Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 22, 2013

Christmas calories: Eating healthy difficult during sweet season

— — Homemade Macadamia nut cookies. Cupcakes topped with decadent, decorative icing. Ritz crackers and peanut butter dipped in rich, yummy chocolate. It’s the week before Christmas and the goodies keep rolling in to the newsroom.

The gifts of sweets are appreciated and enjoyed; the calories not so much. They are the reason for the tight waistbands the holidays often leave in their wake.

’Tis the season of justifiable enablement — calories don’t count when their given as gifts and enjoyed during the month of December, right?

lll

I’ve never been one to follow strict dietary guidelines. During the first 40 years of my life, I enjoyed having the metabolism of a hummingbird. I could eat whatever I wanted without fear of gaining weight.

Those were the days when I snubbed low-carb fare and instead enjoyed an outlaw diet — “give me all the carbs you’ve got,” preferably deep-fried and served alongside something ridiculously high in fat.

I was a nutritionist’s nightmare.

I loved Pop-Tarts, but only when they were smothered with a half cup of melted butter. My favorite snack was a Hershey bar covered with peanut butter and zapped in the microwave until it melted just enough to be eaten with a spoon.

In the spring, my typical dinner was a six-pack of Reese’s Eggs topped off with a box of Girl Scout cookies. I enjoyed each meal with a large, cool, refreshing glass of milk.

And it was real milk, mind you, not skim, low-fat or 2 percent.

When I was younger, living at home with the folks, my mom once poured me a glass of one of those milk impostors. I took one drink, spit it out, and quickly termed it “devil’s juice.”

After I was married, I refused to allow any of these “healthy” milk products in my house. For 21 years I am proud to say our ’fridge has housed only whole milk. Bad action, perhaps. But it’s a quirk that cements my role as the poster child for unhealthy eating habits.

lll

I do recognize the importance of eating foods that can promote good health. However, with all the diet books, lifestyle programs, FDA recommendations and research programs tossing out lists of “good foods,” “bad foods,” “good when eaten in moderation foods” and “bad when eaten by itself, but good when consumed as part of a meal containing fish” foods, how is the American public supposed to keep track of what is healthy to ingest?

Several years ago, many people I knew were on low-fat diets. Fat was the true “f-word” of the era, and many lost weight by keeping close tabs on their fat intake.

Then came the low-carb fad. And I was shocked by the sudden backlash against bread, potatoes and pasta. These were my “healthy” foods — the ones that supplemented my regular diet of Double-Stuffed Oreos, E.L. Fudge Cookies, Twinkies, chips, triple chocolate cheesecake and Pixy Stix.

Without carbs, I could not even get my daily vegetable serving— ketchup served on French fries or tator tots.

lll

Once I hit 40, my diet was forced into a drastic change. Suddenly the chocolate cake, lasagna and large pizzas with extra cheese began showing up on my hips and thighs. During a routine checkup at the doctor’s office, I pointed out this unpleasant problem.

“You’re 40 — your metabolism is changing,” the doctor stated in a matter-of-fact voice.

I responded with an evil glance and stern words, “Change it back.”

Regrettably, I learned there is no fix to a changed metabolism. Instead, one is forced to embark on a new life of salads, celery sticks and carb-friendly fare.

lll

Now I count calories — constantly, and I have a bizarre knowledge of the carbohydrate count of most prepackaged frozen dinners. I also find it sad that I know how much time must be spent on the elliptical to burn off two slices of pepperoni and sausage pizza.

French fries are a dim memory, as is the taste of a warm, freshly buttered dinner roll. I haven’t had a Hershey bar with peanut butter or Girl Scout cookie in years.

However, I do continue to snub certain healthy foods and enjoy a limited role as a rebel without a rice cake. Counting calories and carbs is one thing, eating snacks that taste like shredded cardboard is another.

lll

As Christmas draws near and homemade goodies continue to flood the newsroom, I am opting to subscribe to a favorite legend — calories don’t count in December.

It’s a great mindset that leaves a no-guilt aftertaste.

So pass the potatoes, double the cheese, toss in some extra bread and hand me the dessert — first. Life is too short not to enjoy an unhealthy heaping of calories and carbs during this most joyous of seasons.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTerry.

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