Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Skinny Summer?

I do wonder how it can be August already! The time just seems to fly by. Another thing I wonder about is everyone’s insistence that summer is the easiest time to maintain your weight – or lose weight if that is what you are trying to do. For me this is simply not the case. In fact, with the sheer exception of Christmastime, summer is the hardest time for me to stay on the straight and narrow from a dietary point of view, and the time when I have to exercise more, not less.

I think the main reason for this is picnics. We have the good fortune to go to lots of picnics in the summer. The best so far this year was my friend’s birthday picnic in late July. It was idyllic. We sat in the sunshine in the grounds of Calke Abbey, one of the Midlands’ most beautiful estates (I can’t say I like the inside of the house, it is spooky, but the grounds and gardens are incredible) drinking champagne and eating the most wonderful delicacies. As the afternoon wore on we progressed to cakes, chocolate covered cherries (not the pre-packaged ones, actual cherries dipped in melted organic chocolate) and other lovely treats. We ate virtually all afternoon. It was wonderful. The company was super and it really was one of the highlights of the summer so far. Most picnics we attend follow much the same formula, and always involve tons of lovely food and treats. Even if we are watching an outdoor performance of some description and I have packed the picnic, I find it impossible to exercise any restraint whatsoever. On the contrary, a picnic for me is an excuse to try the new and different with absolutely no consideration of their calorific value. I also eat more pastry that at any other time of the year in the form of beautiful vegetable tarts and quiches. In the winter, Pilates and aerobics keep my stomach relatively flat (although my hips will never be as slim as I would like them to be) and me in pretty good shape. In the summer, it takes extra sessions of Pilates and lots of walking as well as the aerobics to maintain the status quo. In the winter I would never dream of drinking at lunchtime. However a summer picnic is the perfect excuse to try some lovely bubbly at any time of the day (provided one is not the designated driver of course!).

A secondary reason I find summer a challenging time to stay in shape is ice cream. Fairly easily ignored during the winter, ice cream is the most wonderful summer treat. Occasionally to my horror I find myself having some nearly every day (which can be a disaster). Thankfully I have discovered some incredible sorbets by Bottlegreen this year which make it no hardship to skip the ice cream and have sorbet instead. Except if someone happens to have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sandwich to hand in which case I find resistance is nearly impossible.

My family and I always eat lots of fruit and vegetables. In the winter I take advantage of the fact that produce from other countries is available and we have strawberries, melons. blueberries and whatever other fruit is tempting and on the supermarket shelves. Of course there is more variety of fruits and vegetables available in the summer, but the sheer amount we eat does not change, only the sorts of fruit we might eat. Nor do I hesitate to serve salad in the depths of winter. My tastes do not change just because the season has and you are just as likely to find Salade Niçoise on my table in November as in July or August.

It isn’t that I have put on tons of weight or anything. On the contrary my size remains the same. It is just so much more work in the summer! And it is so incredibly frustrating when every piece of media I see, from newspapers to magazines, insists that this is the easiest time to stay fit and trim. I wonder if there is anyone else out there like I am, or if I quite simply am quite the opposite of the norm because categorically, for me, summer is the most difficult time of the year to keep my shape.

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