Holiday Treats: Indulge Today, Run Tomorrow

12/16/2011 - 13:33

By Teri Saylor

It is holiday time, and some things just naturally go together.
Trees and lights.
Fireplaces and stockings.
Santa and Claus.
Stores and spending.
Eating and eating.
Before the first summer leaves become tinged with color, the bright deal buster ads begin appearing everywhere.
And they’re just getting warmed up.
Television magazine shows feature holiday entertaining guides and sugar-pushing recipes.
Be gone carrots and celery!
Make room for cocktails and cookies.
You’re not even safe at work. Rather, work is the worst danger zone. Customers send delicious and often expensive cookies, cakes, and candies.
Co-workers haul in their finest kitchen creations.
Party leftovers find their way to office break rooms across the country.
“Oh, I’ll just take these cupcakes to work; somebody will eat them,” we say.
Of course we will eat them.
It’s the holidays.
Desperately, we seek out helpful information on ways to avoid, or at least mitigate the very temptations that marketers have been burning into our psyches starting with a low simmer as far back as the Fourth of July. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, we’re fully primed and ready to celebrate.
That big turkey dinner is just the practice round for the holiday season that follows.
Just think of it as the final training run for your marathon.
Popular magazines get in on the fun too. One section teaches us how to turn even the most bland dessert into chocolate decadence for the holidays. Turn the page, and we get tips on how to avoid that very chocolate decadence when we are about to come face to face with it.
1. Practice mindful eating. Listen to your body, and eat only when you are truly hungry.
2. Savor your food by eating slowly. Avoid jumping into the buffet and eating with reckless abandon.
3. Limit liquid calories. Avoid the beautiful sparkling wine. Step away from the eggnog. Drink lots of water instead.
4. Fill up on raw vegetables so you won’t be hungry for ham biscuits and cake.
5. Don’t linger near food at parties. Fill a small plate with raw vegetables, fruit, and whole grain bread, grab a glass of water, and walk away from the buffet.
I personally practice every single one of these healthy habits at parties.
For about five minutes.
Then it is no holds barred.
We’re keeping it real here.
I recently bought a package of those delicious thin ginger cookies we love to eat at Christmas. I never should have opened the package in the first place, but I really wanted one. Or two. Okay, no more than three.
In less than 10 minutes, half of the entire bag was empty.
I was faced with a choice: a. I could throw the rest of the cookies into the trashcan; b. I could simply eat the rest of them and get it over with quickly, or c. I could do something else with them.
Call me crazy.
In a fit of desperation, I bagged up the rest of the cookies and locked them in the trunk of my car. Giving in to temptation and running back and forth to my car to eat cookies would at least provide exercise, I reasoned.
I posted this as a query on Facebook, looking for real world responses to the threats of holiday temptation.
Meri Kotlas of Raleigh wrote that stashing cookies in her car’s trunk would not be enough of a deterrent for her.
“I think the car would have to be parked farther away than a 5K,” she wrote. “Because I could run that far for cookies. Really.”
She later added that her secret to success is to give in.
“If I deny myself too much, I will go overboard,” she said. “I use an 80/20 rule. Eat great 80 percent of the time, and 20 percent is a gimme.”
Mostly, the friends described ways they resort to mental and physical trickery so if they cannot avoid temptation, they will at least be at peace for giving in to it.
Jim Wei of Raleigh, NC, who is studying for his Doctor of Pharmacy degree, runs ultra marathons when he is not consumed with schoolwork. Jim’s holiday break from studying gives him extra time to run and burn off calories.
“Without school to stress over during the holidays, I add more mileage to attempt to offset binge eating,” he said.
Beth Marcom, who also lives in Raleigh, subscribes to the same philosophies as Meri and Jim.
“If I eat a sweet, I just run a bit more to compensate for it,” she said. “But I definitely do not deny myself. Christmas comes but once a year, after all.”
Tom Kunath of Raleigh is a boxer who recently won his first fight in Atlanta. For boxers, success depends on great timing in the ring. Good time management strategies outside the ring help keep Tom out of the cookies.
“I try to schedule my workouts later in the day than usual during the holidays,” he said. “I’m less apt to shovel cookies into my mouth knowing I still have to work out.”
Stan Schwartz of Columbia, MO plans ahead.
“I try to start losing weight before the holidays so I can have a cushion going into the big treat days,” he said. “Then it is calorie monitoring time. Burn more than you eat and you’ll come out ahead.”
Linda Wilson of Raleigh straddles both worlds.
“I eat very carefully most of the time, and then schedule the holiday treats. This seems to keep it contained, while still enjoying the season,” she said. “Not much happens in January and February so you can always recover then. Plus, I try to keep the same exercise schedule.”
For Brian Carver of West Union, SC and Mark Dill of Indianapolis, IN, simply giving in the best strategy of all.
“I like to eat myself silly and get fat. Why bother with training?” Brian joked.
Mark added, “How about just giving in to every temptation imaginable and just wallowing in them, with joy, of course.”
Some things naturally go together after the holidays too.
New Years Day and resolutions.
Spring and swimsuits.
But until then, broccoli and water can wait.
Bring on the champagne.

Teri Saylor is an independent journalist who runs and eats holiday treats in Raleigh, NC. Contact her at

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