’Tis the season for warm tidings and weight-gain panic. If you're sick of tips on how to get through the holidays and drop a dress size, I'd like to offer one more piece of advice — the holiday tip that changed my life: Just chill out and eat the damn cookie. Please. This story was originally published on December 16, 2013. -- KM
This time of year, it seems like I spend my entire life in various states of eyeliner. It's either layered on thick for a holiday party, smushed back into place in the bathroom of a holiday party, or lightly schmeared across my pillow the morning after yet another holiday party. I imagine you, dear reader, are sitting somewhere in front of a laptop, gently nodding your (Champagne) head(ache) in agreement. With The Anti-Diet Project in full swing, not much has changed for me in terms of the holiday season. Except, this year, I'm not a complete monster.
Here's how it used to go:
8 p.m.: Arrive at the party. Have a glass of wine and a few chips. Tra la la, look how normal I am, eating a normal amount of chips!
8:07 p.m.: Okay, where are the chips? The chips are no longer in my line of vision, so maybe they are gone forever. That's fine. No, that's not fine, I need to be near them.
8:08 p.m.: Oh, thank God. They were right behind that person I was having a conversation with. Abruptly end conversation and go revisit my real friends, the chips.
8:20 p.m.: Jesus, they just brought out onion dip! Why did I waste all of my allocated chips before the dip came out?! Life is the worst! Eat three chips with a shovelful of dip in one bite, quickly, before anyone can see — and then begin half-choking on the dinosaur-sized bite until the entire party turns to watch.
8:45 p.m.: Bathroom break! Recover from Chips & Dip Crisis 2013 by checking Instagram for five minutes and definitely not poking through friend's medicine cabinet.
9 p.m.: In lieu of delicious Champagne punch, opt for liquor-and-soda combo because it's what every magazine ever has told me to do. Remember too late that gin turns me purple, and immediately turn purple.
9:14 p.m.: Whatever, I'm purple. Pass the bruschetta.
9:17 p.m.: How does everyone else eat bruschetta without spilling tiny tomato pieces all over themselves? Is it because they're sitting down and looking at the food before taking a bite? Surely not.
9:42 p.m.: And, there they are. The cookies. Glazed and sprinkled and shaped like tiny people — but better than actual people. Hide in the bathroom from tiny cookie-people. And, people.
10 p.m.: I see you, tiny cookie-people, but I don't need you. True, I am purple, and everyone saw me asphyxiate on onion dip, but if I don't give in to your siren song of gingerbread, then I can leave this cocktail party with my head held high.
10:01 p.m.: But, it's Christmas! Don't be a weirdo; just have a cookie.
10:02 p.m.: And, don't be rude! Someone baked these cookies so I would eat them and compliment them! This isn't about cookies. This is about friendship and being a good person. I am such a good person.
10:04 p.m.: You've gone mad, woman. Good people don't eat cookies. Good people eat baby carrots. Without hummus!
10:05 p.m.: Attempt to hide in bathroom only to find a huge line of people waiting to actually use it.
10:06 p.m.: Oh, God. Oh, God.
10:07 p.m.: Listen, this might be the last chance you get to actually have cookies. Or, at least these cookies in particular. What if your friend dies and then her amazing cookie recipe goes with her to the grave, and at the funeral everyone talks about how she lived and loved and made incredible Christmas cookies, and you have to spend the rest of your life regretting a baby carrot?!
10:08 to 10:17 p.m.: Eat all the cookies, ever, in the world.
10:18 p.m.: "Well, guys, I gotta go!"
A party is not a hostage situation. Yet, I've spent way too many years trapped in corners, making side-eyes at the snack table, waiting for the cookies to make their next demands. When I say I've left actual conversations with humans to go stand by the food, I mean it. Except, it was less voluntary than that, because I was not in charge — those tiny, frosted terrorists were. And, who was I, a mere adult woman, to stand up to them?
This year, I'm making peace. Or, rather, I'm snapping the hell out of it and treating inanimate baked goods as what they really are: not the boss of me. They don't need my peace, but I could sure use it. There are about 500 other things to worry about this time of year — family stuff, money stuff, whether or not I have enough hole-free tights to get me through this week's festivities (answer: nope!). Save your brain bandwidth for what really matters. And, if a good-looking cookie happens to cross your path, just eat it like a normal person, please please please.
Instructions For Normal-Person Cookie-Eating™: Place cookie in mouth, chew, and swallow. Get on with your life.
But, surely only thin wizards have the ability to master this wild, fantastical theorem! Nay. The key to this magic formula is simply to ask yourself the question "Do I want it right now?" If the answer is yes, then get in there and go to town on that cookie. Look that gingerbread man in the face and be like, "Baby, let's do this," and then devour all that nutmeg-heavy goodness. Savor each bite — and if you feel like another one, go for it. Satisfy yourself, with joy and curiosity. Don't slam on the brakes in panic. When you're done, you will stop.
On the other hand, if the answer to "Do I want it right now?" is No, but this guy I'm talking to is kind of leaning in close, and I can't tell if he wants to kiss me or puke on me, and my social anxiety could really use a cookie right now, then take a breath. Extricate yourself from the kiss-puker, and go find a friend. A human one. If you pass a good-looking cookie along the way and instinctively grab for it anyway, that's okay, too. Really. There is no scenario in which you should beat yourself up for eating a cookie. Just be aware of why you're eating it. Either way, when it's over, just get on with your life like nothing really happened — because nothing really happened.
Cookies are not a bad thing that happened to you or a bad thing you did. They're just cookies, people. Just sugar and flour and butter. They are not the embodiment of holiday cheer, nor are they demonic angels of vengeance sent to sabotage your Healthy-Eating Holiday Plan To Not Gain Weight And Maybe Lose Five Pounds. Stop negotiating with party snacks, and walk out of the hostage situation that exists only in your brain. When you do, you'll find yourself at a party with nice people and a glass of Champagne in your hand. It's not a perfect world — certainly not as simply, perfectly sweet as a gingerbread cookie. There are weirdos hogging the sofa and not enough ice in the freezer. But, you're with friends, and you look cute, and sooner or later, someone will do an ice run. It's the real, wonderful, imperfect world. Anyway, you're here now. So, enjoy.
The Anti-Diet Project is an ongoing series about intuitive eating, sustainable fitness, and body positivity. You can follow Kelsey's journey on Twitter and Instagram at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject (hashtag your own Ant-Diet moments, too!). Curious about how it all got started? Check out the whole column, right here. Got your own story to tell? Send me a pitch at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you just want to say hi, that's cool, too.