Aspen Untucked: Easing holiday anxieties
November 16, 2017
Hard to believe it, but the holidays are almost here!
The Thursday this column comes out, we have exactly seven days until Thanksgiving, 26 days until Hanukkah, 39 days until Christmas, 40 days until Kwanzaa, 41 days until National Fruitcake Day (yes, that's a real thing) and 45 days until New Year's Eve.
With the holidays upon us, we're looking up turkey recipes, making our Christmas gift lists and getting out all of our ski gear.
But, while this time of year is very joyful, it can also be stressful on our figures. Our rock hard summer bods that we worked for in the spring are under attack. The culprits include pumpkin pie, cheesy cheddar potatoes, turkey smothered with gravy and stuffing and don't even get me started on the spiked eggnog, apple cider and mulled wine drinks (drool, drool).
With all of the delicious dishes and drinks present from Thanksgiving until the New Year, it's easy to leave our inhibitions behind and revel in pure, sugary excess.
Personally, I adore the holidays. A huge reason for that is it's a time to spend with loved ones. Another important ingredient to holiday fun is, of course, the food and drink. Without loved ones and proper edibles, the holidays would not be so merry. But, I also have an extreme amount of anxiety about gaining weight during this time. This fear is exacerbated this year because I've been injured for the past few months and haven't been able to do much cardio. I'm already feeling like a couch potato and a side of green bean casserole, while delicious, isn't going to help my problem.
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As if the universe heard my anxieties, an email landed in my inbox last week from a media relations strategist. She was sharing a Harris Poll conducted in September on behalf of Truly Spiked & Sparkling. Now, if you haven't tried Truly Spiked & Sparkling, it's an experience worth having (see Libations, page 12). The drink is essentially boozy sparkling water. The incredible thing about this canned concoction is it's 5 percent alcohol and only 100 calories, and it's a pretty damn good beverage.
Anyway, Truly Spiked & Sparkling had a study conducted at the end of September. It surveyed 2,230 U.S. adults, ages 21 and older. Questions on the online survey were about weight gain during the holidays and how caloric alcoholic beverages fit into that. Some of the findings from the survey were surprising to me. For example, it found that 50 percent of Americans would rather give back five gifts than gain five pounds during the holiday season. Also, 42 percent of those studied said that the temptation to indulge in unhealthy food and beverages creates a big stressor for them over the holidays. And, 21 percent feel like they don't enjoy the holiday season fully because they're concerned about "breaking their wellness routine."
Reading these stats actually comforted me because I realized that I'm far from alone when it comes to food and drink anxieties during the holidays. However, it also helped me understand that, if so many of us are concerned with our weight from mid-November to the first of January, we can figure out a few strategies to keep the calories off.
For me, a strategy is to get more involved with the making of each dish this year, so I understand the ingredients that are going into what I'm eating (sometimes that in itself is enough to make me uninterested in eating it). Often times, recipes call for a lot of butter, cream or sugar, and not that much is actually needed. When I make pumpkin pie (which is without a doubt my absolute favorite pie on this planet) I actually cut the suggested sugar amount in half. Pumpkin is sweet enough without needing cups and cups of sugar in it.
Another option, if you prefer to stick to the clear-cut recipe, is to simply eat less. No, that's not fun, but it can make a big difference when it comes to weight gain. Some ways to eat less, and more importantly not overeat, are drinking a glass of water before a meal, opting for more vegetables, which are low-carb yet filling, and controlling the portions that get onto your plate. And, when it comes to having seconds, give your body some time to digest the food you just had before rushing back to the buffet table. Research suggests it can often take the brain about 20 minutes to register if you've had enough to eat or not.
As for strategies to limit booze, I've never been an expert in that department. Truly Spiked & Sparkling would obviously like us to use that drink as a low-cal option, and it is a good one. The Skinnygirl Cocktails are also adequate if you're craving a margarita, pina colada or vodka drink. Aside from liquor brands, simply drinking less is rarely a bad idea. Try drinking a glass of water between each drink or even opting for club soda from time to time. It'll keep the calorie count down and help ensure that you don't look like a drunk buffoon around your fellow revelers. After all, everyone always remembers the person that got too drunk at the Christmas party.
And finally, my last tip of advice, which I need to learn to follow, is don't be too hard on yourself. The holidays are for celebrating and if you stuff your face with nog or cinnamon rolls, don't kick yourself over it. All that will do is make you more frustrated and worsen an already strained relationship with your food. Give yourself a break.
As Oscar Wilde once said: "Everything in moderation, including moderation." The holidays are a time for indulgence and fun. Keep moderating in mind, and make sure to take care of yourself, but don't be afraid of going back for seconds or having an extra glass of wine. After all, it is a time for celebration.
Barbara Platts will not be celebrating National Fruitcake Day. She just doesn't like those sugary things. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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