Holiday Eating.

As a Registered Dietitian, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “how do I get myself to avoid all the delicious foods around Christmas/Thanksgiving/etc.?”

It’s true that many people will put on some weight during the holiday season.  It’s also true that the added weight tends to stay on throughout the year which can inevitably compound the problem.

However, this happens to be my most FAVORITE time of the year and I refuse (refuse!!!) to feel guilty for indulging at a Christmas party.  And I refuse (REFUSE!!!) to say no to the second cookie.

Besides.

Christmas is one day out of 365; there’s obviously more to weight gain than one day alone.

My solution?

I eat what I want on any given holiday.  Do I want gravy on my mashed potatoes?  YES!  Do I want an extra dessert after dinner?  YES!  Do I want a glass of wine with my meal?  YES!

The secret, of course, is balance.

My solution is to cut back just a little a couple days before and a couple days after.  I might have a large veggie salad with an egg or some beans for lunch.  I’ll have a light breakfast of yogurt and fruit.  I’ll swap out my usual late night dessert of dark chocolate and add in a cup of green tea.  Nothing too dramatic and nothing that leaves me feeling deprived or starved.  Just enough to balance things out.

What do you do when you spend a little too much on that cute pair of shoes?  You cut back on a couple of other little things until it all evens out.  (Or you save a little extra beforehand.)

It’s just like that.

Life.

And holiday eating.

It’s all about balance.

Easy-Peasy Pizza

This is the current state of affairs in our kitchen.

My Dad is in the process of replacing the floor.  Which means the work station is pushed to the left, groceries are piled to the right, and who knows where any of the various pots and pans are now located.

So, amidst all of this craziness, lunch and dinner prep has been…well…interesting.  We’ve been mostly sticking to things that require little mixing and blending, like salads or soups or things like that.

There’s also been pizza.

Homemade pizza is probably the best thing ever invented.

Think about it.  Whole wheat crust.  Tomatoes, onions, broccoli, olives, more onions (because that’s how we roll around here.)  And cheese.  This is a completely balanced meal and it could not be easier to make.

When I have the time (and…ahem…space), I like to make a slow rising crust that develops into this warm, doughy bite of heaven.  But when things get a little crazy and cramped, this pizza recipe will do just fine.  No rising, no waiting, no fussing.

Easy-Peasy Pizza

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • additional toppings: favorite sauce (I use canned diced tomatoes, drained, with lots of garlic powder, fresh basil and oregano added in), low-fat cheese and veggies of your choice
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir in remaining ingredients until stiff ball forms.  Let rest about 5 minutes.
  2. Spread dough out on sprayed cookie sheet.  Add sauce and veggies.  Top with cheese.
  3. Cook at 425 for 18 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Enjoy!

Exercise.

First and foremost.  I hate the word.  Exercise.

The very thought makes me cringe, reminding me of when I was small and everyone wanted to get a little bit of “exercise” by going for a bike ride around the block.  The end result was pain, sweat, exhaustion.  To me, exercise always = torture.

And then I grew up.  And on came the freshman fifteen  twenty.  I decided that maybe the time had come that I could use some torture in my life.

I relented.

I tortured myself through morning sit-ups, as a friend and I would conjure up motivational phrases in an effort to convince ourselves that this was entirely worth it.  Later in the day, I tortured myself some more, courtesy of the dreadmill.

I even tortured myself through boring salads (i.e., limpy iceberg, tomato, cucumber) until I found out that the cafeteria was adding extra protein powder to all the greens, which explained why the more salad I ate, the more weight I gained (go figure.)

Exercise.

Torture, torture, torture.

I suppose you could call it an epiphany, the day that I decided that it was pretty stupid to be pushing my body through all the exercises that I hated.  I knew plenty of girls who loved working out at a very high intensity and that’s GREAT!  But that wasn’t me.  I couldn’t bring myself to love it no matter how hard I tried.  Besides, I realized that what I truly wanted was not found on the covers of magazines.  It wasn’t found on a Nike advertisement (sure I felt strong, but I looked nothing like those women!)  What I truly wanted was to be happy.  To love my body through high and low.  To respect myself in the same way that I respected others.

What I truly wanted was to stop fighting my body.  To finally be at peace.

After coming to this conclusion, I had to remind myself that there was life beyond sit-ups and boring salads.

First and foremost, I had to allow myself days of complete rest – a reminder that it was okay to just…stop.  And then I had to find movement that appealed to me, not just because it was going to burn more calories in less time.  It wasn’t an overnight thing; it was a slow process.  Sometimes I still have to step back and ask myself, “Sarah, why are you running?”  If I ever feel that running becomes tiring or that I can’t bear the thought of heading out for yet another run, I reevaluate and let my body rest.

In a nut-shell…

Exercise = torture.

Running = liberation.

