Canapes, Crepes and Cookies…Oh My!

…or, How to Avoid the Horror of the Holidays…

Yep, it’s that time of year again, and I am already dreading the endless parade of tempting, tasty but absolutely terrifying (from a healthy eating point-of-view) food.

Now, do not get me wrong: I love me some cake.  Or eggnog.  Or turkey and stuffing…or…well, just about any of it.  Suffice it to say, I grew up on all this stuff just like the rest of you.  I’m hardwired to crave comfort foods as soon as the temperature drops and my family starts to coalesce around my mother’s house to drink wine and eat things like lasagna, turkey, raviolis, smoked ham, and plenty of bread.  On the breakfast menu?  Eggs, bacon and sausage, toast, orange rolls (my mother’s specialty and a part of every Christmas and Easter in our house since my [older] brother was in diapers.  And awesome)…plus tons of coffee and eggnog and orange juice and…well, you get the picture.  There’s a lot of food going around and it’s not exactly easy to ignore it, especially when it’s part of your DNA.

So what’s a gal to do?  I know that many of you find yourselves in similar situations essentially from just after Halloween until sometime in mid-January.  That’s a long time to keep having “just one little taste”…because if you add up all those “little tastes,” they’ll equal at least a few pounds of disappointment.

Damn.

So, I’m going to do you a favor this week.  I’m not going to wave a wand and make all the yummy food suddenly somehow un-yummy.  But I am going to offer a few strategies for handling the chaos so that you can go to those holiday parties, eat that Thanksgiving dinner, stay over a few weekends at your in-laws’…and still respect yourself in the morning.

 

1.  Don’t even TRY to avoid it all.   Look, let’s be honest with ourselves.  You’re gonna eat something.  It’s just a matter of time.  Trying to stay on the wagon only means you’re going to hit the ground that much harder when you fall off.   That being said…

2.  Be gentle with yourself.  It’s ok.  We’re not judging.  We’re all in the same boat.  So you want the cheesecake…no sweat.  Don’t beat yourself up…and now that you’ve made the decision to eat it, enjoy the hell out of it.  That’s right, savor it.  Slow down, and chew each bite like you’ll never get the chance again.  Come to think of it…

3.  Chew everything you eat well.  When you focus on the chewing, it makes you think more about what you’re putting into your mouth.  It slows you down, helping you enjoy the unique flavors and textures of all that cool stuff nobody makes except during the holidays, because it takes way too long and makes a mess out of your kitchen.  It also gives your body time to get the message to your brain that you’re full, so you’re less inclined to keep shoving food into your pie-hole.  (Extra bonus: you break your food down more so that digestion is easier on your stomach, meaning you might avoid the gassiness and bloating that come from indigestion when you horse down all that rich food.)

4.  Don’t starve yourself.  Lots of folks will avoid food all day in anticipation of a big holiday dinner because they know there’s going to be tons of free food there.  Instead of going on the Cambodian camper plan the day of a big feast, follow your normal routine; eat a good breakfast, make sure you feed yourself healthy snacks throughout the day, maybe go for a nice run or a walk to get your endorphins going so you don’t feel quite so sluggish later.  Then when you get to the dinner/party/etc. you’ll be less likely to start snarfing appetizers as soon as you walk in the door, and loading your plate at dinner-time.  Which brings me to my next point…

5.  Take small portions.  Maybe your host will feel slighted if you don’t take some of everything.  I mean, they did cook, after all, and it took forever.  I get it.  So just take a little bit of each (unless you really don’t like that stuffing she always makes, and in that case, I think it’s totally legit to refuse.).  And honestly, you don’t have to tell anyone why; I hate the word “diet” and do not advocate using it, because with it comes a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions that no one wants to spend their holidays answering.  It usually just makes me want to eat more.

You can couple your smaller portions with…

6.  A physical gesture to signify “I’m done.”  Whatever that might be.  Maybe it’s as simple as pushing your plate away.  Or crossing your silverware over your plate.  Or taking your napkin off your lap and putting it on the table.  Or a combination of all three…whatever it might be for you, find a simple way to send your silly hands the message you’re through eating so they don’t keep picking at the food on the plate.

7.  DRINK WATER.  Are you sick of me saying this yet?  Come on…you know you’re dehydrated.  No judgment…I am too.  We all are.  But that’s not why I’m telling you this.  When you keep that water glass full, it serves two purposes: one, it helps to fill you up so you eat less.  Two, it helps satisfy that need to have a glass of something in your hand, so you’re less inclined to down that extra cocktail or glass of wine.  And if you just can’t stand plain water (I know you hydrophobes are out there…) then try club soda or seltzer with a little lime.

 

I hope some of this helps.  We all know the holidays are coming, and dammit, they should be enjoyable.  Let yourself fall off the wagon every once in awhile, so you don’t feel deprived.  You’ll live, and you’ll probably be happier for it.  Just don’t go crazy on the Christmas cookies…even if you do, I’ll still be here to help you pick up the pieces sometime in January, and to help keep the remorse from kicking in.

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