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The Thorns on the Wreath
It’s a season for joyous celebration. Yet fear underlies it.
Festive music competes with an undertone of media advice telling us to have an elaborate plan of action to avoid weight gain through the holidays — like doubling our time on the treadmill, or eat a “healthy” snack before going off to the holiday party (in which we’ll invariably indulge in every delicious holiday offering anyway).
Serve this instead of that. Eat this instead of that. Do this, do that. Take a traditional dish passed down through the generations and replace it with a replica that looks vaguely similar to grandmother’s recipe but pathetically different in taste, texture and experience.
Who are we fooling? The wreath may look fresh, but it’s full of thorns.
Surviving holiday meals without gaining weight does not have to be complicated, and these should not be meals for which we arm ourselves with obsessive exercise and dietary strategies.
Let’s Relax and Enjoy the Season… Without Gaining Weight
No, I won’t make myself sound like the mundane advice you read in some health club newsletter, regurgitating recommendations to “fill up” on organic carrot sticks and piss-water Michelob Ultra during holiday parties.
Instead, I recommend that we submerge ourselves into the celebratory experiences cherished by countless countries around the world — by almost all of humanity. Whatever your faith or your celebration, you’re likely to spend this special time socially and ultimately around food.
Don’t be the odd person refusing a taste of auntie’s homemade pasta salad, if you actually want some. Don’t be the one passing up the homemade bread. Don’t be the one who rejects the pumpkin pie at the table. Definitely don’t be the one serving up sugarless, crustless, tasteless pumpkin pie.
But also don’t be among the millions entering the new year with the slight weight gain that tends to be permanent.
How do we enjoy the holiday feasts, then, and not carry new weight into the new year without an elaborate exercise or dietary strategy?
Exercise? Let’s Get Real
You already know that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet — and that includes overeating around the holiday.
Exercise and staying active throughout the day may help the body metabolize more calories, but don’t for a second think that killing yourself in the gym can undo what you’ll do at the table. (Killing yourself in the gym burns an extra ginger bread cookie — it’s comical and hardly worth the increased stress, inflammation, time, and obsession.)
Eating? Let’s Get Real
There are endless advice from experts to chose this food or chose that food as alternatives, and futile diet tricks that either no one follows or only add to overall food intake.
Forget the noise. Simply eat less before and/or after the feast. During the feast itself, don’t get into the fashionable practice of replacing traditional dishes with so-called healthier “alternatives” and diminish the meaning of a holiday meal.
Instead of listening to the impractical advice of eating something “healthy” before going off to the holiday party, just don’t eat anything at all — you can hold off until the party. There’s virtue in delaying gratification. (Chances are, even if you eat a snack before going to the party, you’ll still eat just as you would at the party anyway. I mean, let’s get real — it’s a holiday meal.)
In addition to skipping that pre-party snack, how about — gasp! — skipping lunch (or maybe even breakfast, too), and save even more caloric room for the party when you can intoxicate yourself with delicious food, drinks, family, friends and love?
How about taking a break from calorie intake after the feast, because you already know intuitively that your body will carry plenty of caloric energy to take you well through the next day?
Intermittent fasting. Enjoy your holiday for everything it’s worth. It’s OK.