Holiday Feasting: Will You Ever Recover?
by Marjorie Dorfman
Where did the idea of holiday feasting begin? Who were the first people to roll home after overindulging and can we learn from their mistakes? Is there a way through the high-cholesterol, holiday maze? Read on for some lean thoughts on a rather fattening matter.
The concept of the holiday feast, as we sort of know it today is probably medieval in origin. A good feast lasted for hours, contained several courses and was designed to placate what was known then as the Four Humours. For the initiated, this has nothing to do with people who make others laugh in several different ways or additional ice cream flavors from a now defunct but well-meaning company. Medieval souls believed that the fundamental forces known as the four humors regulated the human body and that an imbalance would affect the feasters personality, feelings and ultimate behavior at the feasting table.
Hardly as poetic as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, the four humors were called: melancholy, which was hot and dry; choler, which was cold and dry; phlegm, which was cold and moist; and blood, which was hot and moist. (They called the wind Maria much later.) Food in those days was prepared and eaten in a manner meant to balance all of these "humorous" forces. In terms of serving food, this meant that dry food would be boiled to add moisture to it and a moist food would be baked to insure its dryness. Certain foods would accompany each other or be spiced in a particular fashion to counteract "excess humour."
Today, of course, things are completely different. Chances are this time of year your thighs are begging you to stop in the name of something and it isnt love. Your tummy says no-no to all the goodies on the holiday table, but theres yes-yes in your eyes. And why not? Its the holidays. You work hard all year. Cant you have a little fun, for Petes sake? (Was Pete skinny anyway, whoever he was?) Temptation lurks in every high cholesterol corner and behind the words of every excuse not to indulge. So what is a normal, law-abiding, God-fearing lover of sweets and other taboo things to do? How can you celebrate without over-doing it? Is such a thing possible or is it all just a gingerbread-encrusted, gumdrop dream?
Everyone, no matter what his or her background, has a fattening holiday feast story to tell and eat. The problem is that festivities and heavy-duty eating starts around Thanksgiving and continues for more than a month with no letup. This means your body doesnt have a chance (fat or otherwise) to recover from all the holiday parties and treats that so characterize the season. And theres no escape anywhere. Whether you prefer latkes fried in oil, marzipan, gingerbread, Swedish almond cookies, grog, egg nog or Italian zabaglione, your weight will more than likely swell in this what is sometimes called the "happiest time of the year."
So how can you avoid over-indulging without feeling deprived, not to mention depraved? Dont throw a plate at me, but how about considering the words of that old saying about moderation in all things? I am a diabetic, but I can still over-indulge in sinful sugar-free treats that creep up on thighs and buttocks in the most nasty and non-festive ways. (And I often do. Have YOU ever tried sugar-free Klondike bars? I warn you, its like crack-cocaine for the palette!) I know it is easier to say than do, but try thinking before you eat. The journey of a thousand calories begins with a single thought and subsequent bite, or something like that. Maybe the message will sink in the next time you find yourself in front of that wonderful delectable enemy, the buffet table.
But how can you resist? It all smells so good and its all free and you arent happy anyway and a million other things. The answer is that you cant completely resist and you do not have to. Try a little bit of everything, but eat the other stuff too, you know, the protein and the veggies. Have a treat but not JUST treats. That way, you get a bit of everything and dont feel you missed the boat or whatever vehicle was meant to transport you to that land of gluttony and sheer hedonism. (If they are only serving treats and desserts, its every man and woman for him or herself.)
If you are determined to eat it all in the way of holiday fare, be prepared to pay the price, whether that means more time at the gym or running or whatever. All actions are like ripples on the sea of consequences even though focusing on that is quite difficult when something in front of you "smells and tastes so good."
Here are some tips that might help you curtail your appetite for sweets when you go to a holiday party.
1. Eat before you go to the party. Have a full meal and you can just sip and pick among the best of them. You wont be too tempted because your stomach is full. Dont take stuff home either or all is lost.
2. Bring very thin people along with you to the party, wherever it is. They are a constant reminder of what should be, if you only could.
3. Walk home and to the party even if it is miles away. This way, if you slip up, you can work off whatever you did. (Avoid going to parties if a blizzard or rainstorm is in the picture for the evening. These things can really throw you off track.)
4. Only go to those affairs where everyone there weighs more than you do. A false sense of security is better than none at all.
So enjoy, if you can. Dont forget the four humours and remember to keep up your one sense of humor always. Theres no other way to get through this!
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