The photo shows my kitchen after an over the top holiday dinner for twenty-two family and friends. For days before the holiday, I straightened the house, shopped for gifts and groceries, and cooked up a storm. At the appointed hour, the tables were set and all was ready.
Was I happy and satisfied? Yes. Was I exhausted? Of course! By the end of the evening, I had eaten a bit of everything; the eggplant Parmesan, the spaghetti and meatballs, the stuffed mushrooms, the garlic artichokes, the grilled veggies, the cheeses and salamis, the olives, pickles and nuts—and the bread pudding with Bourbon Sauce. The cookies, peanut crunch, and wine, I started before the dinner.
Although everyone helped before they left, the kitchen was a mess. I faced over-indulgence to the max. Overtired and overwhelmed, I had a sour stomach, sore back, and a headache. I promised myself that I’d avoid such over-indulgences the next year. Nevertheless, I had to deal with the here and now.
Given that I could hardly stand up, I decided that the best action was no action. Guiltily I slipped out of the kitchen and into bed. I slept until 11 AM and went to face the mess. Unfortunately, the Kitchen Goddess was on vacation and I was just too tired to deal with it. I decided that today was my day to rest and de-stress. I grabbed coffee and toast, snuggled on the couch, and watched a movie. After the movie, my husband, a partner in crime, ate leftovers and took naps. Then we went with friends to see The King’s Speech. Laughing, we showed our friends the messy kitchen and had a nightcap. They congratulated me for something they rarely see me do, that is, leaving a mess. They were proud of me because I was taking care of myself rather than the dishes.
Energized the next day, I became the Kitchen Goddess and attacked the neglected and shambled kitchen. Even with the rest I had, I developed a chest cold, perhaps a result of being over-tired, over-stressed, and over-indulgent with food and drink.
Here are some tips to help avoid the overindulgences of the holiday season:
- Plan ahead. For example, plan the menus and buy the canned goods needed for preparing holiday meals early in December. This allows you to cook and freeze many dishes. Set the table a day or two prior to the party. Keep your gift list and any discount coupons in your wallet so you can buy gifts (perhaps on sale) throughout the year. Wrap gifts as you buy them.
- Maintain healthy routines. For example, first, you exercise, then shop or cook. If you can’t get to a gym, just take a walk (in the sunshine if possible). If you stay up late, ensure that there is time for a rest or brief nap the next day. Post a note to remind you to take medications.
- Take breaks. For example, during your 4-hour cooking marathons, take 15-minute breaks instead of continuously standing on your feet chopping, peeling, mixing, and baking.
- Accept help. You don’t have to do it all. If someone offers help or asks to bring a dish or desert, say, “Yes, thank you. That would be wonderful.” Consider having someone help you cook or set tables.
- Limit the alcohol. Start the evening with a glass of water and limit wine or other alcoholic drinks to one per hour. Avoid dehydration; drink a glass of water before bed and after arising and avoid caffeinated drinks.
- Visualize ways you will refuse to overeat. This helps avoid the bloat and self-recriminations. In addition, imagine starting a meal with salads and vegetables.
- Practice saying no, nicely. You don’t have be overcommitted and be active every minute of every day. Include time to rest and reenergize. If others try to push drinks or food, smile and say, “Thank you, but not now”.
- Request help. With a large crowd of family and close friends, assign or have each person pick a cleanup task from a bag. A few may take extra chairs to the basement, while others might clear or wash dishes.
- Consider using paper goods. It is so tempting to use the lovely China and cutlery, but is it really necessary? Perhaps you compromise by using dishes for the main course and plastic or paper dishes for dessert.
- Make a budget and stick to it. You’d like to serve steak, but perhaps you can afford only hamburger. Find ways to have fun and stay within your money limits. This keeps stress levels down and allows the gracious hosts to provide what money can’t, a warm and enjoyable atmosphere in which to enjoy the holiday season.