The holidays unfairly coincide with shorter days and crappier weather. Am I alone in the belief that staying in my pjs all day and feasting on the remnants of a cookie swap is a totally legit way to pass December through March? Something about those simple, festively decorated carbs are soothing during this often brutal time of year. As I type this, by the way, a blizzard is battering my neck of the East Coast. Hot cocoa with melted candy canes, anyone?
Okay, I understand the impulse. Sugar can perk you up on a day where the sun disappears at 4:25 pm (not that I was counting). But unless you like the idea of buying a new wardrobe every winter, you gotta put the brakes on sometime.
Here’s my pep talk to you (and to myself as well, because my pants aren’t fitting so well these days).
1. Christmas/Thanksgiving/Hanukah only come around once a year. Those holiday feasts with your family are priceless. Next time you and your family gather together to break holiday bread (or bake cookies in the shape of Grinches), things will be different. Your kids might not believe in Santa anymore. Or maybe you will be married and spending the holidays with a different family! So why waste the energy of lamenting that third cookie you had for dessert? I hope you enjoyed it!
2. Christmas/Thanksgiving/Hanukah are OVER. Time to move on. I know with every fiber of my being you have had plenty of desserts and homecooking over the past 4-8 weeks. So get rid of the leftovers. Either send them home with some poor starving college kid or chunk it in the trash. Yes, it’s wasteful to just toss it, so next year make a note to make less food so it doesn’t go to waste.
3. No crash diets. Say it with me, “I [state your name] do solemnly swear I will not embark on any crash diet to atone for foods I wish I hadn’t eaten.” See principle number 1 (holidays happen once a year, so enjoy your food!) — you have no sins to atone for. Also, self-flagellation is a terrible way to atone for gastronomic indulgences. After several weeks of happy overfeeding, to put yourself on a cruel diet now will be doubly uncomfortable. Make every effort to return to the way you ate before the holidays.
Note: If you find a post-holiday eating plan that calls itself a “cleanse” or “recalibration” but encourages you to cut out any macronutrient (protein, fat, carbs), it is a crash diet in disguise. Stay away from it! You’ll only set yourself up for more misery later because no one can subsist exclusively on chicken breasts. Or rice cakes. Or grapefruits. Or plant juices. And once the cracks in your willpower appear, it’s a matter of time before the dam breaks and you eat yourself sick on whatever you’ve been denying yourself and decide there’s no point in trying to practice portion control and then you turn into some sort of eating vortex that, if left unchecked, will pull the universe into hell (although I may have this confused with the final episode of Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and no that’s not what I’ve been doing with my vacation time, I resent the implication).
4. Nourish yourself with stuff other than food. Paint your nails. Give yourself a facial. Read or re-read your favorite books. Watch trashy tv shows and secretly hope that THIS time, Angel doesn’t lose his soul, and Buffy doesn’t cut her bangs way too short in Season 3. Buy a pretty journal and write down all the things you want to accomplish in 2011, 2015, 2025… you get the picture.
5. Nourish yourself with nourishing food. I like to make big pots of veggie-rich soup to give my body the stuff it has been lacking during my cookie-fests. Once you’ve got a big pot going, you can settle yourself into more important things (like manicures or watching trashy tv). Lentil soup with veggies is a great one. Another favorite (and what I had for dinner tonight) is Turkey Meatball Soup (without the egg noodles). The idea is to give yourself lean protein, complex carbs and more veggies than you can shake a stick at because, let’s face it, veggies and Christmas cookies don’t go together and you probably have been skimping the last few weeks. I typically ignore the veggie suggestions in a recipe and add as much as the pot will hold. And I get fancy — potatoes, carrots, celery are great, but so are fennel, collard greens, kale, escarole and leeks. Served with a nice piece of toast there is nothing more nourishing than a nice bowl of soup.
I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year and to thank those of you that were part of my holiday indulgences this year. My social calendar was full of parties and brunches and cookie events with wonderful people. And that is something to truly be thankful for.