2021 is rapidly passing; it has been a stressful year in many ways, but still we look forward to the holiday season. The days are short, the air cool, and trees are gorgeous in their autumn array. Street banners and storefronts are proclaiming that the holiday season is well underway. Halloween is behind us but perhaps we have a few little trick or treat goodies left. (Or maybe even a full bag bought from the discount bin since the stores needed to make room for the Thanksgiving specials!) Thanksgiving will soon be upon us. Hopefully we are grateful for our blessings and can pause to reflect before the Christmas rush of shopping and parties.
Who can resist those warm cookies right from the oven? Or a mug of warm cider, or a fresh apple pie? Or how about warm spinach and artichoke dips with crackers? As the weather chills it is very easy to sit back and munch our way through family gatherings and football games or movies on television. Lounging with a good book before the fireplace is also an inviting fall activity. Summers are full of energy with yard work and picnics, boating, hiking, camping and other such activities to fill the long days. And winter might mean weekend trips to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding, and shivering to keep warm. But autumn is relaxed, mellow, and a time when we tend to relax more. And the season of feasting has begun and will take us through New Year’s and onto the Super Bowl in January.
Obesity may soon overtake smoking as the most preventable cause of death. It can lead to chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and back pain. The average American adult is 25 pounds heavier than just 40 years ago while only an inch taller. Our children are heavier too and the rise in childhood diabetes and obesity is causing great concern. Americans consume huge portions of food and get far less exercise than we did in the past.
Life is to be enjoyed and this includes the harvest bounty of culinary delights. The challenge before us is to enjoy the celebrations without gaining too many extra pounds and feeling sluggish. There are several ways to accomplish this. Savor what you choose to eat. Chew slowly, and instead of three bites gobbled in haste, take one that is really enjoyed. Don’t eat indiscriminately—choose well and what you like. Try new foods, especially those without rich looking sauces and creams. Drink water before a meal and between soft drinks or spirits. For every brownie at a party, have a veggie as well and carry your food away from the buffet table. Baking season is here—have a cookie or two (not 10) then freeze them until needed for whatever occasion arises. Sip tea (with just a bit of sugar, honey, or sugar substitute) while you bake. This will fill you a bit, and give a warmth that will lessen the sweets cravings. And a cup of soup really can be as satisfying as a candy bar from the vending machine.
Exercise! You don’t need a heavy workout if time is limited. Park farther away from the shopping center entrance. Take the stairs. Dance when a good song comes on the radio. Do car isometrics. Sing out loud. Play with your children and grandchildren (or cat or dog!). Ride your bicycle. Standing for a while instead of sitting will use more calories at work. A few bends and stretches every few hours will rev up the circulation and tone your waist and legs. A 30-minute walk before or after dinner, rather than lounging in front of the TV, is good for the spirit as well as the body.
Put those special holiday clothes on display where you will see them daily. Visualize how great you’ll look and realize that this is more important and more satisfying than the extra handful of potato chips or the second helping of a calorie-laden meal.
The holiday season does not have to mean weight gain. A careful balance of discretion and indulgence will keep you healthy, focused, and enjoying this beautiful season. Don’t obsess; just be diligent so that you stay happy and healthy. We can feast and stay fit!