How to Purposely Prepare to Not Feel Miserable during the Holidays

While it is indeed important, I’m not talking about truly remembering the real meaning of Christmas – I’m just talking about avoiding a headache, along with possible mild depression and constipation.

Thanksgiving Day wasn’t that long ago, so there’s a good chance you have fresh memories of sitting around the house all weekend, eating too much food, and ultimately feeling miserable.  That was my story for so many years.  Until last year when I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore during my days off from work.  So today I share with you two easy tips so that you may truly enjoy my holidays with friends and family.

Bring a case of bottled water and fresh salad to the meal.  Part of the reason it’s so common to feel yuckified during the holidays is because it’s way too easy to become dehydrated (there is such an easy access to both soda and alcohol at these holiday meal gatherings both of which dehydrate the body).  Also, holiday meals are very similar to a Chinese buffet in that they mainly consist of carbs and sodium.  Not only is it too easy to eat too much, but it’s too easy to also eat virtually nothing nutritious in the process.  When the freshest vegetable dish available is green bean casserole, you’re bound to feel down.  Drink plenty of water and make sure there are fresh vegetables available, if it means that you are responsible for bringing it.

Get out of the house and out into the cold. As much time as you will spend watching the 1983 classic A Christmas Story on TBS repeatedly and playing Wii with your nephews and nieces, there’s a good chance that your idea of “getting out” simply means going shopping for good deals or running to the convenience store to buy more milk.  You need real exercise and fresh air during the holidays.  So in addition to bringing the salad and bottled water, your responsibility is to stand up and say, “I’m going for walk outside- who’s with me?”  (Don’t forget your coat, of course.)  You’ll be the hero.  And you’ll be surprised at what interesting conversations can arise from a (30 minute minimum) walk in the cold: Certain conversations just can’t be born while lying in a coma-like state on the couch.

I guarantee you will have a better holiday experience if you try abiding by these two tips.  Cabin fever can be prevented.  And you can be the Holiday Armadillo that changes things in your household.  No matter what you believe the winter holidays are actually about, the importance of giving to others is ultimately attached to your religious or cultural traditions.  So give to the needy.  Care for the orphans and widows.  Love the unloved.  And lastly, give the gift of “not feeling miserable” to others.


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Open Mouth, Insert Fruit by the Foot: Oral Fixation and How the Mouth is a Pleasure Zone

The psychology behind making mouths happy.

In 1905, Jewish neurologist Sigmund Freud presented his theory on what he called “oral fixation”.  It basically said that if an infant was weaned too early or too late, when they became an adult, they would be “hungry” for activities involving the mouth: smoking, overeating, being extremely talkative, being addicted to sugar, alcoholism, biting, chewing on toothpicks…(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_fixation#Oral_fixation).

However, tests on Freud’s theory have never produced any significant evidence proving it to be valid.  Therefore, if anything, his theory on oral fixation is interesting, but not compelling.

And while I, along with pretty much anyone else in the history of the world who has heard about it, definitely don’t take Freud’s theory of oral fixation seriously, the theory has caused me to dwell a little bit on the human obsession of stimulating our senses by what we put in or near our mouths.

Even people who pretty much have never been around babies all that much (I’d almost say I qualify for that description) recognize that babies explore and test their surroundings by putting objects in their mouths.  Not just food, but toys, live animals, clothes- it doesn’t matter.

I could see how as adults, we fall back on this behavior.  After all, what is so enjoyable about swallowing a delicious food or drink?  Not much.  It’s all about the sensation of bringing that food item up to our mouths, tasting it, and chewing it.  So in theory, the only real difference between eating a piece of red licorice and chewing a piece of bubble gum is that we swallow one, but not the other.

Of course, a piece of candy will “fill us up” more than a 5 calorie piece of gum.  But when we eat sweets, we’re typically not eating to “get full”.  Maybe as a snack to tide us over or as a way to top off a meal.  The reason we eat sugary snacks is because it’s fun.  And having fun makes us happy.

