The Holiday Cookie Conundrum

It’s no surprise that this holiday season I have been faced with more opportunities than I can count to eat cookies, candies, chocolates and pastries. They appear like magic, in every corner of every room. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type to be offended by an offering of holiday treats of any kind. I’ll take them shaped like trees, glittered with festive sprinkles, or loaded with chocolate. What really bothers me is the mixed messages we seem to receive between the first cookie tray and the first day back at work or school. There’s pressure all around us to enjoy, celebrate and indulge – with edible treats of course – all holiday season…until that stroke of midnight on December 31st. The moment January arrives there’s a new pressure; one to cut back, shape up and get a gym membership.

Why is it deemed ‘ok’ year after year to accept the pressure to celebrate the holidays with treats and beat ourselves up about it a few weeks later? Holidays really are the yo-yo diet for our self image, and for those with body image or weight concerns, the season can be torturous. It’s about time we step away from this distorted tradition of the Winter Holidays and take back the season. I know firsthand how easy it is to forget, in the hustle and bustle, that the holiday spirit lies beyond the gifts and goodies. The holidays aren’t supposed to be stressful, but a time to celebrate and spend time with family, friends and loved ones. There are lots of things we can do that don’t have to involve a dozen cookies and a new IPod: bundle up and go for a snowy walk, gather friends and go tobogganing or ice skating, curl up by the fireplace, or stay in and watch a favourite movie.

Going back to the cookie and calorie-counting puzzle, there’s only one solution in my mind as a nutrition student: healthy active living. For myself that means a few things. First off, I always enjoy the festive holiday treats – its part of the holiday package. But I try to keep in mind that my body is intuitive, and listen to those hunger/fullness cues.  I know its okay to say no; if I miss trying Aunt B’s shortbread this year I always have next year. I also take note if I’m becoming too preoccupied with what I’ve been eating over the holidays and think about what else is going on that might be affecting my self image.  Of course, there’s no doubt that exercise is important; our bodies like to be moved and stretched. That said, if the only reason you’re hitting the gym is the season’s latest guilt trip of scam diets and Photoshopped ads, it might be time to re-think your approach. Activity should be fun, something you look forward to, and while the holidays can be a difficult time to stay active, sometimes getting out and about can alleviate some of that extra stress. For me that means keeping up with activities I enjoy, like yoga, taking a brisk walk, or going for a bike ride.

Most importantly: don’t let the cookie conundrum get you down. Take a step away from the holiday crunch and relax – ‘tis the season!

Nicole Pin is a fourth year BASc Applied Human Nutrition student at the University of Guelph. She is a longstanding volunteer at NEDIC.