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Get Real: Home for the Holidays

Gingerbread cookies

By FAITH PONTI

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Pumpkin and peppermint flavored everything, Michael Bublé on repeat, 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family (or Freeform) and hair on absolute *fleek* because humidity is no more — what else could a lowly, stressed-out college student ask for? However, secretly hiding among the piles of pumpkin pie and ribbon candies is a gnawing anxiety that lies in the back of our minds, stealing our happiness like the Grinch and preventing many of us from being as jolly as we’d like to be: the fear of holiday weight gain.

Thanksgiving and winter breaks can feel like absolute nightmares for a lot of college students. We fear that all of our hard work at the gym and our kale-salad-only diets will go to sh*t after eating five pounds of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner. We dread the idea of being tempted with two different kinds of pie, knowing that we’ll probably have a slice (or three) of each. Holiday baking sounds horrifying, because we know that most of the cookie dough won’t make it onto the pan. So, we make a pact with ourselves that we won’t indulge during this season. We’ll keep it to one cookie a week. We’ll skip Thanksgiving dessert. We’ll ask for vegetables in our stockings.

Like that ever works. It doesn’t, and winter becomes the season of sweets and sugar plums (does anyone actually know what sugar plums are?). We go into college student hibernation and eat plenty of Oreo balls, don’t exercise much and watch Elf four times a day. We sleep in until 11 a.m. and don’t take our footie pajamas off unless someone invites us out for spiked eggnog at the local bar. We sure as hell don’t eat many greens unless they’re hidden under gravy, and while this sounds like heaven to some of us, for others, it’s a body-shaming and self-deprecating nightmare waiting to happen.

If so much of our worth is based on how we look in a bikini, how often we work out and how many wheat germ juices we drink per week, then it can be easy for the holidays to make us feel absolutely terrible. And sure, while it’s true that an overload of carbohydrates and laziness can turn our brain chemicals a little wonky, it’s also true that the next couple of months are full of opportunities to be grateful for the aspects of our lives that matter much more than our physical appearances. We finally get to come home and see our pets. We are granted time to celebrate with the people who we may value more than anyone else. Our brains get to take some time off from our demanding school and work schedules. It’s finally appropriate to wear that scarf we keep wearing to class when it gets below 75 degrees in Tampa. These holiday breaks are designed to allow us to unwind, so why are we stressing over what’s going to be on our plates, or how many more inches we’ll have around our waists when we come back for Gasparilla?

Here’s the thing: the gym will always be here. There will always be opportunities to eat healthy, green things. And if you want to keep up your regular fitness and diet regime while at home to avoid feeling bad about yourself, then you should definitely do so; however, if you enter these months with the mentality that holiday foods are dangerous, then you will be absolutely miserable. No one who is surrounded by delicious, homemade food and consistently turns it down is going to be very jolly this season. Rather, you’ll become a Scrooge who will dread family gatherings and punish yourself when you finally do decide to eat a frosted sugar cookie (because they’re delicious, damn it!). Don’t limit your diet too strictly this season. Don’t calorie count your Thanksgiving meal. Don’t avoid functions because you’re scared of how much you’ll eat. Have a piece of pie, drink some apple cider, take a walk with your dog and don’t beat yourself up for enjoying yourself and your meals. Nourish your body and your soul during these breaks. Your worth is not calorie-based; make a decision to love yourself this season, and have a very happy holiday!

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