With the holidays fast approaching there is a lot of chatter about food…what to eat and what to resist. What to substitute and how to not offend people. How to keep the pounds off and how to not overdo it. So I am throwing my two cents in with two bits of advice that help me out:
Eat Like You Mean it…then Chug your Penance.
Eat Like You Mean it
I am big on healthy substitutes. I am big on modifying daily diets. My kids haven’t eaten white bread in so long, it lives on in mythology. “Remember that soft white stuff that tasted like pillows?” But holidays are about tradition. And traditions are usually dripping with decadence. Why else would they be unforgettable?
So when your aunt serves up that slice of pumpkin pie, the one that only she makes, are you going to turn up your nose and balk at the sight of white flour? I am not talking about giving in to be polite, I am talking about indulging in food when it really matters.
Let me splain. [Inigo pauses] No there is too much. Let me sum up.
Most junk food you can walk away from and the next day you will hardly remember the deprivation. But there are memorable morsels you will sincerely regret whole-heartedly, “the dessert that got away.” Many of these accompany holidays. For example, I would kill for a big slice of anything-my-grandma-made! And the soft dinner rolls my mom hasn’t made since before I could legally drive taste like childhood. If they magically appeared, you can bet I wouldn’t pause over the carb count! If there is a bite of food guaranteed to make your SOUL say “Yummy!!” then by all means, kick the guilt and eat up!
Will you get heartburn? Probably. Will you gain a pound. Maybe 3. I won’t lie. But in my book it is like getting in trouble as a kid…it’s much easier to take if you thoroughly enjoyed what you were doing. If you were punished for doing something that altogether sucked anyway, oh the misery! (Such are the pounds gained from a late night make out with a bag of potato chips.) So pass by the store-bought muffins and the stuffing out of a box. But by heavens, that cheesecake your sister made is going down!
My only rule regarding dessert is “Eat like you mean it.” Don’t apologize. Don’t rationalize. Eat it. Love it. Absolutely savor it. Heck, make yummy noises if you want to! Sweet dreams are made of these.
The Morning After
Ahhh…the clichéd morning after. Time to pay the piper. First rule: don’t step on that scale, don’t do it. That will only bring you down as you start to regret your actions, or pray for a ginormous BM. Neither will help you out. Well, the second might. Anyway…
To restore balance in my whole food universe, the yin to my yang, I like to get myself back on track with a little drink I call Penance. Actually there is nothing little about it. It is big, green, and nasty. Wow, how excited are you?
The morning after I have, for want of an eloquent term, “junked out,” I feel the culinary equivalent of hung over. I feel heavy, bloated, sluggish, and “bleh.” For some unknown reason, if I don’t get on top of it quickly, I am more likely to drown such sorrows in food. It makes no sense. “Ugh, my guts are messed up. Think I will cheer them up with this day old donut.” To counter this I pump myself full of greens, as many as I can…and fast.
Penance is simply a super green smoothie. Extra greens, little to no fruit. Usually when composing smoothies, fruit is the “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.” But in this case, you just want the medicine. Greens are powerfully detoxing, helping undo whatever damage you may have down the night before, and incredibly restorative. They are also magic. When you get greens inside of you, you actually crave more good food and recoil from the bad. If not recoil, then at least think twice. Greens will restore the peace.
So you see, a tall glass of Penance will literally get you back on track, making up for whatever “offense” you consumed. But it also embraces figurative elements of the principle.
The mere act of pulling out your greens is like saying to your body “Yes, I know that bacon wrapped bacon was not good for you, I am here to make amends.”
“Let the Punishment Fit the Crime”
The more I indulged, the greener I make that smoothie. What does that mean? There are certain ingredients that I use sparsely on a regular basis. I understand they are nutritional powerhouses, but they are less than pleasing to the palette. You know what I mean. How much kale can you take in your drink? I throw in whatever I have been holding back. In my weird voodoo kitchen, that might include extra spirulina, dandelion greens, wheat grass, broccoli, green pepper (I hate them in smoothies!), or anything in the seaweed family. Be thoughtful as you add your greens. For example, I might put a stalk of celery (overpowering in my opinion) in the blender and then, upon considering the second helping of pecan pie I had, I might throw in another one. Load them up. “She can’t take much more of this cap’n!” Oh yes, she can.
Finally, you bow your head, close your eyes…take a deep breath and drink up! You can sip it if you want. Or like the kid who begs for a spanking instead of a grounding just to get it over with, you can plug your nose and open the hatch. Just get it down. Your tongue may feel the stripes, but the rest of you will benefit. Think of it as a big blended slice of humble pie.
Blech, was that really necessary?
Tell you what, the next day when you are allowed once again to step on the scale, you will not be so downtrodden. You will feel better. And you will think twice before you eat the soggy leftover pie.
Penance has changed the way I snack. I can now bypass the bag of Twizzlers or the hostess cupcakes. But a box of Mrs Cavanaugh’s Dark Cherry Cordials? Oh baby, they are worth the green vengeance. I can walk right past store-bought birthday cake with its huge fake frosting balloons. But a state fair funnel cake? Get the blender ready. Be honest with yourself. Hey, I have had “penance smoothies” that lasted a week. (Now those are parties!)
Since I started the Penance system, my casual indulging has dropped and I really only eat desserts when I mean it: when I understand the impact a certain treat will have on my body and decide that it is totally worth it anyway; when I know I will triumphantly chug a Penance the next day proclaiming “It was worth it!” with each grimace. When a treat comes along sumptuous or special enough to fit that bill, I say “bottoms up!”
And speaking of indulging…remember the Indulgences of Medieval times? The strange practice of “Prepaid sins?” You may understand the term “Indulgence” better when you stop at the store to stock up on greens on your way to the State Fair. Oh yeah.