Wednesday January 6, 2010er 2010

Seasonally Induced Polyphagia
by Courtland Shakespeare

The Christmas dinner has the potential to be a psychological battlefield. Whether sitting or standing in front of a banquet table, eclipsed by an escarpment of savory abundance, your discipline may collapse.

Instead of calculating calories, your mind will concentrate on techniques of assembly and composition in the midst of constructing a miniature version of the Matterhorn on your plate, made out of turkey and vegetables, incorporating whatever other compound, comestible materials are available.

This is widely considered acceptable behaviour and is often encouraged and galvanized by small, white-haired ladies related to your grandmother. Their motives are exemplary. Their kindness and charity is unquestionable. They must never be blamed.

It is you and your own internal psychomachy that is the problem. While you may rationalize the holidays to be the season for letting your guard down, the consequences are actually measurable and reversible. For example, you could tell yourself you will start going to the gym at least eleven times a week and eat only bread and water for breakfast, lunch and dinner and your only indulgence will be low fat, low carb, sugar-free, iceberg popsicles.

Let’s get back to reality here: There is  nothing wrong with a little seasonally-induced polyphagia once a year. The term comes from the Greek, roughly translated as simply “eating too much.” Excessive consumption around this time of year is completely normal. If you keep consuming as if the holidays haven’t ended, however, even though you’re getting close to Spring, you may need to reevaluate unless you are thinking about hibernating for the summer.

In terms of gyms and health clubs, anywhere from a quarter to half their annual revenue is derived from new memberships in January. Traditionally, it is the biggest month for them, because it is when we are all at our psychological weakest. They try to sign us up for long-term contracts even though they know we probably won’t last the whole term. You really can’t blame them either. They’re just like your great aunts. They are there to encourage and inspire us, but it all comes down to you.

There’s the conflict – you are both officer and infantry of your own army. You have the ability to attack or retreat or just sit around the campfire and roast marshmallows. It’s your choice.

One of the less credible diets you might consider is Breatharianism, which is related to Inedia (fasting) wherein food and water are unnecessary. Nutrients come from the air. One of the most famous advocates of this diet is Ellen Greve (AKA Jasmuheen) who claimed to go for “months and months” with only a cup of tea. They found her home full of food, but she said it was for her husband. When a TV show  tried monitoring her for a week, a medical examiner asked them to stop after a few days when it looked like she was headed for kidney failure.

There are other dubious therapies, often named after the people who created them, famous for weight loss that are equally dangerous including ones prescribing peroxide enemas, consuming large quantities of raw calf liver, excessive fibre and citrus drinks while promoting activities leading to infection and even termination (death).

Just use common sense. Enjoy the season. Treat yourself with moderation. Go to the gym. Stay healthy. Be well. Have a great Twenty-Ten (2010).