Pumpkin pie, ginger-bread cookies, candy canes, and chocolates. Oh what a sweet season!
A few nights ago my kids and I spent a few hours crouched over the wafting smells of sweet spices drifting up from warm ginger-bread cookies with an array of decorating accessories. With sing-along carols filling the air, they diligently coated every inch of those cute cut-outs with an array of dye-filled icing, mini-M&M’s, nuts, and at least seven different mixes of sprinkles. It is a holiday tradition more about making cherished memories than it is having those tempting treats.
The boys favorite part is when the job is finally done. They get to carefully inspect their craftsmanship to chose which work of art will have the honor of being the first cookie in their mouth. Nom, nom, nom and repeat.
The whole thing is what I imagine a Norman Rockwell portrait must feel like if you could step into it and experience it emotionally. The problem is, long after those warm fuzzies fade, the cookies remain.
They sit on a snowman plate on in the middle of the kitchen, taunting me. Calling out for me to eat them while my kids are in school. After all, it is so much easier to grab one than it is to pull real food out of the refrigerator. Never mind that a bowl of bright green apples sits next to them. It still seems to be easier to grab a cookie. And did I mention the cute little bowl filled with leftover bright green and red M&M’s? I swear it must have some sort of magnetic force field because every time I walk by my hand seems mysteriously drawn to reach out for some.
There is something about the holidays that causes me to make exceptions to my normally strict regimen of carefully managing my disease through diet.
This, in and of itself, wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. After all, we have to be able to enjoy things in life as part of our emotional health too. The problem is, every year without fail, the holidays cause the exceptions I make to become the rule.
Maybe you are a creature of sheer will-power and preposterous self-discipline. If you are, you really should spend the rest of your time basking in your superiority instead of reading this.
For the rest of us, one night of cookies and a movie easily becomes a quick cookie the next afternoon and a handful of magnetic M&M’s.
Then it is easy to reason why we should also enjoy those cookies our sister baked to be nice. Not to mention, those addictive cinnamon and sugared pecans she gave to you in that cute little jar. Pretty soon my normally stringent diet that eliminates processed sugar, grains, and dairy becomes one of cookies, candies, and cakes. I fall off the wagon every year between November twenty-fourth and January fifth. (It takes a while to finish off those holiday treats so I can start my resolutions of not eating them!)
If I only cared about how I looked with a few extra pounds it wouldn’t even be worth having this conversation. I am not talking about a slippery slope into gluttony. Even when I make compromises I maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle and weight. The real issue is that when those exceptions become the rule, I get sick(er).
Every time I cave a little into the realm of unhealthy foods my body reacts with distress.
You would think it would make it infinitely easier for me to pass on dessert knowing that by eating it I am gearing myself up to feel miserable. Yet somehow, in my warped way of thinking, the idea that I can’t makes them all the harder to resist. Maybe it is because I avoid them all year long that I end up binging out of control when I finally allow myself the exception? I don’t know.
I do know that when food becomes a direct link to our health because of its precarious impact on our fragile states of illness, it somehow becomes a more complicated issue than a jeans size. It becomes about our desire to take care of ourselves. And if I’m being honest, amidst the Norman Rockwell-esque feelings there is a quiet, persistent feeling of ache as well. It’s the kind of ache that borders on the well hidden depression that grows out of chronic illness that somehow puts me in the mood to self sooth and sabotage through food.
The holidays are difficult even when you don’t have a rare disease.
Enter in the complications of chronic health issues and you have a recipe for the seasonal blues. Who wouldn’t get sad when their body is forcing them to constantly miss out? Is it too much to ask that just one month a year my body might allow me to experience the tastes of the season without severe repercussions?
Sometimes my desire to have “normal” holiday celebrations like cookie baking overwhelms my desire to do what is best for myself.