Shallots and rosemary give mashed sweet potatoes flavor without a deluge of fat. | Photo Courtesy Cooking Light's "The New Way to Cook Light."
Updated: January 27, 2013 1:56AM
It’s bah, humbug time. We’re talking about those minefields commonly associated with the holidays: overspending, overstressing, overdoing and undersleeping, oversensitivity, overimbibing and — the biggie — overeating.
Not surprisingly, all of the over-indulging is connected. You overspend, you turn to pumpkin doughnuts and a box of chocolates to calm your fears of impending debt. You overstress, you stop for freshly baked sugar cookies and hot cocoa with whipped cream. You overdo and undersleep, you turn to pecan pie and caffeine-laden white mocha lattes. You become oversensitive with friends and family, you turn to brandy-spiked eggnog. You overimbibe, your willpower wanes and, you guessed it, you overeat.
I know. I’ve lived it. And still live it even though my husband, Jerry, and I collectively weigh 175 pounds less than we did last holiday season. Beginning last January — after Jerry was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes the last week of 2011— the two of us waged all-out war on our obesity by increasing exercise (daily walking 9 miles and riding a stationary bike at least 5 miles) while drastically decreasing calories. By October, my husband of 41 years had lost 100 pounds, was off of seven medications, and was declared free of diabetes. I had lost 75 pounds.
But now come the holidays — the dreaded holidays. Double gulp.
Though recent studies have shown the typical American gains only 2 or 3 pounds during the holidays — and not the 6 to 8 pounds originally thought — the bad news is that pounds gained during the holidays aren’t lost and become added to the increased poundage per year that has obesity in the United States at its highest levels. Plus — and let’s be honest here — those of us who have been lifetime overeaters and recently lost weight are the most at risk of falling off the wagon.
It’s time for all of us to face reality: At the end of the holiday season, either we will weigh more, weigh less or weigh the same. It’s up to you — and me.
Because it’s up to us, it’s imperative we have a strategy — a plan that thwarts eating two pieces of Aunt Edna’s irresistible pecan-pumpkin pie, drinking too much rum-heavy punch at the office party, gobbling “only the broken” still-warm chocolate chip cookies you’ve made for the cookie swap, unconsciously devouring a tin of Garrett’s caramel corn while wrapping presents at midnight, and embracing old habits when meeting out-of-town friends for pizza and beer.
Maybe it’s a strategy that dictates providing trays of fresh veggies and fruit for a holiday get-together (so you have something sensible to munch on), sending leftovers home with your friends who don’t have weight worries (out of sight, out of mind), substituting fat-free sour cream and a healthier version of cream of mushroom soup in your green bean casserole (and not sharing your secret), toasting others with a glass of sparkling water rather than champagne, and/or adding 20 minutes of exercise before retiring for the night.
Or perhaps it’s a strategy that includes making healthier recipes for holiday favorites (such as the Vanilla-Bourbon Pumpkin Tart, Apple-Poblano Whole Roast Turkey, and Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Shallots in Cooking Light’s The New Way to Cook Light cookbook), opting for a thin slice of roast turkey and half a baked sweet potato topped with just a smidgen of brown sugar, choosing a restaurant with a menu rather than an all-you-can-eat buffet, or skipping the doggy bag (since the leftovers were for you, not your pooch).
Your goal is simple: You want to survive the holidays without gaining weight.
Sandy Thorn Clark is a local freelance writer.