I love the holidays — the busy, joyful, rushing around craziness of it. But there is one unfortunate and uncomfortable truth that I must own up to, and it is this: I never come closer to a drinking problem and an eating disorder than I do at Christmas. And by “Christmas” in this context, I mean the last three weeks of the year. Without fail.
To me, the holidays mean indulgence, and I do eat everything in sight. They mean nostalgia, and that means I bake the treats I loved growing up and then eat all of those. They mean friends, many of whom send or drop off treats. And I eat all of those. They mean celebration, and so I drink way, way more than is appropriate at this or any other time of the year. My last few weeks have gone something like this: angel biscuits, sweet rolls, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate mousse cake, cheese, cheese, some more cheese, buckeyes, cannoli, cheese straws, corn pudding, wee lemon cakes, red velvet whoopie pies, sugar cookies with icing, Hub’s peanuts, bourbon, rye whiskey, beer, wine, bourbon, and of course, champagne.
It has been a delight, but honestly, it’s all far too much. This year, like every year, I’m wrapping up the holidays feeling slow, worn out, and generally blah. Not sick, but not all that well, either. Like there’s more of me than there should be (there is) and I’m dragging myself into the new year, rather than leaping into it. I’ve been eating and drinking like someone’s going to take it away from me. And that someone is going to be me.
I celebrate the new year with an exercise that I call Dry January. I can’t remember exactly when I started, but for years now I’ve taken the month off from alcohol. The discipline required for me to do this usually spills over into other areas: I also eat better (and don’t go back for cookies while I’m filling up a wine glass), I sleep much better, and sleeping better means that I’m more likely to exercise. And if I’m exercising, I want to eat better, and then I sleep even better. It’s not rocket science — this is essentially the gist of every January cover article on every woman’s magazine — but it’s my version of taking better care of myself. It feels like a healthy, strong way to begin the new year. Much, much better than what I’ve done leading up to it.
I’m actually not as strict about this as I used to be. I may have a glass of wine with friends once or twice. But the initiative remains: try to be kind to my health and well-being for at least a month. The way I look at it: the harder it is to do (and it is hard), the more I need to do it. So I’m getting ready to say goodbye to the last cookies in my kitchen and preparing to put the corkscrew away for now. Time to clean the slate. Enough is enough!