When I was in my last year of high school I got really into working out. It was the beginning of my three-year-long ‘exercise junkie’ period. I am probably the only person in the history of university meal plans who has managed to lose the frosh/freshers/freshman fifteen rather than gain it – and this is while dining all year on an all-you-can-eat dormitory meal plan.
My thinnification was helped along by a close-to-0%-fat diet (fresh, healthy food had come to university campuses by this point!) coupled with insane amounts of weight lifting, step classes and cardio sessions. Sometimes weight lifting followed by a step class followed by a cardio session. Somehow I didn’t perceive this as particularly out of the ordinary. I actually used to scoff and make fun of certain other highlighted, manicured blondes who were completely addicted to the gym. How could I not see that I was just like them?
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It can be difficult to acknowledge your own crazy behaviour sometimes, just as it’s difficult to notice how your own body is changing over time, which is why so many of us creep up or down on the scales without being aware of it. I think I finally realized I was taking things a little far when my housemate’s boyfriend referred to me as “your friend who’s too thin”. Unbelievably, it wasn’t meant as a compliment!
Looking back at photos now, I can see that I was underweight for my body type. My weight and crazy habits were put right by an indulgent year in Edinburgh during which exercise and low fat options were the last things on my mind, and ever since I’ve been slightly heavier. I’m a big believer that everyone has their own ideal range, and through sensible eating and moderate exercise, that’s more or less where you’ll stay. At least it’s worked for me so far!
This is why I don’t feel too guilty that I came in from a run yesterday evening and promptly wolfed down about two and a half of these large, crammed-full-of-yummy-stuff cookies. I eat vegetables, I walk everywhere, I go for the occasional run on a beautiful evening. So I’m happy to ‘cancel out’ a workout with fudgy indulgence. I think it all balances out in the end.
Double Chocolate Cookies with Cranberries, Toffee and Marshmallows
Adapted From In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley
Makes 32 to 40 large cookies. This recipe is easily halved.
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dutch process)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries or sour cherries
6 oz (170 g) bitter or semisweet chocolate chopped into small chunks
3/4 cup English toffee pieces, such as Skor Bits or crushed Werther’s Originals
1 cup mini marshmallows, or regular marshmallows snipped into pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick mats and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light in color and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in the chunky ingredients and mix until they are evenly distributed.
Drop the batter by golf ball-sized spoonfuls onto the baking sheets and bake as close to the centre of the oven as possible. Rotate the sheets once or twice. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until barely set in the centre and just firm around the edges. Cool the cookies on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before storing. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.