Even contrasting that example to the joy of eating a good juicy, homemade burger- I eat a burger on occasion not only because it tastes good, but also because it fills me up.  Because if I simply wanted to be filled up with food, I could eat an endless list of other things, including a huge salad topped with beans and rice, instead of the burger.  But eating a burger typically is more likely to release more pheromones in my body, causing me to feel happy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pheromones).

So what does all this mean to me personally?  What do I walk away learning from this?

Anyone who has ever read a few of my “healthnutshell” posts knows that I think sugar is the devil (unless it is eaten in whole fruit form, not juiced).  But sometimes, I give in to a little bit of sugary awesomeness.  For the next two weeks, Starbucks is doing a happy hour promotion where their Frappuccino’s are half off from 3:00 to 5:00 PM.

So this past Sunday afternoon, at 4:47 PM, my wife and I strolled in the Starbucks right down the road from our house.  Because I had already drank coffee that morning and didn’t want to overdue it on the caffeine, I told the barista, “Make me the manliest drink you sell: a tall Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino”.

As my wife and I sat there enjoying our sugary Frappuccino’s there in the coffee shop, discussing our individual roles in my side of the family (“my dad is the mechanic/carpenter, my brother-in-law is the computer whiz, so what am I?…”) , I consciously focused on the happiness that my Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino was bringing me.

The worst way to drink a sugary drink is to just simply chug it like water.  The best way is to let it roll all over your tongue to the point you don’t really taste the sugar, then slowly swallow it.

Here is the most important thing to remember when choosing the size of any food item:  You are buying the amount of time you will enjoy the product.  You pay more money for a large, so it takes long to consume.  If you order a small size, you have less time to enjoy it.  Unless you eat or drink it slowly.  Like I do.

Slowly enjoying a Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino is most comparable to smoking a sweet cigar.  When smoking a cigar, the smoke isn’t intended to enter the lungs.  The smoke is meant to be tasted and enjoyed in the mouth.  It’s not the same as smoking cigarettes , where the smoke hitting the lungs is the whole point- or so I’ve read, on Wikipedia.

So while I laugh at Freud’s theory on oral fixation (the idea that incorrectly weaned infants become overeating, smoking, habit-forming adults), I do recognize that there is a connection between a person’s physical health and how much they give in to oral stimulation- specifically when it comes to eating, drinking, and smoking.

Each time I deny my mouth its “oral fixation” on juicy burgers and Frappuccino’s and honey berry flavored cigars, it is an absolute fact that I am always doing my body a favor, but not my mind.  I just have to remind myself, those things are for special few-and-far between occasions.  Because the truth is, I can get by most days with green salads, salmon, fruit, oatmeal, water, and chewing gum.  I admit though; it’s not easy trying to fix my oral fixations.

The Irony of Praying Before a Meal of Junk Food

Bless this greasy burger and these Twinkies to the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies to your service…


Saying the “blessing” before a meal is a complicated and trying process when there is a group of three of more people. I was made most aware of the awkwardness/intenseness involving the procedure during my Junior High and High School years with my church youth group. It always amused me that we were constantly eating fast food and asking God to bless it to the nourishment of our bodies.

The intensity of it is this: I was a hungry kid with a high metabolism. There was food in front of me, but I couldn’t eat it because I had to wait for everyone to be ready for the prayer. That’s cruel for a kid of any age. (Even at 28.)

The awkwardness of it is this: No one knew who was going to be asked to pray. There’s a bit of a short waiting game as the Designated Pray Person is elected. (And by now, I’ve learned to elect myself.)

But for those who suffer, there is mercy. I’m referring to the It’s Okay to Eat Fries, Peanuts, and Chips & Salsa Before the Prayer rule. For some reason, God isn’t concerned with us not asking his blessing for unofficial appetizers. However, if there is an actual appetizer, like a Blooming Onion for example, a prayer of tha

nksgiving and blessing is required.

And one must always be aware of the Salad Bar Clause. When dining at a restaurant with a salad bar or optional buffet of any kind, it’s important to make sure that someone prays before the first person leaves to go to the buffet. Otherwise, everyone will be obligated to wait for the buffet-goers to get back to their seats before the prayer can be said and everyone can begin eating.

Such anxiety! It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.