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This Holiday Season, No Fruitcake, Please

Dec 03, 2013 | Updated Feb 02, 2014

Is it hard to stick to my food choices during the holiday season?

Friends and acquaintances have commented that my restrictive food choices -- nearly total elimination of carbohydrates in order to reduce my reliance on insulin injections -- must require special determination in the face of pumpkin pies and fruitcake.

There's some truth to that, but allow me to reposition the popular holiday narrative of inadequate resolve and inevitable weight gain:

  • The fruitcake won't dominate my Thanksgiving experience. It is neither the captain nor at the helm.
  • I am a sentient being with values and goals. The fruitcake will not bend my will.
  • The Thanksgiving feast is not an epic struggle with a tragic ending.
  • I can and will resist the allure of the dangerous, beautiful fruitcake and her song.

That's not to say that these waters are safe, let alone breezy. There's one enormous meal, a magnificent spread of dishes, and a lot of sitting around. Gastronomically speaking, Thanksgiving is an extraordinary day. As such, I must choose very carefully in order to achieve my ordinary health outcomes.

That's where my approach differs from the "once a year" camp -- those who say, "It's only once a year. Indulge a little!" To the contrary, Thanksgiving is a time for me to double down. It's just like how airport security is tighter on heavy travel days. On normal days, a single almond covered in dark chocolate fits into my diet. On Thanksgiving, with so many variables zooming around, so many unknowns, and so many dishes yet to come, I'm better off without that chocolate-coated almond. The last thing I need is another ding in the armor that protects my blood sugar and my discipline -- a ding that on a normal day would be negligible, but on Thanksgiving, might cause me to slip.

Indulge, because it's only once a year? Instead, I'll use more self-control than I normally would, because it's only once a year. Extra diligence about my food choices, with no exceptions, actually helps me relax. By opting out of the epic struggle with portion control, by avoiding the mostly subjective question of what is the proper size of a tiny sliver of cake, I can focus on my well-being and family time with a sense of purity, peace and calm. It's less distracting. It allows me to handle my dietary restrictions with a bit more grace and less hubbub. A gentle breeze carries me to safe harbor. It's all much easier.

At this year's Thanksgiving feast, dessert came and went, and I sipped on coffee while other guests enjoyed pie and cake. It was a lovely Thanksgiving, and I feel even better about it because I stuck to my food choices.

My body is so happy with me and I am content. The pie, I'm told, was delicious.

Oh, there are more holidays? I'll be ready, and I'll set the terms. Fruitcake, step aside.

This post originally appeared on newfoodculture.com, where Leo Brown writes about food, nutrition, and health.