There is some form of movement that makes us each feel happy and free. Dancing, yoga, biking, walking, running.

Once you find your favorite form of movement and learn to love how your body feels while doing it, the word “exercise” won’t cross your lips.  You’ll just be playing.  And absolutely loving it.

That Christmas Feeling.

The older I get, the more that I realize…

That Christmas “feeling” is not really about Christmas morning.  When I was small, it was all about the countdown.  The months, the days, the moment when all the paper would come off and I could finally bury my hands deep into my stocking.  Laughter.  Smiles.  A full morning of playtime with brand new toys (and eating candy well before 10am…hurrah!!)

Being an older, working adult (*gasp*), it’s easy to feel slightly lost around Christmas.  After all, it’s not like the thought of Christmas gifts is what captures my thoughts for the entire month of December anymore.  And I don’t dog ear the pages of toy catalogs in hopes that someone will take notice (well…unless you count crate and barrel as a toy catalog.) ;)

But.  Before you think this is another one of those depressing posts about how Christmas just isn’t the same as an adult, let me clarify.

I love Christmas.  I love it, perhaps, even more than I did as a little girl.  I am one of those hopeless sentimental sorts who enjoys traditions, memories, family, etc.  Nothing makes me happier than sipping on hot chocolate while decorating the Christmas tree and talking about all of the wonderful memories standing behind each ornament.  

Yes, it’s easy to feel slightly lost as an adult during the holiday season (it’s pretty common!)  With so many Christmas songs geared towards that longing to feel like a child on Christmas morning again, it’s easy to see why so many people feel there is something amiss.  But I’ve learned that it’s actually pretty silly to try and recreate that lens of a child.  Christmas isn’t really about having a certain “feeling.”  Christmas is a celebration of something special and wonderful.  An event that can literally change our lives completely.  That one little moment, when Jesus came to earth in the most vulnerable way possible.  

Christmas – to me – is also about family, friends, faith, (food!)

And felines (can’t forget Mr. Bogart!)

So.

This year I’m determined to focus more on the actual meaning of Christmas and less on the shopping and gifts.

Because that’s when Christmas truly “feels” right. 

That’s How Memere Always Did It.

Thanksgiving was Memere’s holiday.

Sure, she continued to cook throughout the year.  Simple yet delicious things like fried potatoes smothered in butter and onions.  Macaroni and cheese.  Ginger cookies with a dust of sugar.  But Thanksgiving was a day all of its own.  Memere knew what to do to make the holiday quintessentially perfect.  There were toasty warm rolls, potatoes with butter, cranberry sauce, carrots and green beans and stuffing.  The turkey is something we still all dream about and the dessert display left absolutely nothing to the imagination.

Yes.

Thanksgiving was Memere’s holiday.

A few years back, Memere passed away after a brief battle with cancer, and my mom has graciously taken on the roll of preparing the Thanksgiving meal ever since.  Sometimes my heart still aches when I think of Memere and the way she would smile with content to see all of us eating more than our bellies should have been physically able to hold.  Nothing made her happier.

But then.  Despite the bittersweet memories, I am happy.  Content.  Thankful and well beyond blessed.  Because our family is still gathering together in one place.  My mom continues to make the same warm, toasty rolls that sends butter into a state of oblivion.  The turkey continues to take center stage.  And the dessert table is still something to be remembered.

(and she still manages to take the time to dance to “Remember When” by Alan Jackson with my dad)

My family is not perfect.  We yell.  Sometimes we fight and scramble.  (I can remember Memere encouraging a good squabble now and then, as it’s – I quote – “better to let things out than to hold things in.”)  We’re not perfect but we’re family.  We love each other through it all, and we savor the old memories with the new.  Together.  In one place.  Carrying on the traditions of family and feast.

Because.  Really.  That’s how Memere always did it.

Dad Knows I Can.

I remember the day my Dad taught me how to fish.

I was small.  Don’t ask me how old I was exactly (I was somewhere between Polly Pockets and Barbies.)  It was the biggest deal in the world when Dad took me out on a canoe and taught me how to fish.

He always hooked the worms for me and I just squirmed before tossing the line into the great big lake.

Until, one day, he told me to hook the worm for myself.  I shook my head at first; but dad told me he knew that I could do it.  So I put on my big girl face and I did it.  We all ate trout for dinner that night.

Now my dad is teaching me other things.

Like.

Driving a standard.  This is no easy task (for dad or for me.)  There was one moment when I wondered what that burning smell was and then realized it was the clutch on my dad’s car (note to self: you shouldn’t start off on third gear.)  Sigh.  Poor dad.

(Poor dad’s car.)

But he’s ever so patient.  My dad.  Even when I see that slight grimace on his face (he is human, after all,) I know that he will take me out once again tomorrow.  And even though hooking a worm and driving a standard makes me quiver with fear, I do it anyways.

Because Dad knows I can.