Know Thy Christmas Chess Game

(or... How To Plan a Healthier Day of Feasting and Follow Through)

Dog and horse chess piece.
Nola is unmoved by the Knight.

I don't know how to play chess. That may surprise a few folks.

Many have tried to teach the game to me, but I fail to retain any information past the fact that there are horse pieces. The little girl in me begins and ends with a horse. I'd rather make those gallant war steeds clip-clop around the squares and "save the day" than be bothered to learn anything else. In my mind - the knight should be able to do all the things.

However, I do recognize that chess is a game of strategy. Chess Masters know hundreds of play combinations. They have the ability to think ahead multiple moves and forecast how the game will end. They size up their adversary, devise a plan and stick with it. A Chess Master will easily crush a lesser opponent and achieve their goals.

Dog looks at chess board.
Indy plans her chess attack.

At Thanksgiving I came up with a plan on how I wanted to handle that day while not completely erasing all of the health gains I had made the month prior. I devised a plan to nail down exactly what I wanted to eat and why. I weighed the possible consequences in my mind and created a strategy for how I wanted to "play" my day and still enjoy the things which were important to me.

Christmas is no different.

I used to attack feasting on Christmas the same way I play chess - with no plan whatsoever. And certainly no sizing-up of my opponent.

If winning means that I will feel just as good after the day is over as I do before the day begins, how am I going to win the Christmas 2020 Chess Game? How will it be possible to not get side-tracked by all the delicious edibles like I am by my horse chess pieces? I need a plan.

Christmas is going to look a lot different this year because of COVID-19, but there are still going to be some food traditions in play which hold a lot of meaning for me: chestnuts wrapped in bacon, crepes, chicken stew and a gin-n-ginger. Therefore I need to have a strategy that will allow me to enjoy some without "losing the queen", to keep with the chess metaphor.

Like Thanksgiving, I reflected on what is the significance of my non-negotiables and discovered their common denominator: my grandparents. On Thanksgiving I chose things which had an immediate connection to my grandfather (a.k.a. Pop) - like how he always let me eat the first piece of crispy turkey skin before he carved. I focused on the memory and my Pop and enjoyed the daylights out of that turkey skin... and passed on anything else void of fond memories. I woke the next day feeling better than any other post-Thanksgiving feast that I could remember.

Photos of my grandparents.
My grandparents Pierre and Yvette Freeman & Guy and Bertha Daigle, plus a photo of my son Daniel.

Christmas has the same appeal for me in that there are certain traditions which have a strong connection to each of my grandparents, who are now all celebrating in Heaven. Some traditions are food related, but not all. I am purposefully finding ways to enhance those connections to my grandparents. While crepes remind me of my Pepere and chicken stew reminds me of my Grandma, I made sure to decorate my home with the nativity scene I inherited from my Memere. (I also decorated the little fake tree that drove my Grandma crazy for some reason.) I almost made the mistake of not bothering to decorate my home this holiday season. Now I am seeing how it will help keep me grounded.

While our Christmas gatherings will be more virtual than in-person, I can use this bizarre year to my advantage and have a little more control over my choice-making. I'll also make sure I drink plenty of water throughout the day and not starve myself between meals so that I make more reasonable choices when I do encounter a delicious treat.

So that's my strategy for tackling Christmas. I'm learning how to size up my opponent (negative self-talk, reckless abandon, depression, defeat) and win the game of health - one chess move at a time.