Merry Christmas! It’s now December, the holidays have officially begun and singer Andy Williams relays it best: “It’s the hap-happiest season of all!” Though this is definitely true, as the month looms ahead with the many extras of shopping, gift-making wrapping, baking, and decorating and more, it’s hard not to mentally change the words to “It’s the mess-messiest season of all …”
With the almost laughable expectations of ourselves and others, it’s difficult (even with the joys of the gospel) not to further change the lyrics into ” It’s the stress-stressiest season , or even the depress-pressiest season of all .”
It’s time to get real: the first de-stresser may be to focus on simply healthy living to the best of our ability (and not gaining more than a pound or two) rather than on losing weight this month.
Though I am naturally optimistic, in reality the nuts and bolts of the holidays are like adding a full-time job to an already full life. And how do those of us who read this column cope? We eat, especially when there is more food and more sugary quick-fixes than ever before everywhere we turn.
When the rest of the world can have one sugar cookie, a piece of cake, or a hand-dipped chocolate or two as part of a celebration, some of us overeat these same things morning, noon and night, alone or with others, fully dressed or in our pajamas, in the kitchen and dining room as well as inappropriate food places such as bedrooms, laundry rooms and gift-wrapping areas. (I’m not alone, am I?) Time, location and hunger level don’t seem to matter as long as there’s something in our mouths. Why? Because we feel better as the taste of sugar makes the brain release natural opioids, the “feel-better-now” chemical.
All humans are predisposed to want sugar. Back when humans were hunting and gathering, sweet was a way to know safe foods, while bitter told us to stay away. One study done with pregnant mothers showed that their babies drank more amniotic fluid when it had been sweetened with an injection of a sugar solution. This proves what most of us know: we’re just plain born with a desire for the sugar stuff and have an automatic natural inclination to sweetened foods.
When you eat sugar (even in it’s other salty forms as with white potatoes, rice or the white flour used in salty crackers and snacks) your body overproduces the hormone insulin. The hormone mixes with the sugar, causing the blood sugar to drop. The fastest way to get it to rise again is – you guessed it – with more sugar.
No wonder we’re so high and low throughout the month as the cookies, candy and treats arrive (along with the personal demands) on every side. The easy answer, of course, is to say ” Set some realisitic boundaries and stick to them .” Hellllooo? Can you do this on your own? I know I can’t! We need more than that to tackle this one!
Here’s a Weight Loss Made Easy perspective: The Wise Men brought three gifts to the Baby Jesus. Here are three gifts we can give ourselves that say “Merry Christmas” to our bodies as we learn to say “No Thank You” to the overabundance the holidays bring.
- The Gift of Music: Say “No Thank You” with a Song. In my weight loss motivation classes, we often started December meetings with a Weight Loss Christmas Carol. Throughout this month, I’ll treat you to one each week with the lyrics and a link to hear the recorded MP3 featuring vocalist Liz Howard and LDS pianist Marvin Goldstein (who graciously allowed me to use his version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” from his Christmas CD, The Light Of Christmas .)
Sing it to yourself now, learn the words, or at least the chorus, and sing them each time you hear the song on the radio. These words will play in your head when the goodies arrive, along with the visualization of how you’ll feel about life and yourself come New Year’s Day. (You can hear the recorded version at my Christmas website, www.HealthyChristmas.com and see my book and audio-CD of more carols, “Have Yourself A Healthy Little Christmas.”)
Angels, We Will Be So Light
Christmas was a time to eat
Something rich and something sweet
Pounds I’d gain my pants got tight
This year I will do things right!
No – ohhh – ohhh No – ohhh No Thank You!
This is what I say.
No – ohhh – ohhh No – ohhh No Thank You!
This is how I find my way.
Christmas cookies, chocolate fudge
Made for pounds that would not budge
Better foods this year I’ll choose
My weight loss will be the news
Far more fun than food for me
Are clothes that fit and energy
Time and joy with those I love
These are gifts from heav’n above.
(Once again, Brother Goldstein, THANK YOU for allowing me to use your recording!)
- The Gift of A Schedule: Say “No Thank You” With A Calendar A written schedule, not a another sugar-cookie or divinity, is our best friend! Get out your calendar and a big fat red marker. Circle every social event where celebration food is acceptable and can be planned for.
