Readers Read

Readers Read


Books Section

Reading Sections

Book Publishing News
Children's Books
General Fiction

Healthy Holidays Total Health Entertaining All Year Round
by Marilu Henner
ReganBooks, 2003

Click here
for ordering information.
Chapter Excerpt


Healthy Holidays.

It sounds like an oxymoron, right? It's right up there with jumbo shrimp, slumber party, and working vacation. It's kind of like saying "disciplined indulgence." I was telling a friend of mine recently that I was writing a book called Healthy Holidays, and he said, "Healthy holidays? Is that even possible?" Well I'm here to tell you that not only is it possible, it's guaranteed if you follow just a few simple rules. After reading this book and enjoying a few healthy holidays of your own, I'm sure you will agree that making your holidays healthy is the best way to enjoy them to their fullest.

I used to see every holiday as an opportunity to completely fall apart. And I actually looked forward to falling apart! I would even factor in recovery time, naturally building it into my year. I would plan for those days of indulgence and accept the consequences -- extra weight, puffy face, watery eyes, stuffy nose, headache, constipation, and bloating -- as though they were supposed to be a natural part of the celebration. (Not to mention a pimple or two within the following week!) To most of us, the essence of a holiday is indulgence. And it should be. But overindulgence is often the factor that ruins a holiday or party. The suffering usually outweighs the pleasure, not to mention how dangerous it is for our health.

The essence of a holiday is friends and family sharing and celebrating with a meat that usually involves some kind of guilty pleasure, a little naughty and perhaps a little unhealthy, but one that we look forward to because it isn't a part of our everyday routine. In fact, celebrating the holidays is a way of balancing our routine. We work forty-plus hours a week, and a holiday is a way of letting off steam and taking a break from that work. We have been working hard and have been mentally building toward a reward. Holidays are usually celebrated on a weekend, now that most of them have been moved to a convenient Monday, and the main objective is to gather with friends and family, eat a little more, play a little more, and drink a little more. In short: live a little more. Sometimes a lot more!

Now I don't want you to think that this is a book about avoiding those things we love during the holidays. It's not about being overly disciplined on holidays or at parties -- you won't be eating only raw food at your next Thanksgiving dinner. This book is about building a few simple corrective actions right into your holiday routine so that you won't gain weight or be sick, hung over, or forced to diet and detox for days or weeks after the holiday. You're going to build a few of the elements of detox and diet right into your day -- and barely notice it.

This is analogous to sound financial planning. If your overall goal is to be financially stable, it's best to budget and have a balanced and secure financial plan. If you overspend during the holidays and blow money carelessly on every vacation, you're likely to go into debt -- unless, of course, you are extremely wealthy. But you can never reach a point with your health that would be equivalent to a billionaire with his money. You can never be so healthy that it would be possible to eat and drink large quantities of junk and still be healthy and look great. And even though the most affluent people can afford reckless spending, I find it interesting that they usually tend to budget the most. It is one of the main reasons the wealthy stay wealthy. And that is the mentality I would like you to adopt regarding your health. I want you to stay healthy and still thoroughly enjoy the holidays -- in fact, you'll probably enjoy them more. And you won't need to recover for three days afterward.

People are always going to overdo it. It's human nature to want to contrast working hard with overindulging. But if you can embrace little ways to keep yourself from falling off the deep end, you will also teach your children some healthy habits in the process. Balanced eating during the holidays is a great message to send our kids. We teach them by showing a good example, which plants the seed in their heads that extreme eating habits are not a good idea. This is more important than ever today, when there is so much junk food in our children's environment compared to when we were growing up, and so many more opportunities for them to pick up bad habits.

When I was growing up, I would eagerly wait for the holiday season, starting with Halloween. I knew I was going to be sick the day after eating all that junk, but there was no way I was going to skip even one candy corn. And after Thanksgiving dinner, I knew I was going to be full and bloated and sick. It's not just an American tradition to be miserable after every holiday. It's the law! And we don't feet satisfied until we are completely stuffed. It is our goal to actually become the turkey.

I remember returning to school every January after Christmas vacation, even when I was as young as fourth grade, realizing "Oh my gosh, my uniform doesn't fit anymore." As a teenager I would always begin a serious diet every January. I know I'm not the only one who approached January this way. In fact, most people still do. The average person gains seven or eight pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, and everyone, at one time or another, attempts to change his or her life beginning in January right after the big holiday sweep. These attempts are called New Year's resolutions.

If you're familiar with my books Marilu Henner's Total Health Makeover, The 30-Day Total Health Makeover, and Healthy Life Kitchen, you know that one of the most important elements I've strived for in developing the Total Health Makeover (or THM) lifestyle over the past twentythree years has been to find a way of eating that I could live with every day. So, of course, much of this lifestyle had to be flexible and forgiving, especially during the holidays. I have always been somewhat of a party girl, so it was important for me to find a way of getting through the holidays while still indulging and enjoying myself. To this day, I associate holidays with being a little naughty and eating and partying too much, but now I don't fall apart. And I enjoy the holidays now more than ever!

People always make fun of me for eating what they consider to be a strict diet. They can't believe I have the discipline to never eat meat, sugar, or dairy products. When I dine with friends for the first time, they will often apologize for ordering something that I would not eat myself. What they don't realize is that flavor-wise and satisfaction-wise my diet is identical to theirs. It's just healthier. My taste buds now prefer healthier, better food.

