Just in time for all of the holiday parties…
Note: I first published this post in 2012. Reading it now, the corners of my holly jolly cheeks lift in ironic jest. “Hah!” I say to my younger self. “You thought that was healthy?” For sure, my definition of healthful food has shifted. Just goes to show – diets or no – tastes evolve. I’m a nomadic foodie. What was once a rest area on my road to health is now a spot to zoom by and toss wildflower seeds for next year’s visitors. I wonder what new foodie facts I’ve yet to discover and how that will change my plate; which resembles a map more than a platter. When I come to table this Christmas, my assignment will be to honor the ever-changing landscape between fork and knife.
In that spirit of transformation, I’ve tweaked the original recipe below. Notes in red reflect new food discoveries, including:
Special thanks to Anna Rose-McComb of Tiny Farm Nutrition and Fitness for these discoveries. If they’re new to you, as they once were to me, I invite you to taste them in the most delicious way I can dream up: in the fudge recipe below which can satisfy holiday cravings and literally not make me fat. Enjoy!
From 2012…We’re smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, and I’m starting to do a lot more smackin’ — of my lips, that is. I love, love, love Christmas treats: peanut butter fudge, yogurt-covered pretzels, divinity, candy canes, ribbon candy, brightly painted Christmas sugar cookies, and those morsels with the jelly in the middle. What else is out there? Too bad no one has discovered a way for me to eat my fudge and not gain weight, too (Guess what, girl…) Nonetheless, I’ve accepted my love for Christmas treats. This year, instead of fighting the temptation or judging myself for caving into desire, I’ve made peace with the bounty of sugar, butter, and chocolate that appears this time of year. If I maintain my weight from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, I count that as a win.
To celebrate and embrace my holiday sweet tooth, I’d like to share a favorite recipe. Hubby and I love to bake up these Cranberry Walnut Breads as gifts. Whenever I watch him in the kitchen I’m convinced he’d make a great TV chef. I’d put a twist on it and call it The Naked Baker Show (camera peeking just above the counter). But, that’s for another blog…Here’s the recipe:
Each batch makes 6 loaves.
Grease (coconut oil!) and flour (alternative) 6, 9 x 5 loaf pans and divide batter into each. Spread evenly into corners of pans and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 and continue baking for about 50-60 minutes more, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Heads-up: these healthier substitutions may shift the temp and time a bit, so stay vigilant, check often and tweak if necessary. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Spread with as much butter or coconut oil as your heart desires!
When I come to table this Christmas, my assignment will be to honor the ever-changing landscape between fork and knife.
Flashback to the Thanksgiving before committed to losing 100 pounds in 1 year. This was an unusual time of insight for me. Not only was I ready to get gutsy and make some major life changes (read more at Eat to Thrive), but I could see myself from outside myself. Such eye-openers are a gift because they don’t happen all the time, but, when they do come, I try to sit up and take notice.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I snuggled into the corner of the couch with a cool, ceramic bowl of cereal cradled in my hands. This wasn’t just any cereal bowl. It was the biggest bowl I could find; large enough to hold leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner. As I balanced the heavy bowl in my left hand — making sure no milk spilled over the edge — I held an extra-large spoon in my right. I dunked that spoon three inches deep into the cereal, lifted out a heap of granola and rice flakes, stretched my mouth wide, and shoveled it in. I plunged again. And again. And again. I snarfed that bowlful in minutes, stuffing mouthfuls as fast as I could chew and swallow.
As I tipped the bowl to my lips to sip the last puddle of sweet milk, I saw my reflection; not in the bottom of the bowl, but inside my mind. I saw myself, and I was sad. I wanted that cereal to make me feel better. I set the bowl down and, not for the first time, felt a familiar bloated feeling expand my stomach into a cereal baby. I tried to get still. I asked myself, Why am I so sad? Once I made space to ask the question, the answer was right there. Everyone at work – plus most of my family — had the week off, but I was still working every day. I wanted time off, too. What about me?
That day, I wrote myself a reminder for next year: It read: “Ask for Thanksgiving week off (Remember cereal snarfing last year?)”
That act – of noticing my pain and finding a way to change things – sparked a new holiday tradition for me. Now, before the holidays get too hectic, I take time to reflect on how I want the season to look. This is a new skill for me. I always thought I had to endure the holidays, like I had no say in how they played out. I braced for the stress: running extra errands, scrunching parties into schedules, stretching the Christmas budget, and — worst of all — muddling through the hollow letdown of the day-after-Christmas Hangover (Not necessarily alcohol-induced, more like “expectation induced.”) It never occurred to me that I have a choice in how the holidays roll. Turns out, I do. It just takes a few, simple questions, thoughtfully answered in a quiet space before all the holly and jolly begin.
To that end, I’d like to share with you my simple reflection routine for the holidays. I use the following questions to frame my intentions. Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s o.k. Knowing my intentions lowers stress. Feeling centered matters most. That way, when surprises pop up, I don’t create a story in my head that I’m helpless or pushed; I just adapt to find another way towards my intentions. O.K. Here’s my holiday reflection routine, plus my intentions from this year…
In Early November:
(The day after Christmas is a juicy time for reflection, since that hangover feeling still stings strong.)
Feel free to change up these questions and make them work for you. Also, be sure to print out your answers and keep them in a safe place for next year’s reflection.
Before I finish, you may wonder, How does all this relate to losing weight? First, consider the fact that stress (especially six weeks of it during the shortest days of the year) almost guarantees weight gain (read more at Chronic Stress and Weight Gain). Also, planning ahead can mitigate some of my mindless munching because I’m more present, more centered. There’s nothing like a party platter to shortcut my best intentions, especially when I didn’t have time to eat dinner because I had to stop at the post office to mail gifts. Lastly, there’s a happy spillover effect from creating intentions and watching how they change my reactions to circumstances. Intentions are like built-in homing beacons. They become reference points to help me track where I’m at on my mental map. Experiencing that level of control – even the extent to which I let myself get out-of-control – can fuel my self-esteem and store up some seriously good ju-ju for the coming year.
Shelby writes sassy, inspiring stories of weight loss. Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.