Every year, I swear that I will be thin enough to wear my smallest dress to the office party. And every year, I don’t quite make it. Oh, I can usually get into it by the beginning of February after a diet-obsessed, guilt-ridden January, but it doesn’t mean as much then.
Why are November and December so toxic to our weight control efforts? Certainly there is abundant food available during the month long celebration from Thanksgiving to New Year. It is the season for non-stop parties and gifts of food from colleagues, friends, family, and customers.
But more than just the food, there is a special atmosphere that descends on the Western World at the end of November. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzai – whatever the celebration involved – evoke the onset of primitive emotions. We wax nostalgic over the holidays we recall from childhood. We turn towards family and traditions that have been absent from our thoughts for the rest of the year. We indulge ourselves in the joy of giving and receiving.
Cookies, and chocolates, and gift baskets bursting with preservatives, which we would politely refuse during any other time of the year, are now gratefully accepted in the spirit of the season. Food we would normally avoid – creamed soups, fruit glazes, gravy, fruit breads, honeyed hams – appear as comfort foods, warming and welcoming. Our sophisticated and world-weary veneer fades in the face of traditions that make us feel whole and contented again.
The goodwill we feel demands a context and a continuity that was established many years ago. Each December, we trot out the same old carols, enjoying the familiarity of tunes we learned to love sitting next to a glittering tree and a roaring fire. For a month, we emotionally step back in time to reconnect who we are with who we were. Despite its current crass commercialism, we need the holidays to remind us of our roots, our values, and our beginnings.
So this year, I am going to throw myself into the fray, eat whatever I want, and let the chips fall where they may. I can always wear something else to the office party and there will be innumerable occasions in the New Year when I can attain caloric virtue through deprivation and denial.
This year, I’m going to have guilt-free, unalloyed, and omnivorous fun.