Most mornings a little squirrel from a nearby tree comes to my back patio window looking for the handful of walnuts I offer on a regular basis. Just recently I noticed how fat my furry friend has become and how luxurious his coat looks. I am satisfied by this observation, as the rain pours down day after day and just lately mixes with a snow, for I know that ‘Jerry’ will survive the winter and early spring with enough fuel to keep him happily hibernating, moving about only to beg for nuts or to gather a few stray acorns. Contemplating the effects of the holiday season’s bounty of food on my own waistline, I wonder if it is indeed nature’s order of operations for living creatures to ‘pack on the pounds’ during the winter season, and how much I should be resisting that second cookie when clearly the cold weather beckons me to insulate, insulate, insulate!
As a health and fitness professional, it would seem my duty to condemn the notion that gaining weight during the holidays is a given; however, I am also a parent, daughter, sister and friend who enjoys baking and giving delectable treats to my loved ones and receiving them in return. Food is a major component of holiday parties and gatherings, and although there are numerous ‘plans’ and ‘guidelines’ for avoiding overconsumption, strict allegiance to a method of avoiding fattening or sugar-laden foods takes the joy out of eating, socializing, and thus appreciating the time spent with important people in your life. So here is my single-word of advice to anyone who dreads the holidays for the overwhelming tide of goodies: balance.
My squirrel-buddy Jerry doesn’t worry about what that extra walnut will do to his hips – all he knows is that whatever insulation he amasses now will be used as fuel to build muscle in the spring when it’s time to run up and down trees. Balance for this little guy means layering fat so he doesn’t freeze to death while the days are dark and the temperature drops below thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. In a sense we are no different from any other animal faced with the imminence of winter, insulating ourselves against the cold by consuming excessive calories and thus accumulating fat. As humans we have an aversion to gaining weight but overlook the necessity of keeping internal organs warm enough to function appropriately. Isn’t that what bulky holiday sweaters are for by the way? To cover unsightly bulges and bumps while allowing us to devour whatever tasty treats grandma sends via express mail?
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not proposing that everyone throw out self-control in favor of unabashed hedonism; I am merely a health and fitness professional recognizing the value of erring on the side of overconsumption with the confidence of one who knows that balance will come a’ knocking around January 1st. These days and night of merry revelry are the essence of the holiday season, but it is indeed good practice to have a plan ready for the day after your company’s Christmas party, such as my ‘Food Hangover-Fix
.’ Better yet, e-mail me for a kick-butt workout to remind you that while winter may seem long, spring-time is around the corner and that bulky reindeer sweater won’t protect you forever. Remember also that you will be in good company – you and your coworkers, neighbors and loved ones who also threw caution to the wind and went for that second and third cocktail to toast the blessings of the season – you all got into this together and together you will work your way to better health. So for now, eat, drink and be merry like my little squirrel-friend, for tomorrow the gym awaits you!