It’s been over a week since my last blog. My day job is as a business professor so it’s been a bit busy with end of term activities. All of that is over (except the actual exams, and the marking of exams, lol) and I’m feeling a strong urge to get in the kitchen and start baking up a storm. The issue is, everyone else is feeling the same way, and the treats are starting to appear in abundance…everywhere. In fact, when I took the customary plate of donuts to the last class in one of my courses, the students groaned and said, “this is the third time we’ve been offered donuts today!” They ate them of course, and took the leftovers back to their residence with them, so I don’t count it as a true complaint. But it made me think a bit about my own strategies heading into the holiday season. Unlike my undergraduate students, I am a 50+ year old lady with a slow metabolism and short stature – my “MyFitness” app subtracts available calories from me on most days! I had better approach the holiday eating season with some sort of plan! So, before I blog about the amazing carrot cake that is currently in the oven, I thought I’d tell you about how I am approaching the holidays from a balance point of view.
Since I’m not in the classroom again until early January, I plan to be on the walking trails, clocking up the miles (kilometres here in Canada) and getting some balance in my head space. I had planned to start a fitness walking program this fall. I had just come from a very busy job, living in a beautiful area of Canada, that although beautiful, also came with a minimum of a 60 minute commute one way, and that was on a low traffic day. My DH and I were coming to grips with impending retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces, and thinking towards transitioning from careers that we loved and that we had done since our early 20s, and that in itself is quite stressful. In September I took one last military posting to the Royal Military College of Canada to get some academic experience, and hopefully give us some breathing room as we made all the other decisions impacting our lives. So it was a period of transition, and it would have been a great time to start that walking program. And then in early October, I didn’t watch my step. I slipped and fell, and broke my fibula. Instead of a fitness walking program, I spent the fall elevating my leg and complaining that I didn’t have any shoes that fit. But now that leg is healed, I have no more work related scheduling issues, and I have two very willing walking partners – my 6 month old and 20 month old Labrador retrievers!
The plan to increase my walking is great. But beyond walking, I need to do a few other things to realize my plan to make it the other side of the holidays still wearing the same size pants. My main approach to managing with the culinary related stresses of the holidays involves the principles of mindfulness. There are lots of sites that describe mindfulness in terms of eating, but the concept is simple. You need to be aware of how and why you are eating. In practical terms, have some structure around meals – sit down at the table to eat as a family vice snacking while doing something else. Eat when you are hungry; and not past the point of feeling full. When I know there will be lots of treats at a gathering, I try to make sure that I am not overly hungry before I go. An easy way of doing this is to eat something that provides a little protein right before you go – a little bit of greek yoghurt is a good example, or a boiled egg or small piece of cheese. It makes it easier to resist if you’re not dealing with hunger.
Try to identify whether you are eating as a response to emotion (sadness, boredom, stress). In terms of emotional eating or boredom eating, this is an issue I have dealt with. I have spent a great deal of my life taking formal education, and during my MBA, I developed the habit of snacking as I wrote term papers. I didn’t even realize it was a habit until I started my PhD a couple of years later. The PhD was a lot longer degree in terms of time and required a whole lot more term papers. I had to become very mindful of the habits that surrounded my writing ritual before it became extremely unhealthy. Sitting at a computer writing for long periods of time is unhealthy enough, without the added unmindful eating.
So, this holiday season, I will increase my walking, take in the beautiful late fall air, keep structure around my eating (and at the same time enjoy my family’s company at mealtimes, win win!), and ensure that I keep my hunger under control before I head out to the culinary events that mark Christmas and New Year’s in Canada. Above all, I will be kind to myself, be realistic in my expectations, and absolutely enjoy making more culinary related traditions to share with family and friends! Have a safe and amazing start to your own holiday season!
Yours in visions of sugar plums!