UNITED STATES—Take a deep breath and remember what it’s all about. Internalize these three pillars for lightening up and you will not only survive, you will thrive during the holidays:
I. fruits and veggies
II. sticking to mealtimes
III. morning stretches
Make fruits and vegetables the center of the daily eating experience. Develop a dyed-in-wool preference for the things that grow from the ground and are picked off trees. You will feel more energized, good digestion is accelerated, and its nemesis—indigestion—is kept at bay. That’s the first pillar.
The second pillar: Be strict about mealtimes. This reinforces good habits and leads to the rewards of delayed gratification. Be strict about cutting mealtimes off (unless you’re at a bar mitzvah at an Armenian restaurant and the courses just keep coming. Even in that feast there is dancing, and where there are both feast and dancing—all is well). The third pillar is assiduously adhering to a 20 minute pre-breakfast routine of stretches and deep breathing exercises. This is your mood booster and body toner.
Last week I faced the seasonal dilemma of going to an annual pre-holiday event in Beverly Hills that promised to serve a bunch of no-nos: there would be jelly doughnuts and chocolate cake, Danish pastries and maybe some token cantaloupe cubes. My sweet tooth being what it is, I both dreaded and hoped for the surrender to temptation. This year, though, the event turned out to be refreshingly austere; the major choice was between bagels, made out of a substance slightly denser than Portland cement and tubs of cream cheese, optional strawberry jam topping and peanut butter—a digestive Chernobyl waiting to happen—and a fruit cocktail medley, a bowl of grapes, and a plate of celery. It was beautiful to have the fruit alternative. I went for grapes and celery, and it was wonderful. Be loyal to fruits and veggies and you can nibble to your heart’s content.
The choice might not always be so easy. There will be times when the Crazy Voice speaks against the three pillars of our diet—fruits and veggies, morning stretches, and no eating between meals. The voice will sweet talk you into staying in bed, under the warm covers, instead of getting onto the cold floor and stretching; the voice will prompt you to get a quart of ice-cream at two a.m. The first step to being free is learning to recognize the voice for the insatiable fiend it is.
The crazy voice is all too real and verifiable thanks to some dark chapters in human history. Bread helped fuel France’s Reign of Terror (the country’s poor couldn’t get their fix of two loaves a day, after the price ballooned, leading to riots and unrest) and sugar wasn’t so sweet, either (sugar plantations in theAmericas were the engine of the African slave trade). Crazy stuff—because Enlightenment Europeans said “I want sweets,” and starving French peasants rejected potatoes as pig food unfit for human consumption and said, “I want my bread.”
So the crazy voice has driven history. For us as individuals, it’s healthy to acknowledge the voice—and develop an ability to nod, smile to ourselves, carry on and keep our head in the game. For best results in lightening up 30 pounds in 30 days, cut out bread and potatoes altogether. As for sugar, seek natural sources: an apple, a banana or dates.
Now here’s a simple trick: when you find yourself plotting a trip to the donut shop and thinking about the smell of fresh-ground coffee, even though you just had some—there’s a kind of train, that just keeps you going down the sugar-caffeine- carb track—switch rails, go eat an orange or a persimmon (this is the season) and it will cleanse your palate as well as turn your appetites and desires around. Also, segue out from feasts and indulgences with fruits and vegetables. Nuts are good too, as a healthy filling alternative. And remember, to feast is always OK when there is dancing!
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Kindle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.