A New Christmas

christmas

I used to love Christmas, with all its twinkly lights, wonderful-smelling trees, and presents. However, once my mom’s health began declining (brought on by a brain aneurysm in 2004 which almost killed her), my attitude towards Christmas changed dramatically. Though her cognitive abilities are markedly improved now, she doesn’t care about her personal appearance, nor does she get excited about opening up gifts which I wrap carefully for her.

Another thing which happens every year, and has occurred for the past several years, is that people leave town, and I find myself alone on Christmas Day. I remember spending the Christmas of 2011 and 2012 moping about the fact that I was alone, but then in 2013, I sort of gave up and decided to use Christmas Day as more of a personal day, to catch up on projects and cleaning, or to spend part of the day with friends who might be in town during that time. This year, I will spend the early afternoon sitting in a movie theater by myself and watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, and I think that is absolutely perfect.

Another Christmas tradition which I had abandoned in 2012 was getting a tree. From 1997 through 2010, I would get a 7-1/2 foot Noble Fir for the living room and decorate it along with the rest of the house. In 2011, I still bought a tree, but I put it in a different room because my cats were so rambunctious that I was concerned that they would destroy it. Then we moved in 2012, and I didn’t even make an effort to buy and decorate a tree. We had no tree in 2013 or 2014 either, and to make sure that I didn’t go hog-wild with other decorations, I got rid of a bunch of lights and other decorations at a garage sale I had earlier this year.

This year, I was completely torn. I put wreaths up on the front door and the back door, but didn’t put any lights up on our patio. Almost daily, I would toy with the idea of running to a tree lot and buying a tree. But here’s the thing: it’s not exactly fun to think about picking out a tree by yourself, loading it up onto the roof of your car, lugging it up a flight of stairs to your house, pulling out all the lights and other decorations from the garage, and decorating the entire damned thing yourself. The cat factor also really bothered me, because I didn’t exactly relish the thought of coming home to broken ornaments or chewed up light cords. I thought that if I could test the cats’ behavior with a smaller tree, that I might buy a tree, but that it wouldn’t happen until next year.

Then I found myself in a Rite Aid on December 20th, and saw a 4 foot artificial Noble Fir for sale for $10. That was my chance to finally get a tree. Ten bucks was cheap enough for me to take the plunge without feeling like I had made a huge commitment. I purchased the tree, and as soon as I got home, I decorated it. My cats looked at it with great curiosity, but they didn’t bat at the ornaments or chew at the tree (well, Shima chewed a bit on the tree, but I’m watching her!). I have enjoyed the tree so immensely that I have decided to get a 7-1/2 foot Noble Fir next year, and I will also put up the artificial 4 foot tree. I am even considering putting lights out on the patio next year.

In many respects, Christmas is just another day for me, but it doesn’t mean that I have to avoid enjoying the decorations which the holiday brings. My Christmas gift to myself is a nice little movie date which I am sure I will enjoy as well.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas As A Grownup Sucks

I will freely admit that I adopt a bit of a Grinch attitude during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean I am unpleasant to others. It simply means that I no longer look forward to putting up a tree and stockings, mostly because my mother is never there to enjoy it (she has limited mobility and cannot walk up all the stairs where I live), and also because my rascally cats would readily destroy a decorated tree in no time flat. I have even balked at the idea of putting lights up on the patio, because our electrical outlet is so temperamental that we would only be able to enjoy a few minutes of light before the circuit would shut it all down.

grinch03While I enjoy giving gifts, I cannot stand the whole ordeal of shopping and also have the worst time trying to figure out what everyone wants. What I look forward to during the holidays is seeing my friends, having them come over to eat and share in some good laughs. I get so much enjoyment out of feeding my friends, but I have yet to determine how this quirk developed. Perhaps it has something to do with my love of food, or my desire to nurture. I only hope my friends enjoy the experience as much as I do.

It’s not like I sit around and grumble, but I swear that my rescue kitty Shima could be Max while I could observe all the holiday activities with a touch of disdain. Though I appreciate the climactic scene in “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” in which the Grinch’s heart grew, I am not too keen on signing up for cardiac enlargement!

Probably the most significant element which makes Christmas special for me is having a significant other to share it with. The last time I was truly able to share the holiday with someone was eight years ago, so it has been a LONG time since I experienced such a thing. Even in my last relationship we spent Christmas apart because he went back home to be with his family every year. A new definition of Christmas will remain in place until someone comes along to truly share the holiday with me.

Off-Season Maintenance

I know it can be difficult to maintain clean eating during the holidays, especially with no upcoming bodybuilding shows to prep for.  I am a big believer in truly enjoying the holidays guilt-free, which means having a couple of pieces of fudge if you are so inclined, or having champagne to ring in the new year.  However, if the rest of your meals are kept clean, you should be able to survive this time of year without experiencing a catastrophic spread of the waistline.

One trick which helps is to consume a small amount of lean protein when you have a carb cheat, and eat it before the cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink a glass of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.  One of the worst things you can do is skip meals beforehand in hopes that the caloric deficit will balance out the overindulgence later.  All this does is squash your metabolism and increase your chance of overeating.

On the other side of the coin I have seen competitors rein it in so tightly that they make themselves miserable by avoiding holiday treats of any kind.  This can be psychologically very dangerous because they manage to punish themselves, thus solidifying an emotional relationship with food.  I have actually seen people cry after eating something because they felt so guilty about ingesting it.  This is fodder for eating disorders.  The holidays come but once a year, so it is far better to enjoy a few little holiday treats and balance it out with healthy eating.  Happy Holidays and Happy Eating!