I find myself laughing and simultaneously grinding my teeth over all the hubbub about holiday political correctness. Was it right or wrong for Starbucks to change their cups during the year-end holidays? Is it right or wrong that I just called it “holidays” instead of Christmas? Who the bleep cares?
Seriously we are spending too much time worrying about hurting people’s feelings. I’m not saying let’s go back to the blatant racism and sexism of the 60’s, but I don’t really think that most reasonable adults, whether Jewish or Atheist, care if we call it Christmas. Likewise, I think stewardess is NOT an offensive title, and I really think it’s down right silly to label any Americans by a country-first title (i.e., African-American, Japanese-American). With this line of thinking would I be a Persian-American AND a Russian-American? After all, my Father was born in Iran, and I am first generation American born, while my Mother’s parents were all born in Russia, making me second generation American.
I know my soapbox issue today has nothing to do with fitness, except to say that if any of your day is spent worrying about how to address someone or if you said Merry Christmas when you should have said Happy Holidays, then it does add to your stress and you know I’m always addressing stress. Stress is the worst assaulter of your health and fitness.
Christmas is for most of us (even those who are Christian) a holiday that celebrates family, gift giving, feast partaking and song. It has little to do these days with Christ for most of the United States. I say that not to offend anyone of you who closely tie Christmas to the birth of Jesus. I simply say it because like it or not, America is a capitalistic society and Christmas (Easter too) has been transformed into a commercial vehicle. Fortunately many of us still hold firm to the warmth and universal love of the season and therefore it remains a generally positive holiday.
I see no reason to not call it Christmas. Conversely I think Fox News should lay off the “war on Christmas” accusations because Starbucks chose to not “offend” its Jewish, Muslim, and Atheist customers. Even if the cups wouldn’t have offended anyone, it’s their right to make that call, and they’re not pooping on Christmas!
I rant today knowing full well that on my Christmas Cards for the last several years I’ve chosen to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas (or as I like to say Happy Kringle – paying homage to early Christmas Beatles recordings). However, I do so not because I’m trying to be politically correct, but because I’m attempting to encompass all the December holidays: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, and New Years.
So from now on, don’t think twice to say Merry Christmas if that’s what you like to say, and don’t worry if you describe someone as White, Black or Asian. Better to focus on being polite and considerate to everyone you meet rather than fretting that you’ve offended a group using a long-standing non-offensive term.
If fitness and nutrition occupy a large portion of your life as they do for me, the most stressful part of the holidays is how to maintain your nutritional goals/routines while still enjoying multiple feasts, parties, and restaurant gatherings. During this past Thanksgiving I successfully implemented a plan that allowed me to stay on track nutritionally while still participating in family events full of high-caloric foods, desserts and lots of wine… lots and lots of wine (wink). (This is extra-important as during the 4-day holiday I, like many of you, did not get to work out.)
So here’s the four simple steps that I follow and I highly recommend you give this “plan” a try as you head towards the year-end holidays and celebrations:
1. Be Choosey:
While I do enjoy almost all of the Thanksgiving foods, I realized that some of them I can skip (or eat a significantly small portion) and not feel that I was cheated out of something special. For example, mashed potatoes are easily available and/or made all year round and really do not add that much joy to my personal pallet (same for cranberry sauce). Stuffing on the other hand, is generally reserved for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and I find it to be a “treat” I enjoy. Therefore, I skipped past the potatoes and sugary-cranberries, and instead drizzled gravy all over my decent-sized portion of stuffing. My pallet was happy, and I didn’t feel stuffed since I had less food on my plate.
2. Keep Quantities small – eat more often.
By now you all should be following my repeated advice to eat six small meals a day. In keeping with that, it’s easy to take a very small portion of each dish you enjoy (even if that’s all of them) and allow yourself to hold off on seconds – at least for 10 minutes to see if your stomach’s “full indicator” catches up with brain and taste-buds. You can always have round two a few hours later as one of your next meals/snacks. This keeps you from over-eating, while maintaining that fuel-in vs. fuel-out metabolism boost.
3. Opt for Restaurant Simple.
When dining out, if you keep your orders simple, small and flavorful, you will not only feel satisfied nutritionally, you will feel relieved that you didn’t over-indulge and in most cases small simple choices are also way better on your wallet! My family went to a Mexican restaurant for brunch one day and I chose a small mixed veggie salad and added grilled salmon, pine nuts and feta (dressing on the side of course). The dish was super-yummy, not too much food, affordable, and stayed well within my nutritional routine.
4. Keep the alcohol and sweets separate.
This last trick is a great way to “have your cake and drink it too!” I find that if I limit my meals to having either a dessert or some wine, I not only keep that uncomfortable fullness at bay, but I balance out my sugars as well. As an example we had a wine picnic one day where I skipped over the decadent chocolate dessert in favor of a long afternoon of drinking (wine tasting and a few bottles shared). Later at dinner, I abstained from the wine and enjoyed a luscious dessert.
So fear not and stress not – with a touch of restraint and clever planning you can enjoy all the upcoming holiday feasts and parties without blowing out your waistline or your fitness goals. Cheers!
We all know that certain times of year there seems to be not enough time to get everything done. December is most certainly the busiest time of year (I even missed posting a blog last week because of my commitments and chores). I listen to my clients grumble that they have to go buy this, or committed to bake that, and they can’t make their training sessions because they promised the kids they’d take them ice skating though they “haven’t the time or energy.”
But something I have learned in my quest to maintain a martyr free life is that no matter how busy, no matter how many things you think need to be done, there is always time to stop and smell the gingerbread! The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, not stress and forced smiles.
Ultimately all any of us really want is to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying a cup of hot-cocoa (always quick and easy to make) and just sharing good times. Even kids would rather have your attention at home playing a card game, than ice skating if it means that you are uptight and irritated by the crowded (and often expensive) ice rink experience.
Traditionally, the holidays were a time when families gathered to enjoy the comfort of a warm home, a hearty meal, and laughter around the table. Simple, and often homemade gifts were exchanged, and most importantly the holiday period itself was 2 days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Now we suffer the onslaught of holiday regalia and commercialism starting as early as October! The pressure is on to buy, bake, decorate, celebrate goes on for way too long!
So I say step off the holiday bullet-train. None of this really matters in the long run. Life goes on, friendships continue, and a life less stressed is worth more than the gratitude of that gift you hastily purchased in a crowded mall when your budget was already shot.
Short on time, money or ideas for gifts – give homemade cards that offer a “lets go see a movie together in the new year” or an invitation to “dinner at our house next month,” etc. Give your kids arts & crafts gifts that you will make with them during the school break. Stay home and just be with your loved ones.
As for me I make the following promises to myself every year:
- I’ll make time for the gym but I won’t worry about my calories
- I will give thoughtful but affordable gifts and won’t worry about if I’ve given enough
- I will remember that Christmas dinner does not need to be an exhausting production – just put a turkey in a roasting bag, throw some veggies in a casserole dish, and pour lots of wine.
In the end if will be the relaxed fun around the table that my guests will remember and they will know I love them — which is all anyone really wants at the Holidays!