The annual holiday shopping season is just warming up. However, if you are one of the 78 million overweight Americans – as I was 100 pounds ago – official holiday pig-out season began with Halloween. Think of it as your cocktail before the binge.
I’m not trying to sell you a meal plan, club membership or magic pills. You can’t spend your way to health. That’s what I discovered after wasting thousands of dollars and 15 years on programs that were designed to keep me addicted to food.
Like you, I had great intentions, but in spite of those intentions, I repeatedly stuffed myself to the brink of illness right through New Year’s Day. Then repenting like a Saturday-night sinner at a Sunday-morning revival meeting, I rushed to the nearest gym or joined the latest lose-it-quick weight-loss program. Sound familiar?
After the holidays, just as you begin to feel human again, Super Bowl Sunday roars up the driveway, tailgate flapping, loaded with hot wings, stuffed jalapenos and supermarket meat-and-cheese platters. Any thought of healthy eating ends with the first mouthful of chili-cheese dip.
Oh well, it’s only one day.
But before you wipe the last smear of wing sauce off your face, oops, here comes Valentine’s Day. Break out the chocolate and champagne. By the time you pick the caramel out of your teeth, St. Patrick swings by with a heaping helping of corned beef, cabbage and green beer. Right on his heels, Easter drags in a basketful of chocolate bunnies. Before the dye dries on the eggs, Mother’s Day rings the doorbell. You take Mom out for a calorie-loaded dinner that is sure to raise both her cholesterol and her blood pressure. Yours too. But no worries. It’s only one. Memorial Day kick-starts summer with the first official barbecue of the season.
Father’s Day is next on the menu. All Dad wants to do is flop in front of the sports channel and eat, and you are happy to accommodate him. Spread out the food on the coffee table, wrap a beach towel around his neck, and let him chomp himself into a heart attack. Hope the life insurance is paid. Summer appears with a bang on the Fourth of July, another grilling-and-chilling holiday.
Mid-July through August is vacation time, and who counts calories at the beach? Instead, you tell yourself that is the only time you can truly relax, so you gladly live on sugar, carbs and fat-laden non-food.
As soon as you are home, Labor Day weekend and the last binge of the season arrive. When the kids head back to school, you head, credit card in hand, to the nearest diet center or gym. That lasts about four weeks, until Halloween creeps in again. You have come full circle and are about to take another trip into the Bermuda Triangle of holiday food benders.
Add to this list Hanukkah, Eid al-fitr, Kwanzaa and a multitude of other religious or spiritual festivities, weddings, showers, anniversaries, birthdays, funerals, Sunday dinners and other personal celebrations. The result? Out of a 52-week year, most people resolve to lose weight the week after New Year’s and the week after Labor Day. Think about it. Two weeks out of an entire year.
According to the U.S. surgeon general, 300,000 people a year die prematurely from obesity-related diseases. Saying no to Aunt Fanny’s banana pudding cake or Uncle Ralph’s roasted beast with mango chutney is tough. We’ve all heard, “I made this just for you,” accompanied by a hurt expression. Out of guilt, and an ever-present craving, you eat the casserole or cake or candy. If you decline, they counter with, “It’s only one day.”
What can you do?
Well, you can continue to eat anything that anyone shoves your way and risk turning into an insulin-shooting diabetic stumbling around on your last three toes. You could eat yourself into a case of dementia, or be diagnosed with late-stage cancer because the fat hid the tumor.
Or you can begin to get healthy. One skipped order of French fries, one refused dessert, one trade from fried chicken to grilled halibut will start to turn your life and your health in the right direction.
That’s how I lost 100 pounds. One bite, one choice, one day at a time.
Hazel Dixon-Cooper of Fresno is an international best-selling author. Her blog, Confessions of a Fat Cosmo Girl, reveals the truth about the weight-loss industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.