When I was a kid, we went crazy over mandarin oranges at Christmas time. They were all Japanese oranges in those days, which we affectionately, and perhaps disrespectfully, called Japs. And in my memory they had great flavor.
The wooden box arrived around Christmas Eve, not in November. And we probably only had one box, though I think the boxes were larger then. Let’s see, eight greedy kids, two parents and one 10 lb. box of oranges. We, or maybe it was just me, were focused on eating as many oranges as we, or I, could, before everyone else got them. Then they would be all gone. Yes, scarcity thinking was alive and well.
Contrast that to today when you can buy (tasteless) mandarins pretty much all year round and the seasonal sweet treats appear much earlier and in far greater quantities. Ironically, this amounts to all of it being much less special, or I am more Grinchy.
Is it any wonder our population is getting a little heavier every year?
As the candy and baking makes its way through staff rooms and kitchens, here are a few guidelines to keep your waistline, energy and health in check.
• Think before you eat. Before you take a single bite check in with yourself. “Do I really want / need this? Am I hungry? Is this worth it?” Tell the truth.
• Go for quality versus quantity. If it doesn’t taste as good as it looks let it go. (You can get creative here.)
• Choose your favorite and pass on the rest. (They can’t all be favorites.)
• Whatever you choose, slow down and really taste it. It’s more satisfying that way.
• Develop personal boundaries and commit to them, for example: no sugar before lunch. One a day. Eat only half. (It’s not wasteful. Eating what you don’t need or want is wasteful.)
• If you’re baking, cut back the quantity and the variety. The more you serve, the more you eat. The more variety offered, the more you eat. It’s been proven.
• Say ‘no thank-you’ and give up guilt. Don’t worry about the host/hostess being offended.
• If you’re the offended host/hostess, please get over it. It’s not about you.
• If you’re a food pusher, cut that out too. It’s hard enough to resist once, don’t make people do it two or three times.
• Notice when you’ve had enough and stop eating. The first bite always tastes the best. Wouldn’t you agree? It goes downhill from there.
• If you want something sweet, consider a mandarin orange or a pomegranate instead. Yes, it’s still sugar, but with nutrients, and without the fat of baked goods.
• Think in terms of abundance versus scarcity. We can get caught up in scarcity thinking whether there is not enough or even when there is too much. The Christmas holidays will come again next year, as will Easter, Thanksgiving, all the non-Christian holidays, birthdays and Halloween, along with all the delicacies that go with them. You don’t need to horde or binge like a gang of Pelletier children gathered around a box of oranges.
You can make shortbread in the summer if you really want. Develop a calm and sensible attitude to the food of the season. It’s just food. For most of us there will always be an abundance of it.
• Balance indulgence with self-care. This is the most important guideline of all. At this foolishly busy time of year self-care becomes even more vital in order to support you through the madness. But it’s so easy to neglect our usual, healthy habits because we’re just too busy. Trying to do too much, staying up too late, eating poorly and skimping on exercise will leave you feeling joyless instead of jolly.
It’s okay to indulge now and then, particularly when you practice lots of positive behaviors to support you and provide balance to your budget. Try not to fall into all-or-nothing thinking. Instead focus on balance, which shouldn’t be too difficult, as long as you’re not tipsy from the rum and eggnog, but that’s another story.
What works for you?