By Janice Lindsay
Woodchucks do it. Bats do it. Chipmunks and jumping mice do it. Bears do it.
I want to do it, too. I want to hibernate.
We mammals known as Homo sapiens are sometimes not all that sapient. In the autumn, Mother Nature informs all mammals of northern climes that it’s time to consider going into that inactive, sleep-like state that is hibernation. Eat a lot, build up fat, and go to sleep. In this drowsy condition, we might sometimes awaken to nibble on food we’ve stored during the fall. Then we would go back to sleep, passing the cold winter months in cozy slumber.
That sounds fine to me, especially around New Year’s Day, when the warm fuzzy holidays are behind us and the long, icy winter stretches ahead. Why not just snooze through the whole thing?
Fools that we are, we do not listen to Mother Nature. Our modern brains insist on clinging to the perverse notion that we must stay awake all winter and rush around doing stuff.
Our brains are delusional.
Here’s what your brain says: “You gain weight at this time of year because it’s the holidays. Holidays create the opportunity for you to eat too much. You are weak and have no willpower. So you overeat.”
Here’s what your body says: “The holidays come now precisely because this is the time of year when you’re supposed to eat a lot. You’re a mammal, for goodness sake. You need to store up some energy for the winter.”
(It’s worth nothing that the early Christians didn’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, so they decided to commemorate it when the dominant culture, the Romans, were already celebrating, during Saturnalia, a harvest-related festival of feasting and merriment. Those Romans knew what they were doing. And their winters weren’t even that cold.)
Our bodies sense winter coming – the gathering cold, the increasing darkness. They know that we should feel extra hungry as winter beings.
“Eat that fat!” they plead. “Send us down some sugar! We need those extra calories in case you get the flu! Or something.”
Personally, I am listening to my body. I just took a break from writing to eat a bite of a whoopie pie.
Usually we don’t listen to our bodies. We listen to our brains.
Our addlepated brains say: “If you’re going to a holiday party where you’ll be tempted to overeat, eat a low-calorie snack before you go.” (Gosh, if I wanted to eat my own cooking, I wouldn’t go to a party in the first place! Even a raw carrot tastes better if somebody else peels it, especially if, as a friend points out, that somebody else makes some dip to dunk it in.)
And if we do manage to build up a little extra personal insulation by early January, what do our brains say? “New Year’s Resolution time. Exercise! Diet! Lose weight!” But while we’re sweating and straining and eating celery, our bodies are fighting to hang on to every single ounce.
The dead of winter is no time for self-improvement. By the end of December, your whole being, except for your brain, is saying “Hunker down! Cocoon! Let things be!”
When the weather is warmer, when the days are longer, when the world is new, that’s the time to create the new improved you.
I suppose I could be wrong about all this but I doubt it. Ask your body. Your brain will chime in. Ignore it.
As for me, I’m going to eat the rest of that whoopie pie and take a nap.