By Lisa Sugarman
Okay, Thanksgiving is over. It’s a big build up and then, kind of suddenly, everything stops. A lot like childbirth.
By now, the turkey carcass is double bagged and waiting at the Transfer Station to be incinerated. Most of the out-of-towners have caught their Acela train or made their JetBlue connections. And the first official round of the holiday season is over.
I find that it’s usually around this point, after the chaos of Thanksgiving has passed and leftovers have dwindled, that most of us emerge from our little gluten bubble and realize just exactly how far off the wagon we’ve fallen. And that realization is generally pretty ugly.
It usually starts the morning after everyone leaves. In the bathroom. When you’re alone for the first time and you confront yourself in the mirror. And your pissed-off reflection looks at you and yells, “Oh! My! God! What did you just do?!”
This is that point where people (okay, fine, women) start tabulating, in the form of calories and serving sizes, the amount of actual damage we did to our GI tract in only four short days. Bloated and cranky people everywhere wake up to the reality of what they did while they were binge eating over the long weekend. And for most, it feels like a dope slap with a cricket bat.
I think it’s a safe bet that the majority of women everywhere spent the first part of this post-Thanksgiving week shell-shocked in their walk-in closets. Each one of them trying to button their skinny jeans, knowing that it’s impossible to jam a square peg into a round hole. And alongside them is a pretty good-sized population of guys tossing on their elastic-waist sweat pants, shrugging, and working from home until they can fully exhale inside their suit pants again.
When we’re in the thick of it, swept away by the fervor of the holiday and the smell of the food and the deliciousness of the pumpkin whoopie pies, most of us slip into a different state of consciousness. We’re thinking and talking and carrying on semi normally, but there are certain synapses in our brains that stop firing. I don’t want to say we become zombies because that’s a little too farfetched, even for me, but you get what I’m saying.
Since Thanksgiving is primarily about eating and socializing and watching football while we eat and socialize, a portion of our brain instinctively turns off, allowing the enemy holiday food to overtake us, kind of like when the force field around the Death Star went down and gave Luke Skywalker and his Jedi bros unrestricted access into the belly of the beast.
During the Thanksgiving break, we stop thinking like rational, calorie-conscious adults. We submit and then we consume. It’s the nature of the holiday. But I think people tend to forget that that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do. Exactly like how when bears prepare to hibernate they ingest everything they can find for a given period of time. And we do it for the same reason the bears do—we eat without restraint because it’s really our last chance for the winter to legitimately overindulge. The only difference between us and the bears is that we do it by aligning our gorging with a major holiday while the bears do it for survival. Gotta love having opposable thumbs. Homo erectus all the way, baby!
But what I think everyone needs to remember is that the nature of Thanksgiving is to celebrate and indulge and give thanks that there are seconds and thirds to indulge in. I mean that’s the point, right? Thanksgiving is about cooking food and eating food—as much as we want for a finite amount of time or until we throw up. Whichever comes first.
So don’t beat yourself up too badly over whatever you did at the dinner table. It’s ok. It’s expected. We all did it to some degree. And you’re probably not set back as far as you think you are, assuming you’ve stopped eating by now. (If you haven’t stopped yet, now would be a good time.)
Remember, we’re all pretty much in the same boat, albeit a sinking one because our collective weight limit is way above maximum capacity.
In our defense, though, most of us at least try to maintain some kind of routine and consistency and nutritional balance throughout the year. We’re conscious of what we eat and of getting to the gym or of taking a run or of catching that spin class. We try. We try hard. We schmear the peanut butter on the celery. We opt for the egg white omelet instead of the short stack of pancakes. We try to make good choices. And why do we do this? To be able to cheat on our pre-determined cheat days, of course.
Even the strictest diets and nutritional plans account for a “cheat day” every once in a while. So don’t beat yourself up too bad over that second piece of pie or that fifth chocolate chip cookie. Thanksgiving is just one of calendar’s built-in cheat days.
I mean, hasn’t it dawned on anyone but me that all of the major holidays are strategically staggered a month or so apart throughout the calendar year? Those Founding Fathers were WAY ahead of their time. Holidays are built-in cheat days designed to give you something to look forward to and enable you to stay on track all the other days in between.
Look, we’re all just mere mortals who can’t be expected to resist the temptation of my mother-in-law’s crème squares, especially when they’re on a platter right next to my chewy molasses cookies which just happen to be diagonally across from the warm apple pie. No one’s that strong.
Because as bad as you binged and as poochy as you feel, what you have to remember is that you’re only ever one meal or one workout away from being right back on track. And that knowledge, while not quite powerful enough to eradicate unwanted calories and shrink pant sizes, can offer a little solace when you’re trying to regroup and find your way back on track.
So don’t be too hard on yourself, you’ve just got to hold it together until Christmas, because after that it’s only a sneeze until Valentine’s Day. Eye on the prize. You got this.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn OR follow her blog at http://itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com.