A Manageable Holiday Season
Sunday, December 23, 2012
This past Thanksgiving I attended an amazing turkey dinner with all the trimmings at the home of a local friend's family in lieu of visiting my own family. I did not necessarily restrict myself but I did measure my portions and track the calories, including a big slice of chocolate pecan pie for dessert.
As I learn the amounts of realistic serving sizes through repeated experiences and measuring, it has been hard to realize that other people actually manage to eat healthy portion sizes intuitively without measuring. They prepare foods with reasonably heathy ingredient choices and amounts. I arrive at the tables of other families with the expectations that they will only provide unhealthy options in huge portions and they will not know when to stop at one serving, only to be surprised when that doesn't happen.
Effectively I have been projecting my own food and family dining experiences onto everyone around me, and in doing so I made myself afraid of the prospect of a dinner at other people's homes.
And then I also go and am shocked when it is taboo to ask for the recipes and ingredient amounts so I can better calculate the calories. I have come to expect access to this information for the sake of my own health and satisfaction, not to steal family recipes. If I do not have the ingredients I can only make the worst assumptions about the calories.
So eating at the homes of other people does remain tricky but in different ways than I assume and expect. Out of all the varieties of pies out there, did it have to be the most calorie-laden possibility? But it was okay to indulge because I never expect in my lifetime to consume a full slice of chocolate pecan pie ever again (except in the event I would make a relatively low-calorie version myself).
I overdid it by about 600 calories at that dinner, and I worked out extra hard on the bike to offset the overage. The entire affair, pitfalls and all, turned out to be a very manageable weekend.
In retrospect it was only manageable because it was the only dinner I attended for the entire Thanksgiving season.
As we extend our families and make new ones, the expectations for Thanksgiving and Christmas are to engage in as many extravagant holiday dinners and parties as possible. With one dinner it's possible to burn it off with a good workout. Two, three, four, or even more? There's not enough hours in a month to offset such caloric gains.
Why do we do that to ourselves?
As a culture, we have distanced ourselves from what is healthy and normal in regards to eating. How we used to eat, what we used to eat, how much we used to eat, where we primarily eat, it used to be reasonable. But now we indulge in this culture of excess and we refuse to give up the additions, even though they are completely unnecessary for our bodies.
Since we are so distanced from reality, what is healthy and normal through a controlled and restricted diet looks to others abnormal and wrong. The way I eat now is a relatively good and effective system for keeping my body healthy, yet others would think my calorie counting is a condition in need of therapy.
We are living in a denial of our true circumstances. We are forgetting how to value food and why we must do so.
I know now what I need to do now for the holidays to remain healthy, happy, and reasonable with my needs to indulge: one party per holiday. That's it. That's what I can realistically and reasonably expect from myself.
In the process, it won't be about viewing the removal of additional dinner festivities as a loss. If I take away dinner opportunities, I'm not punishing myself. Instead I will be gaining the abilities to better control my food choices, my excess of expected calories, as well as the manner in which I can burn it off with only one to two workouts and prevent gain.
Indulging the full extent of an unhealthy holiday season seems inevitable. But this year and every year from here on out I'd rather give myself the gift of the restrictions and allow for a manageable holiday free of dread, guilt, weight gain, and regret. That's a loss to celebrate.