Don’t we all just love Dashain? I mean, what’s not to like? An extended holiday period, some quality family time and erm…. lots and lots of food. Except that for thousands (millions perhaps?) of over nourished people like me, with a tendency to put on weight at the mere sight of food, the festival of Dashain is a minefield that is getting increasingly harder to negotiate. At the best of times, my weight fluctuations are quite enough to make Oprah Winfrey blush but while Dashain comes around once a year, it never really leaves me – if you know what I mean.
It’s not simply a case of ‘Well, don’t eat a lot then!’. That simple advice is easier said than done especially when social niceties dictate otherwise and refusing this seasonal generosity (read an unhealthy amount of food) can be seen as being discourteous to your hosts. To top it off, the laws of Dashain state that the act of saying ‘No, thank you’ must be followed by a reason for the above-mentioned restraint. This in turn necessitates making elaborate excuses and conjuring up lies or risk being the subject of uncomfortable ribbing and teasing about ‘being on a diet’. To be honest, it is a whole lot easier just to stuff my face and get on with it.
And it’s not like there is a plethora of ‘healthy’ choices to eat and drink from, if the way we celebrate Dashain is anything to go by. Just ask any vegetarian and they will probably concur with this fact. We like to consume (and apparently relish?) every bit of the animal. And while the copious amounts of meat are a contributing culprit, it’s not the only problem. Our diet during this period is a nutritionist’s nightmare – lots of saturated fat, alcohol and that snow-white killer – sugar. If you are one of those folks who don’t drink alcohol, then you get served supposedly ‘healthier’ refreshments – i.e. sweetened colas and if that doesn’t work for you then the holy grail of healthy drinks – tetra pack concentrated fruit juices with no added sugar (whatever that is supposed to mean).
The effects of this perilous diet are further exacerbated by the compulsion to eat at the homes of literally everyone you know – and by our standards that is a lot of families and a lot of inches to the waistline. Drinking these sugar bombs is an acceptance of the host’s warmth and generosity because apparently drinking only a glass of water is actually an affront to a host’s hospitality. I don’t understand how the global message about sugar being deadly white poison hasn’t filtered down to us, given the high prevalence of diabetes among our populace. It’s even harder to understand how drinking garbage like carbonated colas or juices is supposed to help you celebrate, but that is modern marketing for you.
How is one supposed to win the battle of the bulge in the face of this constant sugar bombardment? I have resorted to telling my relatives that I am borderline diabetic and given my age and family history it is eminently believable. In one fell swoop I get rid of all the colas, juices, sweets and even the portions of meat without the discomfort of explanations. Granted, it’s a bit drastic but it’s mighty hard to say ‘No’ when you turn up at their place once a year and ask for a glass of water without a valid excuse. No one’s letting you get away with that.
I’ve just realized that I sound like a salad eating, calorie counting, and overtly sensitive gym bunny too obsessed to celebrate Dashain. I actually wish I was but I’m not. But there’s a simpler reason to this reluctance to eat – and that is laziness. I hate working out. In fact, off the top of my head, I can think of at least ten better things to do on any given day than spend my evenings in a sweaty confined space with other strangers doing the same pointless thing, exchanging stories of brown rice and grams of protein. Blurrgh! But I do only because I don’t want to end up more nourished than I already am. The special effort required a couple of weeks before and after Dashain is not really worth it and has often led me to contemplate the virtues of vegetarianism. Hence, there is no sense in piling on weight by stuffing my face with food that I don’t particularly like or have space for.
My supposedly diabetic self of 2017 resorted to a bowl of yoghurt at every place – saved me the problems of sugar and the pestering of the hosts. I love Dashain, just not it’s excesses and the ‘holiday’ diet. I would prefer a good meal or two with my family instead of endless varieties of mutton made different ways in different places. But that’s not how things work so for the next few years it’s going to be endless bowls of yoghurt for me. But for all of you who, like me, think that you have managed to dodge the Dashain bullet – there is a word of warning – Game of Thrones style: Tihar is coming!