Let’s embrace hibernation mode

It has begun.

Winter.

The time of year when my body – and maybe yours, too – prepares for the onslaught of freezing temperatures. Our bodies, with careful years of practice from our caveman ancestors before us, know just how to prepare. Our bodies goad us toward the refrigerator and the pantry. You must eat, they whisper. Your only hope of survival is to insulate organically.

By “organically,” obviously our bodies mean “by eating as much as you can, so your fat cells can grow and add a layer of blubber.”

For some of you, this time has already come, and you’ve got an extra three pounds to prove it. In my neck of the woods, winter was late to the party again this year, but now that it’s here, complete with the first snowfall, my body is ready for fallout-like circumstances. Last weekend, you could have found me curled under a fleece blanket on the couch in my Batman onesie with a 13-ounce Nutella jar by my side, a chocolatey hazelnut-covered baby spoon in my mouth (I take smaller bites with the baby spoon, so it feels like I’m eating less, okay?). My apartment’s heat is kind of shoddy, so I was keeping myself alive.

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Some health professionals believe that these wintertime cravings are, in fact, the result of intrinsic traits passed down through mankind for generations. Others believe it’s that we simply have nothing better to do than munch while we wait for the weather to warm up so we can go outside and play. But let’s be honest; how many of us who aren’t already active really take full advantage of the warm weather? It’s like we all have this fantasy that as soon as the temperature creeps up to a desirable level, suddenly everyone bursts from their cold-weather prisons on pogo sticks and skateboards, jumping rope and blowing bubbles as we stroll past children playing hopscotch on the sidewalk.

For almost a year, I have stuck pretty closely to a lost habit of activity and healthy eating, with my weakness of sweets in moderation. Notice I said “pretty closely.” Not every hour of every day. Not without relapse. Not unwaveringly. And not precisely every day of the recent snowfall.

When I woke up Friday morning and realized work was canceled and I was snowed in for the duration, I immediately reached in the fridge for my overnight oatmeal I had prepared Thursday evening. After about 30, maybe 45 minutes, my brain told me that I needed to survive, so I reached for the Nutella with that baby spoon. I noshed on that off and on during episodes of The X Files on Netflix until about and hour and a half before lunch. The only thing that saved me from consuming more was a phone call from Cory and then from my mom.

I convinced myself that that was enough Nutella, and ate some quinoa to put food of substance back in my stomach. But, you know, the thing about eating lunch on a snow day is that you have time for dessert. I’d already had what felt like a barrel full of Nutella, so I didn’t have any more. No, sir. Instead, I tried a new recipe, making what I believe demons delivered to earth: cookie dough cups. They’re the same principle as Reese’s cups, but with eggless homemade cookie dough in between the chocolate instead of peanut butter. I promptly ate two. Or four.

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But you know what? It’s okay.

It’s okay. That’s something I used to tell myself but didn’t really believe. “It’s okay…for other people, but not you, Monica. You’ve go too far to go.” “It’s okay…but you’d better not make any more mistakes tomorrow.” “It’s okay…but be prepared to cry when you get on the scale tomorrow.” “It’s okay…but you’re weak for going on a binge.” None of those things I said to myself was fair. I’ve forced myself to learn (and am still learning, to a degree) that a weekend or a week of indulgence doesn’t mean a destiny of morbid obesity or heart disease is now sealed.

I have no idea where you are in your health journey, or if you’ve even decided to embark on one; but if you are, or when you do, I want to pass on that phrase “It’s okay.” If you’re making a true, continual effort to live heathily, it’s okay if you sneak in an extra cheat day every now and then. It’s okay if you only stay at the gym for 20 minutes. It’s okay if you had pizza for dinner two nights in a row. It’s okay.

So this winter, sure, be mindful of how often you satisfy your cravings and hang out at the gym, but don’t sweat it if you pack on a couple pounds. For one thing, it’s too cold to sweat, and for another, you’re just trying to listen to that caveman instinct and keep yourself alive.

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