Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gleeful Glutton or Meager Eater?

(This is from a post I wrote for my favorite site Blisstree)
Yesterday I was reading a blog that referred to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as “The Eating Season.” I hadn’t heard this specific phrase before, but in my line of work, I certainly can’t escape talk of festive foods and highly caloric holiday treats during this time of year. Clients are fearful that they’ll indulge and backslide, and the media is full of strategies and tips (some coming from yours truly) to allegedly improve habits and quell this fear. I say “allegedly,” because I often feel like all this treat-talk and holiday help may be doing more harm than good.
 I would argue that there are multiple “eating seasons.” This month we’re thinking latkes, Christmas cookies, and chocolate Santas, but pretty soon it’s chocolates for Valentine’s Day, macaroons for Passover, candy on Easter, and — before you know it — time for some hot dogs and at least a few margaritas. So there’s actually no one time of year to fear, no Christmas conspiracy, just some holiday foods and parties to navigate just as you do other food-centric celebrations, so take a deep breath.
Pick your Pleasure
When I suggest navigating seasonal selections, I’m met with questions like the one Blisstree’s Christine Egan posited: “Can we discipline ourselves to not succumb to all those holiday food triggers, without feeling like we’re totally depriving ourselves of any and all holiday fun?”
My answer? If this season being an edible minefield is the first eating exaggeration, then the idea that budgeting has to be boring is the second. As adults, most of us are adept at impulse control. If not, I would’ve slept until 10 a.m. this morning (not 5 a.m.), skipped my workout, and grabbed a corn muffin on my way to work in my PJs (if I went to work at all). While my reality couldn’t be more different, I don’t feel deprived. And sure, there are always plenty of holiday food triggers, but availability doesn’t necessarily need to lead to indulgence. If that were true, I would’ve had cheese 20 times on my way to the office in addition to the corn muffin. So pick your pleasure.
I am someone who can live without a latke so with Hanukkah celebrations this past week I was fine to forego lotsa latkes. On Christmas Eve, on the other hand, I would gladly skip dinner or presents or Santa versus eschewing my brother-in-law’s homemade egg nog (spiked, of course). What are the holiday foods and beverages you think you cannot live without? I’ll grant you those, but you need to know the foods (other than fruitcake) that you can pass up. But this isn’t black-and-white situation; you don’t need to join the gleeful gluttons or the meager eaters.
Where there’s celebratory there should be Spartan
Finally, I'd like you to think of December 22 or December 28. These days aren't Hanukkah or Christman or Kwanzaa. You're not likely to attend a holiday party or gathering every single day. There are many days during the "eating season" that are "regular" December days. Keep these days slightly Spartan. Skip the sweets and the carbs and work out for an hour. If you implement a couple of these days per week, you'll balance out that egg nog and won't get mistaken for Santa Claus (okay, maybe make that a 90 minute workout).
What are your favorite holiday foods? What is your method for monitoring them?


  1. This might be inappropriate, but could you share your BIL's eggnog recipe?

  2. I love this post because it is at once forceful and forgiving. You are right to point out that we are adults and we exercise impulse control all the time. I like the idea of identifying our very favorite indulgences, but I do think there is an urge (in me at least) to fully let go from time to time, to eat what we want without doing any calculus, to enjoy. I admit that this attitude of laissez-faire eating can have its consequences, but I think it is important to acknowledge that the urge, the impulse to forgo control, is there in some of us some of the time...

    Great post. Now I want egg nog!

  3. I would take 10am, no work in pjs over any food, but you are right on with not completely deprieving yourself, but not going nuts either. My new (foodtrainerish) motto towards food is the same as my shopping motto...budget and always quality over quanity. If I want a pair if Jimmy choo heels, they better be timeless and beautiful. If I want a treat it should be a great one. And just like buying Jimmy choos alas I can not have a treats all the time!

    Will sent you nerdy answers to your email tomorrow!

  4. Marie, my BIL will not give me the recipe because he thinks if I see if i will not have it every again (my guess is eggs, cream, booze). Aidan, I hear you with avoiding "mental calculus". For clients that like days like this, they have to be few in number. Sometimes though a little pre-game strategy can leave you feeling better afterward. Melanie, I think being a treat snob, not saying you are a snob, is a great semi foodtrainer-ish strategy. I would argue though, as an ER doc, that you sort of do go to work in PJs. I would like to see the JC shoes with scrubs, that would be a look.

  5. L - Any tips on staying on track when none of your 'favorites' are at the party, you are just completely surrounded by unhealthy options? Three holiday parties this weekend, not a single lauren-approved snack in sight... Is the strategy moderation OR complete boycott