Becca Ostman is a one-year survivor who was diagnosed at age 32. She prefers to view her cancer as an opportunity to help other women who have been affected by the disease and to educate everyone on early detection and healthy living. Here she offers her offbeat humor and solutions to hefting on the holiday pounds.
Tis the season to start holiday (over)eating for most people. We have company parties, family dinners, and holiday celebrations. We are out shopping and wolfing down $.99 cheeseburgers on the go to maximize the amount of sales we can hit. We are trimming the healthy part of our food budget to allow for more gift giving. And in a few weeks, we will make the annual New Year’s Resolution to lose all that weight we made no effort to avoid in the first place. Why do we repeat these same cycles year after year?
So, as you hang our cherished A Calendar to Live By 2014 and flip the page to January, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to dedicate those New Year’s Resolutions to something more fun? Maybe like the activities we do around Beyond Boobs! — participating in the Dirty Girl Mud Run or Skydiving! Or how about checking items off your “life list” such as seeing a new country or state? Or you could even take up a new hobby? Anything rather than crash hardcore dieting. Again. And failing at it. Again.
There is no need to wait for 2014 to begin healthy eating habits. We can start NOW! There are several tricks to help you out during the season of feasting so January doesn’t become a season of unhealthy fasting.
Dietary Do’s and Don’ts
Have you ever been to a company party, Solstice gathering, New Year’s Bash, or family dinner that was “One Plate Only” style? Have you ever seen Uncle Bob or your CEO standing by the buffet table reminding cousins or temporary employees to pack on as much as you can because you only get one trip to the trough? No, of course not!! Buffet style eating was not created so we can have full sized side and main course helping portions of EVERYTHING on the buffet. It was invented for holiday grazers to get a little bite sized portion of several offerings so they are able to try Aunt Edna’s candied yams AND Aunt Sally’s Green Bean Surprise AND Uncle Mac’s Rum Balls without exploding on the fine china. It was created so we can try a tiny bit of everything. Emphasis on TINY. So, make that first round a sample plate with single or two-bite helpings only. That way, you don’t have to choke down spoonful after spoonful of hideous Green Bean Surprise while Aunt Sally watches with glee, and you can figure out what you WANT to go back for. Many times, the sample round is filling enough that you don’t need a second trip and you can save room for a sample round of deserts!!
Which brings us to desserts. Even though the holiday season is filled with stress and desserts is stressed spelled backwards, it doesn’t mean that eating piles of truffles and Christmas cookies is going to help figure out how to finance that new Batman car your kid is going to play with twice. It’s not going to leave you broke and happy. It’s going to leave you broke and fat and feeling miserable. Also, how do you only take a sample of four kinds of pies?! Well, believe it or not, it is not rude to cut a pie slice in half again or even two more times. Taking a sliver of pie is seen as not being a Piggy to ensure that more people get to sample the rhubarb AND the pecan caramel apple pumpkin cinnamon streusel. And this way, you get to try all four kinds of pie without having to take a whole slice of each and inducing diabetes! You can also pair up with a friend or relative and agree to each take a slice of a different pie then share at the table.
If you are a cancer survivor bringing a dish to a family or company dinner, this is a great way to share with friends, co-workers, and family, the new healthier eating habits that you have developed as a result of your diagnosis. There is nothing wrong with making a little placard on an index card to let people know if a dish is gluten or dairy free, low calorie, vegetarian, or healthy for survivors. It may inspire dinner conversations about how your non-cancerous loved ones can improve their own eating habits to help ward off the evil C-beast. Try to avoid slogans like “Try My Meatless Balls” or “Tofurkey Saves Tatas.” Keep it simple but intriguing so people ask questions.
Calorie-Busting Family Fun
What about after the family gorge? What can we do to avoid training all those calories to set up shop as lazy fat cells while we watch football? Well, back in the day, Thanksgiving and Christmas were both more active holidays! Families used to play healthy games of regular or Nerf football to work off dinner. But it doesn’t have to be football. You can play bocce ball, soccer, croquet, or any other game the family enjoys. On Christmas, it is also fun for everyone to head outside and watch the kiddos enjoy their new outside toys like bikes, skates, skateboards, and sports equipment or even participate by playing with them. This also encourages the kids to value those toys as well as the obese-inducing movies and video games. It’s amazing how much joy kids get from parents and relatives actually coming outside to watch some tricks on the bike or see how fast they can skate or how great a shot they are with their new basketball.
