Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends

By Brian Pierce, The Low Carb Crusader

With Asides (Nagging, Actually) From Di Bauer, CarbSmart’s Editor

This is going to be my first winter handling life in the world of Atkins, and I’m pretty scared. There’s usually a two-month long period of serious eating that starts on Halloween and doesn’t stop until New Year’s Day. It’s a time where there’s just one traditional excuse to pig out after another! How am I going to deal with this?

Di: How, Brian? One day at a time. Sometimes, one meal at a time. Don’t worry about the whole holiday season now. Focus on today.

First comes Halloween. Every year, I take my niece, Brittany, out trick-or-treating, and traditionally I get 1/4 of the candy as my escort fee. I really get into the whole Halloween thing, and love coming up with creative costume ideas that will guarantee a good return in the form of larger and more plentiful candy bars. A bad costume can result in a treat of circus peanuts, marshmallows, and children’s chewable aspirin. Not wanting my niece to know the horrors of such so-called “treats,” I always put a little extra effort in to our costumes to make them pleasing to our audience.

For instance, last year Brittany went out as a classic storybook witch, complete with a pointy hat and patchwork dress (think of a Hansel-and-Gretel type witch). My idea to accompany it? Dress up in a stocking cap, hiking jacket, backpack, and a video camera. Together we were the Brittany Witch Project! Everyone thought that was a really cute idea, and nary a circus peanut was to be seen in our loot for the evening. But this year she switched tracks on me! For a few months, she had been saying that she wanted to be Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz. I immediately started gathering materials to construct a technologically advanced version of the Tin Woodsman, combining the look of the classic Tin Woodsman and a Borg from Star Trek. It was going to be great! But then, just a few days before Halloween, Brittany changed her mind; now she wanted to be a vampire. She had the whole costume and everything. Now what am I supposed to do?

Di: Not to worry, Brian. Vampires are the ultimate low carbers.

So while I was trying to figure out a good costume that would go along with a little vampire, it hit me; I’m putting all this work in to something that is going to pay off in CANDY! Those sweet, chewy, crunchy, chocolaty bits of goodness that I can never ever have again! Why would I want to do this to myself? Can I resist the temptation of a miniature Snickers bar this year, even with the knowledge that its packed with peanuts and really satisfies you? I’ve got a pretty strong will power, but I’m not sure if I can stand that.

Di: Don’t underestimate yourself, Brian. You CAN do it.

Being the worrywart that I am, this downward spiral of thought laced with depression led me to think of all the other holiday traditions and treats I’ll be missing out on from now on. Because after Halloween comes several weekends of football, topped off with Thanksgiving like the whipped cream on a pumpkin pie!

Football weekends have always meant Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos (come to think of it, pretty much *any* snack chip that ends with “os”), bean dip, and ridiculously large sandwiches in my household. Now what am I supposed to do when the Seahawks fumble again? Usually I drown my sorrows in a high carb cocoon of salty snack food! You can’t pretend to spike the ball with a pork chop quite as well as you can with a submarine sandwich, ya know? And to me, the football season comes to a peak on Thanksgiving when they show somewhere around 27 different bowl games, back-to-back.

Di: Get down on your knees and thank God you have the Seahawks, Brian. I live in Cincinnati; we have the Bengals, or as they are better known around these parts, the Bungles. They don’t even get close enough to the ball to have a chance at fumbling it. Fumbling the ball would improve their stats!

Thanksgiving, the ultimate day of high carb breads, rolls, stuffing, candied yams, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. My brother Butch and I will have a little pumpkin pie eating contest every year to see who can make themselves sickest the fastest. My mom knows that she needs to make at least 2 pumpkin pies for just the two of us, then additional pies for whoever else is coming to dinner. How can I face my brother this year, knowing that I cannot do battle with him? He will look upon me with shame, for I have no honor.

Di: You have a choice here, Brian. You can have the honor of being the pumpkin pie eating king, or you can have the honor of knowing you had the strength to not be the pumpkin pie eating king. Do you want to be the person your family expects you to be or do you want be the person you want to be? The choice is always yours.
And anyway, in this case you can not have your pie and eat it, too. There are lovely low carb pumpkin pie, cake, and cheesecake recipes. You don’t have to feel deprived. And you don’t have to eat until you feel like throwing up, either.

After Thanksgiving comes the most dreaded of all holiday-season holidays: CHRISTMAS! From that first shopping day after Thanksgiving, where they hand you free candy canes as you walk in to the mall, to that last cup of eggnog before bed on Christmas Eve, its all just one great big gooey sweet and sticky carb-fest!

Now, I think I may be able to avoid the candy canes and cookies by eating lots of nuts and cheese, but its the actual gifts that I will receive that worry me! Since many of my family members know that I’m on the Atkins Diet, I’m sure that I’ll be receiving plenty of goodies from Hickory Farms as gifts. Yep, good old dextrose-and-sugar-soaked Hickory Farms gift baskets, complete with the little jars of jelly, the packages of crackers, and those little hard candies that they use as decoration. Even the majority of their summer sausages have up to three varieties of sugar in them! Any type of sugar stalls my weight loss like you wouldn’t believe. How do I tell these caring relatives of mine that I simply cannot eat what they have given me for Christmas?

Me: “No, Aunt Ruby, the basket is very nice! Thank you very much! No, I can’t eat it… What? Oh, yes, I am on that Atkins thing where all I eat is meat and cheese. Yes, Hickory Farms is meat and cheese. No, it’s just not the “right kind” of meat, Aunt Ruby.”