When do these special events begin? When do they end? You will quickly see that not every day or every hour has a food-associated social function. There will be days – even blocks of them – when we can eat wisely and well without any interruption at all. Those that have events have hours around them and generally do not last more than 2-3 hours.
We can plan ahead, save calories for the event, and be sure to eat something light so we don’t arrive hungry. Air-popped popcorn nibbled in the car before arriving is a good trick. Another is to carry a low-cal drink with you at the party. That leaves only one hand for eating and is a natural way to limit calories. When leaving, it’s time to be done and end the event with a big drink of water, brushing our teeth and mentally turning off the party light switch.
Another secret for a healthy month is to plan ahead. Stock up on healthy quick-to-fix meals and snacks. Have several frozen meals tucked away. Though these often have a little more salt than we’d like, it’s a far better alternative than what the others may be eating. An abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, light soups, lean protein, whole grain breads and lots of water will tame the sugar beast that demands to be fed only more sugar. I repeat: Even on days when there are functions with holiday foods, they last for several hours, then they are over. It’s not all month, it’s a few events here and there that can be managed, once they are identified.
- The Gift of Reality: Say “No Thank You” with Realistic Expectations of Yourself and Others. “In general, wintertime is a little bit harder for people, but I think the bigger cause of holiday depression is unmet expectations,” says Dr.
Kenneth Johnson, a psychiatrist at Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee, Michigan.
“Decide for yourself what the holiday means for you and how you’re going to make it a good holiday.” In other words, adjust your expectations to match your current reality.
“There’s nothing magical about the holidays,” Dr. Johnson said. “If you don’t get along with your sibling or boss during the year, you’re not going to get along with her/him during the holidays.”
Understanding that before you arrive at the holiday party can make a big difference in how you feel when you’re putting your coat on to go home.
We should also take into account that the holidays may be a busy time at work as the last quarter of the business year ends. For women who work outside the home, they’re still trying to produce this old-fashioned Christmas, or bake cookies like Grandma did, we remember. Get real!
The doctor’s prescription?
“Take a stand.”
One example is his stand on gift giving. Dr. Johnson buys presents for the children in his life, but added, “I do not enjoy giving gifts to adults at Christmas other than my spouse, parents and close family members.”
In the 1800s, Dr. Johnson said, there was no tradition of giving gifts to other adults or other families. Parents bought one gift apiece for each of their children, and that was all.
One gift you can give yourself, Dr. Johnson said, is the realization that you don’t have to live up to the lofty ideals portrayed by television specials and ads depicting an idealized vision of the season.
In addition, those with a touch of the wintertime blues may want to try light therapy, Dr. Johnson said. During the low-light months of fall and winter, diminishing natural sunlight through shorter days produces more melatonin than normal for some people – enough to cause potentially debilitating symptoms of depression. But exposure to bright light, such as that from a light box, can suppress the brain’s production of melatonin, helping regulate your body’s internal clock and reducing symptoms. He recommends 10,000-lux units, and spending 30 to 60 minutes sitting under the lights first thing in the morning. “They’re great, and you don’t need a prescription for them,”
Well, let the season begin! The birth of the Savior marked the beginning of his earthly life and the significance of his own mortal body. I hope that His eternal example of self-mastery and love along with these three beautiful gifts in place for our own mortal bodies will make Christmas 2007 the hap-happiest, light-lightest and health-healthiest season ever for you.
Today’s Empowerment: “Christmas is a happy time for me! I take control! I’m a planner, I’m a doer and healthy eating priorities mean a happier holiday.”
Today’s Journal Prompt/Discussion Starters:
- Review the lyrics to “Angels, We Will Be So Light” and consider past Christmases. Project yourself to January 1, 2008, and the feelings you’ll enjoy as your clothing still fits and you review your healthy choices of December.
- Review the thought “The best things in life aren’t things.” What do you really want for Christmas that can be achieved with healthy living? Make a Christmas list and put it on the refrigerator.
Today’s Recipes: I have a number of very special recipes at www.HealthyChristmas.com! Check them out.