It begins with a few extra pieces of candy corn on Halloween and ends with the last crumbs of coffee cake at brunch on New Year's Day. It's like a gun going off at the beginning of a race: "Let the feasting begin!"
And on January 2, we wake up, resolutions in hand and try desperately ... again ... to undo the damage done in a few short weeks of partying. We resolve to hit the gym, eat healthy foods and stop drinking, smoking and eating sugar. We have completely unrealistic expectations of ourselves and by February 1 have given up and fallen back to the very habits that got us into this depressing state in the first place.
Well, no more! It's time to say that you're mad as hell and you're not gonna do it like this anymore. It's time to end the insanity that has become the holidays and get through the season with your health intact.
First, it's time for a bit of a reality check. We go through the holiday season giving ourselves permission to eat what we like. Take Thanksgiving. It's one day, right? How much harm can we do in one short day? Try on these statistics. The average woman, whose caloric intake is about 2,000 calories each day will likely scarf down more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on that holiday dedicated to stuffing things. What are you to do? Crush Auntie Laura by refusing that extra helping?
No, but sure-fire tricks to get you through the day is to avoid snacking and munching before dinner. You can take in almost 10 percent of your day's calories in those little handfuls of nuts, cubes of cheese and samples as you hang out in the kitchen before the feast. On the other hand, don't let yourself get too hungry before dinner or all your good intentions of controlling your portions will go right out the window as the perfumes of the meal intoxicate your senses and you throw caution ... and your waistline to the wind. Just eat sensibly for breakfast and even lunch (depending on the time of the feast) and then eat normally when seated for the main attraction of the day. And you know this one, but I might as well reinforce it: Eat lots of veggies at each and every meal because they help you feel fuller for longer and give you all the essential nutrients you need for health and vitality. It's really not that great to be the person who can swallow a turkey whole in one sitting.
The kicker is that Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the decadence known as holiday celebrating. For the next four weeks, you will eat, drink and be merry. This is the time of year to gather our loved ones and celebrate, but let's try not to let it get totally out of hand, shall we?
As you hit the party circuit, remember that, on average, most hors d'oeuvres are about 100 calories each. Yikes, right? So as you graze the buffet table, it will be oh so easy to knock back hundreds of calories before you even eat dinner. And if the party includes a buffet, scan the whole table before loading your plate and focus on the foods you really want to eat. You won't have a plate laden with foods you don't really want and certainly don't need. And remember a few bites of anything that is richly flavored goes a long way, so eat slowly and savor what you choose.
And then there's the drinking. Lovely holiday parties and cocktails go hand in hand, so be mindful of what you might imbibe as well as what you might eat. Liquid calories do count. A 5-ounce glass of champagne weighs in at 116 calories if it's dry and 138 calories if it's sweeter. That same 5-ounce glass filled with white wine comes in between 110-120 calories depending on the variety and red wine will add between 114-120 calories to your intake. And yummy liquors? Amaretto has 266 calories in 2.5 ounces; Sambuca, 110; Cointreau, 198; Crème de Cacao, 246. You get the idea. Choose wisely.
Gives you yet another reason to drink responsibly; not as important as safe driving, but a good one nonetheless.
As for being merry? Is it possible to make merry if you're not gorging yourself or getting hammered? Yes, by being social and gathering with the people you love (and not being a buzz kill, lecturing them about how virtuous you are and how healthy your choices). There is more to the holiday season than eating and drinking. It's a time when people are a little gentler, going through the day with a little more kindness.
From Christmas trees to Hanukkah candles to Solstice and Kwanzaa lights, this time of year is called the "season of light" because it stands as a reminder that life renews itself in a great continuum of energy. The shortest day comes to a close; the next morning dawns, extending the light, just for a moment or two. Each subsequent day lengthens and brings with it new hope.
Rather than make resolutions that we know we will not keep (seriously, have you ever?), what if we made a simple commitment? What if we abandoned that bummer of an idea called a "New Year's Resolution" and turned ourselves into beings of light? What if we became the change we want to see in the world?
That may sound more ambitious and difficult than resolving to go to the gym, but in reality, it's not. Beings of light are simply those people who make the world a better place. When someone smiles at you, for no reason, you feel happy. That person was a being of light and your world became a better place. Help someone off the bus with their groceries and you become a being of light, making their world, and yours, a better place.
Imagine all of us doing one act of kindness a day; one thing that improves someone's world. No judgment. Imagine the light that would shine from neighborhood to neighborhood, throughout communities and cities, from coast to coast, all over the world.