The arrival of a new baby marks the beginning of social events taking on proportions like never before. Whether it’s a baby shower, baptism, or birthday party, they all seem to have one thing in common…cake! It’s no wonder we struggle to lose those pregnancy pounds. Never mind the daily challenge of resisting the goldfish crackers and arrowroot cookies that have invaded our kitchens. When you factor in all the celebrations over the span of a year, you quickly realize that our lives as parents are chock full of eating opportunities!
Summer is fast upon us, which means lots of salads and fresh fruit, right? Sorry, but realistically when I look at my calendar and all the bar-b-cues and cottage weekends that are scheduled already, summer basically means hamburgers and ice cream as far as I’m concerned. Before we know it we’ll be buying back-to-school sweaters and the Mother of all eating holidays, Thanksgiving, is just around the corner.
As if turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie weren’t bad enough, Halloween literally “creeps” up on us. Every year I swear I won’t let those bit-sized treats get the best of me. I’ve tried everything from leaving it in the car to buying the kind I don’t like, but inevitably “just one” turns into more than I care to remember. You can’t even wait and buy it at the last minute or you risk getting your house egged if the stores are sold out by then. Let’s face it, the kids are going to bring home a Reese Peanut Butter cup whether I buy them or not, and who doesn’t scavenge through the kids’ candy just a little?
Of course we crave more calories and comfort food as the weather gets colder, but add the office “holiday” parties and then the holidays themselves, and December is basically a month of eating. We then ring in the New Year with champagne and usually a cheese fondue, which launches the start of the “chocolate” holidays - Valentines, Easter…you get the idea.
My trainer is the one who finally hit the nail on the head. After commenting to her that I manage to stick to my “healthy-eating-and-exercise” plan for a period of time, but then I’m hit with some event or another, and I go off the rails. She interrupted me and said, “So you’re an event eater”. I’d never thought of it that way, but she was right. When I added up all the events in a year, it was easy to see why I was having trouble staying on track.
In addition to the major holidays, I grew up in a home where we celebrated every holiday in a big way. I loved that part of my childhood, so I am trying to carry on those traditions with my own kids, which means pancakes on Pancake Day, green cupcakes for St. Patty’s (we’re 1/8th Irish so that counts!), and so on. With our ever-expanding multicultural family we’ve added churros for Cinco de Mayo, latkes for Channukah, and samosas for just about any special occasion (note: all deep-fried delicacies!)
So what’s a mom to do? Well, I for one think that life is meant to be celebrated, so cutting back on events is not an option. The beauty of having kids is that you get to act like a kid again yourself. Maybe it means getting creative and not making every event about the food. It’s amazing the magic and excitement you can whip up with a trip to the dollar store and a bag full of tacky decorations!
Just being aware of my “event-eating” tendency has made a difference already. I don’t want to dread holidays or events because I’m afraid of the damage the eating will do. Instead I try to plan around them, so if I know they’ll be serving up pizza, chips and cake at a 2-year-old’s party on the weekend, I’ll either grab a bite before I go and forego the party food, or else I’ll make sure to skip my own Friday night pizza night at home that week.
Feeling deprived is never a good thing. I find that the thought of a diet leaves me horrified at thinking I’ll never be able to eat my favourite foods again. Instead of dieting, I enjoy my healthy food and workouts during the week, and save the treats for when it is really worth it. And I realized I don’t need to eat the whole thing to feel satisfied. Sometimes just a bite or two is all it takes. After a good long stretch of healthy eating, I find that I don’t have the same cravings anymore anyway. I’ll have a bite of what I used to consider a “treat”, and then realize it’s not really worth the calories.
At the moment, I’m eagerly anticipating (and salivating at the thought of) my anniversary dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant where we go each year to celebrate. At times like that, when it is worth it, you need to enjoy what you’re eating and let go of the guilt. Go back to moderation and you will get back on track. Besides, you can guarantee there will be more of the same to look forward to when we do it all again next year!