It’s not a modern concept to use the New Year as an opportunity to review and reset. The month of January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways and he is depicted with two faces, one looking forwards and one looking back. One turned to the past, one to the future. January is a tricky month. The sparkling lights, cosiness, goodwill and excitement of the run up to Christmas have dissipated, leaving a sense of anti-climax, loss and disappointment. Too much has been eaten, or drunk. Said, or spent. Another year has passed. More regrets.
But January is just the month after December: no different to April being the month after March, or October after September. Maybe we shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves just because of a date. It’s a lot easier to make small changes over time than one large change overnight. And a lot easier to stick to. So although I’m struggling to not look back at all the things I promised myself I would achieve this time last year without feeling an abject sense of failure, I think my yoga teacher was right when she said in her first class of the year that it’s really important that we don’t ‘punish’ ourselves in January for what we did in December. And while she may have been referring to too many mince pies and cocktails rather than a whole year’s goals, I think the sentiment is the same. Look forward instead of back. We need to be a little bit kinder to ourselves, accept our limitations and work with them, rather than against them. I need to look at making small changes that are achievable rather than somehow expecting a sea change which, if I’m going to be realistic, would probably need me to acquire a complete new personality overnight.
So this year I am going to set myself smaller, achievable targets and I’m hoping the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. I’m going to be more accountable with my Accountablity Partner (you can read about that here, along with some of the things I was going to do last year(!)) and I think that will help with ensuring my short term goals lead into my longer term plan. Some of the best advice I’ve had recently is to aim to do one thing on my list every day and forget the rest until tomorrow. It might not intuitively make sense but if you focus on achieving one important thing rather than panicking about how much you have to do and only half finishing bits and pieces here and there, you end up achieving something. That gives you the mental space and time to tackle other smaller things on your list the same day. Which is how I’ve managed to write this blog post at last – it’s been one of several major items on my “I really need to do this asap” list for over a month.
So if you’re worried about eating more healthily and losing weight, maybe punishing yourself and giving up cake, alcohol and fun in January and hating every moment of it is not the best way to achieve it. Why not choose a smaller, more achievable target that can be sustained over time? Maybe aim to eat a smaller slice of healthier cake every now and then instead of giving up everything and bingeing when you lose heart? Have one or two drinks at the weekend instead of going cold turkey for a month and back to half a bottle a night in February? Join a running group and get free exercise outdoors while making new friends – you’ll be too tired to be worried you’re not going out and you’ll have a whole new set of friends you can spend time with outside a coffee shop or pub. So although it’s January this is not a recipe for a cleansing juice or soup. It’s cake and it’s chocolate. It’s not a low calorie, fat-free option, but the calories come from a list of so-called ‘superfoods’: pistachios, almonds, cacao and pomegranate, and it has “good” sources of fat and sugar. It’s not a sugary hit of empty carbs and saturated fat like so many store-bought cakes. It’s naturally gluten- and dairy-free and I think is paleo-friendly (I don’t know if baking powder and xanthan gum are acceptable for paleo diets but you could leave them out). And not only does it taste delicious, it looks beautiful too.
200g light olive oil or coconut oil, melted
200g light brown sugar or coconut sugar
150g ground pistachios
100g ground almonds
40g cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)
50g dark chocolate
Set the oven to 175°C and grease and line the base of an 8″ loose-based cake tin (springform if possible).
Put the oil , sugar and eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for a minute or two to combine.
Add the ground pistachios, ground almonds, cacao powder, baking powder and xanthan gum (if using) and mix well again.
The mixture will be quite liquid. Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for around 50 minutes – 1 hour, until the cake is well risen, browned and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tin for a while before removing and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the topping:
Roughly chop the pistachios.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl, either in the microwave or over a saucepan of hot water. Be very careful not to over heat.
Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the top of the cake and then sprinkle the pistachios and pomegranate seeds over the chocolate.
Enjoy in moderation and without added guilt!