragrant. 
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes, until softened, stirring regularly to avoid coloring. 
  3. Add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the white wine and the reserved olives, and stir again. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.