I threw a holiday party once for three hundred people. I carefully went over the THM guidelines with the caterer (no meat, no sugar, no dairy). It was an endless feast with many hors d'oeuvres, entrées, desserts -- everything devilish you can imagine. Because the food was so incredible, people said, "Wow, you really broke the rules tonight, didn't you?" They couldn't believe it when I told them that all the food fit within the THM guidelines, and that not one item was served that I would not eat myself. THM is simply a way to eat, enjoy, indulge, and not feel sick the next day.

Have you ever gotten into really great shape, just to fall apart? We get in shape to go on vacation, be someone's Valentine, see our relatives at Christmas, fit into that slinky Halloween costume or tight little black dress. We bust our butts and do whatever we must to get in perfect shape, and then blow it all in one night by going for everything we've been missing. It's all about the entrance. You want to look great for that moment when he, she, or they (whoever you've been dieting for) see you for the first time. Once that moment has passed, you relax and don't stop eating and drinking until the party or holiday is over. You may be thinking, "Oh, big deal! So I gain one or two or ten pounds over the holidays. That will only set me back a few days." Well, I think a few days five to ten times a year is a big deal! And it can be a serious setback for your health, your appearance, and your career. Even one overindulgent meal does measurable damage to our bodies, especially our arteries. This conclusion was reached after an extensive study conducted in Australia recently. After consuming just one meal high in animal fat, around fifty grams, the elasticity of a person's arterial walls and impeding blood flow drops by 27 percent. And this lasts for several hours.

It was a pattern for me every Christmas, when I first moved to New York and later Los Angeles, to get in great physical shape before I would go home to Chicago. It was important to me to show that I was doing well on my own in a new city, and I knew I would see old boyfriends, old friends, and my three sisters and two grown-up nieces (you know how female relatives can be). I would arrive and people would see me and say, "Wow! You've lost weight! How'd you do it this time?" After that initial presentation was over, it became my personal responsibility to eat my way through Chicago. And for those of you not familiar with that incredible city, Chicago is made for eating! The bottom line was I got in great shape so I would look good pigging out.

I was not the only one in my family who got in shape for Christmas. It was funny to observe how everyone worked their tight, hot clothes the first few days, but then the baggier stuff would quickly creep into everybody's wardrobe. By New Year's Day, everyone would be wearing big T-shirts, pajamas, robes, and sweatpants. I always had thin legs no matter how much I overindulged, so I could always wear short skirts or leggings, but my tops would get bigger and puffier as my waistline grew more undefined.

I would return to Los Angeles in January about twelve pounds heavier, but it was not a big deal to me at the time. A recovery period after every holiday was normal. I would always make sure that I had at least one week off from business and major social obligations, because I knew that when I got home, I'd be overweight and constipated and my skin would be broken out. For a week or two I would screen my calls or tell my agent that I had pinkeye or something else until I reached a respectable weight. When it comes to work, it's a shame we can't call in fat! We should get seven or eight fat days built into our work schedule per year, and a whole fat week following Christmas.

After many years of research and experimentation, this mentality ended for me, and now it can end for you. On this program you will learn what to eat earlier in the day and what to eat the day after so that your holiday meal will go right through you. There are foods and activities that will keep your body and digestion system functioning most efficiently, and that is the key. It's all about taking out the trash. A little naughty food and drink is not so bad if you rid your body of it quickly and, most important, naturally. As I said, it is building little pockets of discipline into your holiday experience, and that little effort does the trick.

Always keep in mind that health is a total picture. The essence of this book is about celebrating holidays in a healthier way, and that goes much deeper than simply planning what to eat. Food is only one of the elements to consider in planning your holiday. There are many other exciting elements -- holiday history, holiday memories, invitations, decorations, toasts, scents, games and activities, calorie-burning exercises, music, movies, party favors, and just about anything else that can spice up a holiday. The idea is to enjoy the holidays the way you did as a child and take some of the attention away from the food. Trust me -- it gets far too much attention as it is. It's like George Clooney at a women's yoga class. I keep waiting for him to show up at mine! The point is you never know when someone like George Clooney is going to pop into your day. You've always got to be prepared and look your best. And you can't consistently allow the holidays to set you back and force you into hiding. Let's start a year of healthy holidays together, from New Year's Day to New Year's Eve. I'm sure they'll be the best holidays ever!


Rosemary Roast Chicken

Serves 4


1 3-3 1/2 pound organic free-range chicken, rinsed, giblets removed
4 organic garlic cloves
6 fresh organic rosemary sprigs, plus a few more for garnish
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Pull the fat from inside the chicken and discard. Set the chicken in a small roasting pan and put the whole garlic cloves under the skin in the meatiest part of the chicken. Stuff the chicken with 3 rosemary sprigs. Pour the oil over chicken and sprinkle it with the salt and pepper to taste. Rub the oil and seasonings into the chicken. Tuck 3 rosemary sprigs under the chicken. Roast the chicken, uncovered, basting ocassionally, about 1 hour, or until the chicken juices run clear. Remove the rosemary from the chicken and from the pan. Carve the chicken and put the pieces on a platter. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs. Skim the excess fat from the roasting juices and add salt and pepper to taste. When serving, spoon a little of the pan juices over the chicken.

Excerpted from Healthy Holidays Total Health Entertaining All Year Round by Marilu Henner. Copyright © 2003 by Marilu Henner. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of the publisher. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Copyright © 1997-2015 by Writers Write, Inc. All Rights Reserved.