Hooray! It’s the holiday season! Deck the halls! Joy to the world! And hark! The herald angel…food cake! I love the holidays. I look forward to them the entire year. And to me, like a lot of women, the holidays are about food. They start with Halloween candy that creeps onto the shelves right after the back-to-school stuff comes down. Three-ring binders are replaced with candy corn and miniature boxes of Milk Duds (there are only three in a box, so we women can eat a dozen boxes and still feel okay about ourselves). But we can weather the tiny candy storm knowing the really good holiday stuff is coming. So we resist temptation (except on the actual day of Halloween—we’re only human) and start preparing.
We are determined females. We are focused. In October and early November we tirelessly count calories, points, fat, carbs—pick your poison/mathematical-deprivation method. We set our alarms an hour earlier to give ourselves time to run. We actually get up when our alarms go off, and run. We pretend that fruit can be a dessert. We go to the movies and “treat” ourselves to a Diet Coke. We “mix it up” at dinner by making grilled fish instead of grilled chicken. We are incredible. We are the embodiment of self-control. And as the men in our life, you start to really respect us. All that talk the rest of the year about wanting to “eat healthy” and “finally take those extra pounds off” is happening right before your very eyes. No more talk, all walk. It’s miraculous. We stop at five ounces of wine (which, sadly, is one serving) and we’re actually Zen about it. We know everything is for the greater good. That’s why I’m sure it’s a shock to you when it all comes to an abrupt end.
Thanksgiving! It’s a holiday. It’s a celebration. It’s a family tradition. With a delicious meal. A carb-filled, fatty, caloric meal. It seems to fly in the face of everything you’ve seen us working for over the past six-plus weeks. But it comes and we don’t even try to resist. You watch us pile our plates high with stuffing, marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes, buttered bread and Jell-O and then cover it all with gravy, even the Jell-O (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). And then you think we’re done, but we go back for seconds. And you think, Oh, maybe she’s going to skip dessert. And you are wrong, dead wrong. We go straight for that pumpkin-pecan-apple-pie sampler plate with some fudge to grow on. Then you think maybe it’s just one cheat day. But it doesn’t stop. The day after Thanksgiving is leftover city. And the day after that we want to get a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks and make Christmas cookies. It’s confusing, because you’ve just seen us be our best selves. You saw us have one chip and then put that Chip Clip back on with the self-righteousness of a Victoria’s Secret model. And now it’s all gone and you want to say something. You do. Really really badly. Because you think we’ve fallen off the wagon we were so proudly on. And I get it. You just want to help.
One time my boyfriend just wanted to help. He leaned into me at a Christmas party when I was scarfing down some tortilla chips and dip after months of dieting and said, “Hey, don’t fill up on chips.” That was of course code, which I cracked. I knew what he really meant was “Stop pigging out.” I learned something about myself in that moment: that I was capable of murder. I wanted to grab the scruff of the beard I’d begged him to shave off and slam his face into the salsa and let him drown in it. I was furious, furious because he didn’t understand me at all. He didn’t understand that I’d worked so hard for those six to eight weeks so I could fill the fuck up on chips. The wagon I was on was built to fall apart just before the holidays.
The truth is that women lose weight to gain it back. When we look at that scale the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we see we’ve lost seven pounds, it doesn’t mean it’s bathing-suit-shopping time. It means it’s freedom time. We’re free to gain back seven pounds. Seven whole pounds! It means we don’t have to say no to our co-worker’s Chex Reindeer Poop (if you haven’t had it, have it) or that yummy…ish Hanukkah gelt. We can have that ambrosia salad (can we really call it a salad?) and not worry about how we’re going to calculate the Weight Watchers points later. It doesn’t matter. We’re just getting back to where we were in October. No harm, no foul.
There is a method to our fatness. But don’t worry; it’s temporary. It’s just for the holiday season. It too shall pass and soon enough it’ll be January and we’ll be trying to drag you on a walk or trick you into a jog (“Let’s speed up; the light’s about to change”) and feeding you pureed frozen bananas and calling it ice cream. So for now, enjoy the holidays with your lady. Let it go and please just let her eat pie.