A humorous look at everyday life through the eyes of a baby boomer.
Friday, January 8, 2016
TRYING TO BREAK THE ANNUAL HOLIDAY WEIGHT-GAIN TRADITION
The day after Thanksgiving, my cousin decided he was going
to start a serious weight-loss program. My first thought was, “Dieting during
the holidays? Is he crazy? Why not wait until New Year’s Day, and join the
zillions of other people who also will be dieting?”
But I figured he wanted to avoid what the experts refer to
as the average annual 5-lb. holiday weight-gain.I know from experience exactly what they are talking about. For
years, I gained those five pounds every holiday season, often with a few extra
thrown in for good measure.
One year, however, which I
still refer to as my record-breaking December, I weighed myself on New Year’s
Eve and was shocked to see a 9-lb. weight gain. I’m not sure why I was so
surprised. I mean, there actually had been a few clues that should have warned
me in advance. For example, the front pockets on my jeans had been sticking out
like elephant ears because I couldn’t squeeze my hands into them to tuck them
in. I’d also noticed that when I filled the bathtub to its usual level for a
relaxing soak, it overflowed when I sat in it.
In my defense, I really did
try to eat wisely during the holiday season that year. In fact, in preparation
for my annual “season’s eatings,” I even read articles with titles such as,
“How to Walk, Not Roll, Away From the Buffet Table,” and “Carrot Sticks…Not
Just for Santa’s Reindeer!”
The articles gave plenty of
calorie-saving advice for the holiday weight-conscious. They advised, for
example, to stand at the salad end of the buffet table rather than the dessert
end, to avoid temptation, and to sip plain club-soda with a twist of lemon
instead of chugging eggnog. There also were several paragraphs devoted to the
“instead of” eating method: Eat a cracker instead of a dinner roll. Eat one cookie
instead of a slice of cake. Suck on a small piece of candy cane instead of
reaching for the fudge and chocolates.
I was pretty sure the person
who’d written those suggestions had just landed here from Jupiter. After all,
if I were the type of person who could eat “just one” of anything, I wouldn’t
have been reading diet tips in the first place.
Back then, the only way
anyone ever would have seen me with only one cracker or cookie would have been
if I were suffering from nausea or I’d already eaten a four-course meal before
attending the party. And as far as drinking club soda, well, I might have
considered it if something a little more palatable had been added to it…like
chocolate syrup and a couple scoops of ice cream.
Actually, I did start off
that holiday season pretty well.At the
first party, I emerged from the buffet line with only a slice of lean roast
beef, a small serving of rice and some salad on my plate. And I washed it down
with plain, bottled water. Then, after my meal digested, I still was so hungry,
I returned to the buffet line and ate four slices of cherry cake, three sugar
cookies, a cupcake with pretzel antlers on it, a handful of cashews and a cup
of hot cocoa topped with about 45 mini marshmallows.
The next party I attended
didn’t even offer any nutritious food. It was an all-dessert party. When I
entered the room and saw the wall-to-wall sweets, I thought I had died and gone
to sugar heaven. Many of the treats were such unique delicacies, I felt I just
had to try them: mashed-potato candy, stained-glass cookies, dump cake and
peanut-butter balls. By the time I left, I could feel cavities popping out in
my teeth, zits popping out on my face, and buttons popping off my slacks.
Then, a couple nights before
Christmas that year, I suffered a bad stomachache. Unfortunately, it was due to
my own cooking. I wanted to make a two-layer white cake with chocolate frosting
to have on hand for any guests that might drop by. I searched online for a good
– and easy – recipe, but couldn’t find any that didn’t require whipping egg
whites until stiff. I knew from past experience that I was physically incapable
of making egg whites stiff…even if I sprayed them with starch. The only thing
that usually got stiff whenever I tried whipping them was my upper back.
Finally, I found a recipe
that called for unbeaten egg whites.
The finished cake looked
picture-perfect. The outside was golden and puffy, and a toothpick inserted
into the center of it to test its doneness came out clean.
All I can say is thank goodness
I decided to sample the cake before I frosted it. The texture of it was like
modeling clay. And for some reason, it tasted like bread – very chewy, doughy
As I tried to get the ball
of cake unstuck from the roof of my mouth, my husband came out to the kitchen
and cut a slice of the cake for himself. I remained silent as I watched him
take a big bite of it, mainly because I couldn’t open my mouth to protest.
His eyes widened and his
lips tightened. “I need a napkin,” he said, but it came out sounding more like,
“Uh neb a nabbin,” because his teeth were stuck together.
I handed him a napkin and he
promptly spit the cake into it. The action was accompanied by a variety of
“pah-tooie!” sounds. Needless to say, I began to strongly suspect I probably
shouldn’t serve the cake to guests…not unless I wanted them to risk getting an
So I gave up on the cake
idea and searched the Internet until I found a recipe for sugar cookies that
looked simple enough to follow…even for someone as oven-challenged as I was.
The cookies, unlike the
cake, turned out great – tasty, not too hard, not too soft. In fact, they were
so good, I ate seven of them right after they came out of the oven.And later that night, I decided to taste the
cake again, just in case it magically had turned moist and fluffy while sitting
on the counter.
It still was the consistency
of a giant wad of gum. Nevertheless, and for reasons I still can’t comprehend,
I ate two pieces. They sank like bricks in my stomach.
Now that I think about it,
maybe my record-breaking 9-lb. holiday weight-gain that year actually wasn’t
due to overindulgence.Maybe the cake
hardened into a big lump of concrete somewhere in my intestinal tract.