This just in:  Mysterious plates of unclaimed cookies strategically placed in a large number of American homes on December 24th!

Did your mother, or father leave a special treat near the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve?  I’m not sure who told them what to leave for him but in my home it was always cookies or something classified as “dessert.”  Surprisingly enough, my health conscious mother decided we should leave a few carrot sticks along with the chocolate chip cookies and rice milk.  If you’re going to eat something sugary, then you must have even more of the healthy stuff.  I think that’s about how it went in my home, growing up.

Cookies for Santa

Santa Claus isn’t in great shape. Let’s face it.  He is jolly and happy, and quite motivated as deliveries to 313 million + sounds rather daunting if you ask me.  Thank goodness for his reindeer, or he might not make it to anyone’s chimney.  Does he always fit?  I’m just curious how that works out for him.  Maybe he gains all of this weight after Christmas and his 300 million bites of cookies (the cookies we left only had one bite taken when we found them in the morning).  Maybe he jumps on the new diet craze or goes on a juice fast or a vegan raw foodist after December each year like so many of us?

Holiday weight gain can be a very real fear—or better yet, inevitable result for some.  We know that Santa didn’t get that way eating carrot and celery sticks.  I’m not going to advocate eating celery sticks instead of the lavish holiday dinners you sit before in these last few weeks of the year.  However, you might thank me if you did live on celery until the second week of January.

I LOVE to travel.  Hang on-I’m going to tie this all together!  I also love food.  Traveling to each continent on this planet, is a passion fueled—in part—by food.  In Thailand this past summer, I sought out “mango sticky rice” within only a few hours of leaving Bangkok airport!  If you’ve never had this sweet, exotic desert-you certainly have something to look forward to.  Thai curries, exotic fruit, Thai iced-tea-OHH! For me, Thailand is a world of gastronomic delight.  Needless to say-I wanted to taste and experience it all.

array of juicy exotic delights on every corner in Thailand

On a smaller scale, I love to visit Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.  My husband and I have assisted our Tantra teacher’s workshops there over the past few years.  The cuisine at Esalen is absolutely fantastic!  This is from their website:

“The food at Esalen reflects a deep bond with the land, a commitment to sustainable practices, and a daily collaboration between the kitchen and the farm and the garden staff.

Year round, Esalen farmers harvest produce and herbs every morning to support the kitchen in preparing the most alive and rejuvenating food possible. The farm specializes in gourmet salad mixes, specialty herbs used for seasoning and teas, heirloom root crops, and a diverse variety of kale and lettuces.

Esalen used about 3,200 eggs per week, which are sourced from Glaum Egg Ranch, an organic and cage-free family farm located 80 miles north of Esalen.

All of the fish is line-caught in Monterey Bay by a family-run business.

We offer hormone-free dairy products, all-natural and organic meats, and dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, and wheat-free options at every meal […]”

Now who can refuse that?  For me, Esalen’s standards make them a food paradise for me.  Although I am vegetarian, there are still infinite options for each meal.  This is the perfect example of when I must practice a very positive relationship with food.  Christmas festivities may or may not be your version of a “food paradise.”  My self-discipline is put to the test in Esalen’s dining hall.  Esalen Institute takes pride in providing incredible food and I savor every morsel each time I visit!  The issue is…portion control.  The food is so delicious and helpings are generous.  Over-indulging in healthy cuisine can, and will have the same ballooning affect as any other option.  I know this only because I learned the hard way during a one month resident yoga teacher training at Kripalu in Massachusetts. Kripalu is another one of my favorite places in the world and another location to practice this simple trick I’ll share now.

Eat, and over indulge!  Go nuts! Eat until it hurts!  This is not something I will ever say again so pay attention.  As you sit before your loaded plate—on multiple occasions in these next few weeks—you’ll be full.  You’ll already be satiated and be in control.  Here’s the secret.  Eat vegetables, salad, and drink as much water as you possibly can.  This is when you get to indulge.  There are no restrictions on veggies and plant based foods.  Dressings are another detail.  If you must have them, of course, go light-extremely light.  Consider replacing dressings with olive oil and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.   

This is the simplest way to make it through the holidays without gaining weight.

It’s a holiday-a smorgasbord of food kind of holiday—every time I travel. Every time I visit Esalen, Kripalu and a number of other locations across the globe.  This is one simple, important trick for not letting tantalizing food dictate my dress size.  At Esalen, I’ll go to the salad bar before visiting the main entrée line.  I’ll fill my plate with a vibrantly colored salad and any naked vegetables I see.  I’ll even go for seconds.  When I approach the line with tostadas and chocolate cake, I literally have enough room for a bite!  I’ll admit, I’m usually a sucker for sweets and I almost always have to “try.”  There’s nothing wrong with this!

Mmmm an Yummy fresh Esalen Salad! Load up on the greens and veggies!

If you are yearning to enjoy the flavor and texture of that steamy apple pie, then go for it!  The practice to begin in this case is reallllly tuning into that first bite that hits your palette. Take a deep breath in—pause, and consider the idea of “connecting” with what you’ve just put into your mouth.  You’ve now fully experienced the dessert. You love it.  It’s sweet, it’s sensational!  Have your own personal mini-celebration while you fully taste and experience this divine flavor.  Then, PUT THE FORK DOWN!  Another great plan is to always have a partner in crime.  Share your desert!  It always helps to put a photo of yourself on your phone in either the best shape you’ve ever been in, or the absolute worst shape you’ve ever been in.  You can decide which works best for you 😉 just take a glimpse before you take a bite. 

This will lead us into next week’s post about getting more in touch with our food.  🙂

Happy Holidays!  Enjoy spending time with loved ones.

Santa, after he took my advice last year…