Thursday, November 22, 2007

Getting ready for a low-carb holiday season

Hump Day
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Appeared on page D6, Moncton Times & Transcript

I have tears in my eyes from trying to force myself not to decorate for the holidays. I have no idea why the urge is so strong and so early this year.

Despite the couple of houses on my street that have already been decorated (one with a tree that's been in the window since Remembrance Day), I know that if I set up for the holidays this early that I'll just get really sick of it before the big day even arrives.

Well there's that, and the fact that my tree will be naked by Christmas if I put it up now because the cats will have swatted off all the decorations by Dec. 25. Apparently, my blood-curdling screams to stay away from the tree are no match for a few dozen hanging "cat toys" (at least according to their furry little brains) that shine and glisten so temptingly. It's like trying to tell a teenager to stop listening to loud music. They can see your mouth moving, but their attention is elsewhere.

I need a new artificial tree this year. There are many nice ones around and there are sales everywhere, it seems, but I'm going to stick with a plain old fake tree -- no fancy pre-lit ones with embedded purple tinsel or ones so high-tech and expensive that you can't afford any gifts to put under the stupid thing once you buy it.

Besides, a few years ago, I bought a whole mess of blue LED Christmas lights, the ones that don't get hot and that are energy efficient. I've always been fascinated by blue Christmas lights and I finally have enough to decorate every tree in a forest, so I really didn't want to go out and buy a pre-lit tree with white or multicoloured lights when I'd just be pining away for my beloved blue ones.

I find blue lights so relaxing. There's nothing better than sitting on my nice comfy sofa staring at all those relaxing hues of blue, a blanket over my lap and listening to beautiful soft holiday jazz wafting its way through the house. That is, until I spy that lone little paw out of the corner of my eye swatting away at an ornament in the semi-dark and trying to make it go for a complete loop around the branch like a daredevil kid on a swing set who's swinging himself way too hard.

I scream. Cat runs. Relaxation ends. Ella Fitzgerald, thankfully, still continues to sing away in the background and I begin to relax again until, inevitably, that little paw reappears out of the corner of my eye. Sigh. Can't I ever have anything pretty?

Maybe I'll just put the tree up on New Year's Eve at 11 p.m. and take it down at 12:01 in the middle of Auld Lang Syne. For those 61 minutes, I'd guard the tree with a machine gun and a truckload of dynamite. "One false move, kitties, and you'll both be singing the Purina Cat Chow song to St. Peter before the clock hits midnight!"

I've also been experimenting with low-carb (sugar-free, wheat-free) holiday treats for weeks, now. I began eating low-carb on June 17, which basically means that I avoid potatoes, starchy vegetables, bread, pasta, flour, sugar, etc. What I do eat is meat, non-starchy vegetables, berries, eggs, cheeses, seafood, nuts, etc. It's working beautifully for me because I'm a very carb-sensitive person.

Some people have trouble with cigarettes. I've never smoked. Some people have trouble with booze. I could care less if I ever drank. Some people have trouble with video lottery machines. I may put $5 in them per year. No attraction to me, really.
But put a bowl of sugar in front of me and I'd sniff those little crystals of sweetness up my nose like they were cocaine. I'll have to avoid much of that stuff for the rest of my life -- except in very (very!) limited quantities -- once I hit my goal weight. With 71 pounds gone so far, I'm well on my way.

This holiday season, I want to make sure that I have some goodies around that I can munch on when visiting friends and relatives. Since Christmas is one of the times per year when the sugar industry's profits go through the roof (including Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween), it's best to be prepared ahead of time since it'll be impossible to avoid the stuff for the next six weeks.

It's more difficult during the holidays because food and tradition go hand in hand. There are only certain candies around at this time of the year. I mean, what's Christmas without taking a bite out of a yucky orange cream chocolate only to put it back and hope no one finds out it's you? Or literally feeling cavities grow in your teeth after sipping on that incredibly rich commercial eggnog that's been in the stores for weeks, now?

Thankfully, I've managed to find a solution for at least one Christmas favourite. My mother makes an Acadian meat pie from Prince Edward Island called "pâté" every holiday season. This year, she'll be making it with some low-carb flour that I found on the Internet, so at least I can enjoy that. It's bad enough that I have to avoid that starch-laden Acadian Christmas favourite -- the poutine râpée -- this year, but having to avoid pâté, too, well . . . that would have been rough.

I guess it's all a matter of making choices. I could get a pre-lit tree without blue lights, but I don't want to. I could just not put up a tree at all, but what would my cats entertain themselves with during the month of December? I could forget about my diet for the holidays, too, but what good would that do me? Zero.

Nope. This year, I'll be untangling my blue lights, yelling at the cats to leave the tree alone and sticking faithfully to my diet. And I'll be loving every minute of it.

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