Family fun time it doesn’t have to always be sitting around the ol’ 95 inch watching Charlie Brown’s teacher practice her nautical radio skills for the 75th time. It may seem silly, but the Wii, X Box Kinect, and PlayStation Move can be very physical and can work you up a darn good sweat!! The sports games are great as well as workout games and fighting games. Even the music and instrument games burn calories while you have good family fun. If you don’t have any of those platforms, they can be bought very cheap at Thrift Stores and Cash Converters.
If you don’t like video games, there are many family board games with physical or charade type components. Shop around and see what you can find!! There is also the good old-fashioned go outside and play option too! And don’t forget how physically challenging securing and hand decorating and lighting a tree or decorating the house or yard can be!! Sure, you will all want to kill each other by the end of it, but it’s pretty to look at and will definitely burn off a few candy canes and Starbucks shopacinnos.
All throughout the holiday season, you can cut calorie build up and offer a preemptive strike against overeating like a polar bear in September by upping your regular exercise routines to offset the added calories going in. Unlike balancing your devastated holiday checkbook, the outgoing calories HAVE to be higher than the incoming to maintain a healthy balance and weight. If you are eating more, you have to be working out more!! Try working out during some of those Christmas movies you could probably recite even after a stroke. Do some crunches, squats, step aerobics, or wall sits while you absent-mindedly mumble about shooting your eye out and leg lamps.
Many gym memberships offer free trials during November and December. Give one a try! You may like it and decide to join, but if you don’t or the fees are too high, you got a month or a couple of weeks of free workout to offset all the extra poultry-loading. And you might have even found some workout stuff you can do at home!
Smart Gifting, Smart Shopping
What are the holidays without gift giving and receiving! It shouldn’t break the bank and doesn’t have to! What better way to avoid expensive shopping than to make some food items for our loved ones or take them to a holiday party gift swap. We can make these treats healthily and then include a little tag that tells them how healthy it is, why, and how to make it for their own families. It is a passive way to spread good eating habits. We know we are going to get some bins of popcorn and boxes of candy. If you know you don’t want to eat them, politely accept, stick them under the Kwanza bush, don’t open them, and then donate them to your local chemotherapy office for the chemo patients to enjoy when they are stuck infusing during the holidays. Many of us know the joy of finding actual chocolate in the Jolly Rancher and mint bowl!
Also regarding gifting and shopping, you know when you leave the house that you aren’t grabbing one thing “real quick” and are not coming home until well after dark. So, to avoid hitting up the fast food and sucking back five-hour energy shots, pack some healthy snacks to get you through the day’s shopping! You can pack homemade energy-boosting goodies, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, healthy whole grain crackers, cut up fruit and vegetables, or any other snacks you like. You can even pack a cooler with some low fat yogurt, fruit, green tea, or water.
When it comes to gifts and shopping, there are easy workouts buried within this too! You could always ask for a gym membership or workout equipment like a kettlebell, free weights, or resistance bands for Chanukah instead of one more sweater or throw blanket. When shopping for others, there is nothing wrong with encouraging good physical fitness in your loved ones. You can give light hand weights, jump ropes, stretchy bands, yoga mats, kettlebells, workout DVDs, more active fitness based Wii games, or outdoors toys. You can often find great deals on these at stores like Marshalls, Big Lots, and TJ Maxx and there is a special joy in watching someone struggle to figure out what a set of wrapped three-pound weights could possibly be.
When shopping for others, make yourself workout. Park as far from the stores as possible and get a free walk. More accidents happen in parking lots during the holiday season anyway and you will hit the store in a better mood! You can also park on the opposite side of the mall from where you are going and walk the mall. Who knows, you may spot that perfect ugly Christmas sweater for Aunt Helen on your journey.
Who knows, if you put these things into practice throughout December, you may find you feel better, look better, and have more energy. And you may just decide to be healthier all year long!!