By Fit ‘n' Lazy Foodie - Healthcare industry veteran, certified fitness professional, lazy gourmand, English-language-abuser, attention-monger, and overall corny, snarky punk, just trying to kick it healthy-ish style in Chicagoland
Thanksgiving was last week, HECK YEAH! There's nothing like the flavor combination perfection of turkey-gravy-potatoes-cranberry sauce-green bean casserole, etc. OMG, yes. Everyone has their own favorites.
Let me just address a tiny bit of reality, for those that love Thanksgiving, but also kind of hate it and accept it as an inevitable beginning of 5-6 weeks of over-indulging, bloating, self-hatred, January woes, etc. (Did you not have the meat sweats on Black Friday?) You know what I mean.
Listen, if I could house down holiday food nonstop without consequence, you better believe I would have eaten three separate times on Thanksgiving, drank my face off in celebration/family boredom/annoyance, and crafted epic 7-layer leftover sandwiches ALL WEEKEND. And PIE! Oh dear god, I am not a sweets person, but I freaking love me some fruit pie. If you put a big slice of warm, tender, flaky crust with a mountain of dark, rich multi-berry filling spilling out from all sides, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, OHMYGOD, I would be going to pound-town on that. Yes please!
Oh, and then, here we are in December, I mean have you tasted real eggnog? Holy cow, that stuff is a party in your mouth. Holiday parties with lots of drinks, ridiculously fun appetizers and holiday cookies galore. I mean, how delicious is holiday season? You've probably been looking forward to having an excuse to eat like cray, all year long.
Oh but wait, stupid reality-check again. I've totally shifted my thinking about what food really is this past year, and I almost feel more free because of it. If you don't want the bad effects of over-indulging for the holidays to take over your life, consider this:
Think about what the holidays mean to you, first. My family is not super traditional, and holidays to me just mean some time off, less pressure at work because everyone else is checked-out, and reasons to get together with people and be a bit merry. Elaborate meals are probably the only reason my family even cares that much about holidays at all. Food = love in my family.
I know some other people get this huge, welling feeling of holiday magic and spirit in their hearts, relishing in traditions of making cookies and decorating and cooking special meals and listening to Christmas music and seeing loved ones in a jolly atmosphere. It's very heart-warming to be around people like this, for sure!
And then, for some people, holidays are a bit of a hassle - crazy travel headaches, boring/annoying family parties, obligatory work functions, etc. That sucks, but hey, it happens.
The common denominator in these situations is to think about what food and alcohol really means to the experience. Take a step back and consider these things.
Yes, your mouth really enjoys sugar and butter and bad fat and simple carbs, mostly because of an ancient instinct to get as much as you can, because it may be hard to come by (in the caveman era, though!). So, other than an instinctual addiction, making cookies with loved ones and smelling the kitchen and getting together to make and eat delicious, elaborate meals are mostly manifestations of the experience of loving the happy feelings you get when life slows down and you get to take time to enjoy people you love. Yes, the rich flavors in our mouths can invoke awesome memories and elevate the current experience, so enjoy them, definitely! Let me throw this out there though - if you only have 3-5 bites vs 30-50 bites, or 1-2 drinks vs 5+, are you really enjoying yourself that much less?
Now let's talk about people with holiday obligation and misery, and food and alcohol as a coping mechanism or social lubricant. Awkward/tense family Thanksgiving? It's super easy to drown yourself in food and alcohol to survive. Boring work party with a significant other? I bet it's super tempting to alternate hovering at the appetizer table and getting a bit tipsy to amuse yourself or loosen you up to have a conversation with Stan from accounting. Or maybe you just want to sit at home in baggy sweatpants and be grumpy about the weather, or being single, or hating life, while making and eating an entire batch of cookies, because you can hide in sweaters for the next few months, anyway. (I've been guilty of this!)
So what am I trying to say? Let me sum it up.
1) Delicious food is awesome, and worth tasting, yes. Enjoy in moderation. Try to limit 3-5 bites of super rich things, and savor it.
2) Love for the holidays is mostly about the people and experience. Maybe have a spa day instead of cookie making day? Or a family laser tag outing. Or a big game night! Make people the center of the experience, not the food. At least in your mind, if others aren't on board. (And you don't need to announce or preach to people, just keep it to yourself :))
3) Hate/annoyance for the holidays is probably about deeper issues you may want to address. I'm not judging at all, I want you to be happy in your life! If you have to get tipsy or drunk or stuff your face to tolerate or enjoy a situation or certain people, maybe reevaluate these things instead of suffering through them. Do they want you to be around if you're miserable? Probably not, so maybe skip the holiday and schedule a more low key outing another weekend, or plan just to come and smile and be happy for a couple hours and have a kind excuse for leaving. Life is short, find a way to be happy.
So, everyone, load up on delicious protein and veggies and a little fruit before big meals and parties (shrimp cocktail and crudités = your holiday BFFs for survival!). If you know you need more than 3-4 drinks to have fun, then schedule something different to do after or instead altogether! After 1 eggnog or sugary specialty cocktail, switch to light beer, wine, or clear liquor and club soda with lime, and alternate drinks with water. Skip the bread and cheese snacks, you can have them any time of year, if you really want. Leave room for a few bites of bacon-wrapped dates and bacon-wrapped scallops and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and gosh darn PIE!
Life is short. Be happy. And know how to make room for a few bites of delicious pie! Yeah!
Cheers and GO HEALTH!