Now, if I know my Aunt Ruby, she’s gonna take this as a personal insult, and I’ll end up being the catalyst for a family feud that will span the next three generations of our clan, resulting in marriages between cousins who have no idea that they are cousins because the two sides of the family refuse to acknowledge one another. Before you know it, we’ll have a passel of little ones running around with six toes and crossed eyes, all because of my reluctance to eat Aunt Ruby’s gift of Hickory Farms!

Di: I thought you had six toes and your eyes crossed, Brian. No, wait a minute, that’s my cousin Otis. (He also drools like a St. Bernard.) Sorry. Discretion is the better part of valor, Brian. In the interest of your future family tree, just keep your mouth shut if confronted with the dreaded Hickory Farms gift basket. The only thing you need to tell old Aunt Ruby is, “Thank you very much. That’s so thoughtful of you!” Since there will be an infinite amount of food available and needing to be consumed, it won’t seem strange that you don’t wallow in the gift basket right then and there. After Christmas you can take it to the nearest homeless shelter or food bank and no one will be the wiser.

Then the holiday season comes to a close with the end-all, be-all of all holidays for regrettable behavior; New Year’s Eve. Besides the parties, drinking, lewd behavior, and waking up with strange persons and/or domesticated animals in your bed on New Year’s Day, this is traditionally a day of figuring out what you did wrong in the past year and swearing you’ll do things differently in the coming year. It’s a day of “Tonight I’ll go ahead and cheat, because tomorrow I start my whole new life.” New Year’s Eve is the only holiday with a built-in excuse for breaking the rules! And around my place, its also a day of traditional treats that make me really want to break these rules… Shrimp balls, clam fritters, tempura-fried mushrooms… Oh, the humanity of it all! And worst of all, every single item on that buffet table is going to have bleached white flour and/or a sugary sauce of some sort covering it.

Di: First of all, Brian, eat something before you go to the party so you don’t arrive hungry. Secondly, bring your own contribution of low carbohydrate goodies so that there will be something there you can enjoy eating – and eating legally. You might go over your carb limit for the day at a party like this, but do it with legal things.
If you think an alcohol hangover is bad, try a carb hangover. Agony! And a carb hangover lasts longer.

Since I don’t drink, my way of celebrating has always been to stuff myself with all the greasy deep-fried and sautéed delights I could gather. Then every year I’ve had the same conversation with myself at around 11:45, when everyone starts paring up for when the clock strikes twelve.

Me: “Well, Brian, here we are again… alone. Everyone else has someone to kiss at the stroke of midnight, and what do you have? Half a fried chicken in your beard and greasy fingerprints all over your pants.” (You’d think they’d have a few extra napkins around here!) “That’s it! I’m done being fat! Starting tomorrow, I resolve to get on a diet and stick with it till I’m skinny! Next year, I’m gonna be kissing some babe, and she’s gonna love it!” (Not like that last time… I wonder if that restraining order is still valid?)

Di: Oh, Brian… a word of advice. You stand a much greater chance of kissing a girl at midnight if you actually talk to her before midnight. Avoid doing that guy thing of huddling in the corner talking football with your buddies.

So on New Year’s Day I would start my new low-fat diet, stick with it for a week, and then break down at the first sign of trouble when Ben & Jerry started calling to me from the freezer isle.

Ben and Jerry: “It’s cold in here, Brian… let us out! We want to be your friend again! Sit on the couch and watch Laverne & Shirley with us!”

So these are my concerns for the holiday season. It was because of these concerns that I found out just how important a good email list can be to this way of life! I posted my concerns to the eGroups list I’m on, and I was swamped with low-carb/no-sugar cookie, pie, and snack recipes… so many recipes, I’ll have a hard time making it through all of them in just one holiday season!

So, what’s my point here? Well, I guess that the moral of the story this time around is that if you aren’t already in one, join a mailing list. I never thought that I was the type who would benefit from a support group, but its really helped! I was really worried about all the temptations these next few months are going to bring with them, but (to quote Ringo) I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.

I can do this! So can you.

Di: Brian is so right. There is no need to try to low carb alone. You need never be alone! The help and support of other low carbers is vital. 

How Brian Fared on Halloween:

Trick or treating went pretty good, even though I didn’t get my usual escort fee. I was really worried that I would collapse at the first sign of Twix bars, and almost decided against going. Thankfully, both her parents are incredibly lazy and bribed me with $20 to go through the whole ordeal! With the incentive of the big payoff behind me, I was able to do things as normal for my niece. I even went through the traditional “sorting of the candy” afterwards without feeling the urge to devour all the Almond Joy’s (a candy bar that Brittany hates). We had a great time, and I now know that I can make it through these holidays without (a) cheating, and (b) enjoying them any less than I have in my high-carb past.

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A Letter From Santa About Starting the Atkins Diet

Thank you very much for your thoughtful letter. After having checked my list (twice, even!), I see that you have been mostly good this year, despite that incident where you incited that riot. Since you felt that you where acting in everyone's best interests, I'm sure that we can let that one incident slide this year. Rest assured that I will be able to provide you with the majority of the items on your wish list, with the exception of this Winona Ryder person you wish for me to leave under your tree. We here at S. Clause Incorporated have strict rules against slavery of any kind, and feel that Ms. Ryder would not appreciate your request that she be wearing only two things: BUCK and NEKID. Need I remind you of the restraining order that Ms. Ryder requested last year for Christmas?

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