Monday, December 1, 2008

Welcome to The Holidays

Thanksgiving is over, our long-awaited Chicago trip is over, and Christmas is only 24 shopping days away. Even I, the mean-old-lady-in-training who cringes at the sight of Frosty making an appearance before the day after Thanksgiving, am starting to get in the spirit.

I may not be crazy about all the craziness around the holidays, but one thing I do like is the food. And there's plenty of it. The difficulty I have is that, while Christmas and Thanksgiving are only two days of special occasion, they have a way of turning into two months worth of it. My desire to eat healthfully is always undermined by that little voice that says "Oh, but it's a special time of year. You won't get X until next year." Unfortunately, when that happens every day, treats become the norm rather than a special occasion.

Even though his message is about being frugal with money rather than with calories, The Simple Dollar has this post about how to keep treats special.

First, he asks readers to identify treat-become-habit and STOP. If Starbucks used to be a once-a-week special Saturday trip but is now firmly fixed in your morning routine, stop going to Starbucks. If eating a treat out of the break room used to be reserved for Friday afternoons and now, with the profusion of treats during the holidays, you find yourself there every afternoon, STOP.

That's the point where my inner 8-year-old starts to whine, "But you never let me have any fun. Why can't I eat a cookie at Christmas?? Everyone else is doing it. It's only this once?" And honestly, it's pretty easy to cave at that point (at least for me).

This is where The Simple Dollar's second suggestion comes in. Replace the treat-habit with something you like just as much but is more in line with your goals. Create an enjoyable morning habit that involves brewing your own coffee. Find an afternoon snack that satisfies your desire for junk in a more healthful way (maybe an apple with peanut butter).

One thing I've taken away from reading from/about people who have really good physiques is that they don't get where they are by treating diet as a form of punishment. When asked how she eats the way she does (one could call it Spartan) to keep her great figure MizFit says simply that she only eats stuff she really enjoys. She just chooses things she enjoys that fit with her goals. Clarence Bass has the same approach.

The only exception to this rule I've found is ChickenTuna who says she hates exercising and eating right but is content to do it because she wants to be hot (and she most definitely is).

Based on these ideas, my goal for this holiday season is to pick a few days to enjoy all the tasty Christmas foods but to commit to limiting myself to those few days. I think this will allow me to enjoy holiday treats even more because they will still seem special and hopefully spare me the Christmas 5.