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Survival Tips

Survival Tips for the World of Work

Click on the topics below for Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s advice on
situations we all face in our careers:

Resume Writing
Job Hunting
Long-distance Job Hunting
Interviewing
Your First Day At Work
Being A Good Gatekeeper
A Tough ^%^@ Boss
Email Etiquette
Public Speaking
Team Building
Demystifying Statistics
Goal Setting
Changing Jobs
Career Building
An Annual Mental Health Check
25 Summary Tips

Shell Shocked

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My heart is breaking for America. I cannot get over the shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue. It happened he morning of my best friend’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. What should have been a day of celebration was a time of grieving and sadness. We were sitting there together as a family and community shell-shocked that such a thing could happen in America. I know there are people in my congregation who voted differently than I did. Even they seemed shaken that as Jews, sitting in place of worship, they might be killed, just for being Jews, sitting in a place of worship. My city is about half Jewish, and we have elected both red and blue candidates. But I am the granddaughter of European immigrants who escaped fascism, and what I see in America now is eerily reminiscent of the stories I heard from Opa and Nana about their time, tinged with all their sadness about their family, neighbors, and friends who died. What will it take to make us feel safe again?

Shell Shocked

Dear Shell Shocked:

Safety is a huge question. Zero guns are part of an answer, though not very likely. And people who hate will find other means to kill. The only answer I have is to vote and to communicate calmly, and to encourage others to do the same. But that feels like a giant chasm from where we are now as a country. Part of what I had to do when writing my book was to deconstruct my legacy as the child of immigrants: to see how it shaped my worldview and emotional structure. Both my parents made it out of Germany very close to the beginning of WW2. They grew up in an increasingly fascistic country with a charismatic leader who actively espoused hatred of minorities, Jews at the very top of the list. If we do not want to go the way of 1930’s Germany, Americans must return to talking peacefully even when we disagree, calling out hatred and violence whenever we see them, smothering them with our large presence and caring hearts, and defending this great multicultural experiment we call America.

Except for Native Americans, all of our ancestors came from somewhere else and were reviled as that nationality just as Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, and more are currently being attacked. We have to speak out. Every day. Against everything that brings hatred into our society. We need to fight to keep America free. Not just with and from bullets, but with our votes and with our prayers and our acts of kindness to create a strong loving multicultural society. No one has to vote the same way as I do. But please vote, and make your opinions clear, peacefully, at the ballot box. And wherever and whenever you see it, confront violence, hatred, anti-Semitism, attacks on journalists, and other forms of incipient fascism as though your freedom and life depended on it. Because they do, as Jews, Americans, and humans. It is fine to cry when you do so. You will not be alone.

Great Customer

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I am an Amazon fantasy customer. I’m retired, partially disabled so it
is difficult enough to get friends to help with medical appointments
that I don’t want to also bother them for shopping, and well-off
enough that if there is something that I want—from an art book to an
appliance—that I can go online, browse, and have it delivered to my
door. I’m not proud of being a consumer but I also do my share of
tzedakah and recycling. I save on deliveries by being a member; they
get my business. The last four orders I have received have been
defective or wrong in some way. The first two were my fault: pressing
“buy now” too quickly and not reading the size details, and because
they were “no return” items I was allowed to keep them. The next two
were not as advertised and when I called to complain I got shunted to
a higher-level supervisor who questioned me I thought a little rudely. I
fell like I have been tagged in some way. How can I get my good
consumer name back and have the convenience I want and the
respect I deserve?

Great Customer

 
Dear Great Customer:

Generally speaking, the old adage “the customer is always right” still
remains a baseline for retailers. But in the age of long-distance buying,
consumers have both much more and much less information about
what they are purchasing. When we could stand in a store holding and
feeling the product and talk to a salesperson we could make bettetr
decision, though perhaps not as cheaply. In this age of knock-offs and
declining quality, it is easy to be disappointed with a purchase. As long
as a site’s shipping and return policies are reasonable, I think it’s
worth being loyal, but not to the point of paying too much or feeling
that you did not get the quality you paid for.

 
I would call and ask to talk to a customer service rep. Explain what’s
happened independent of a specific purchase. Ask if there is a way you
can learn more about products before you purchase, beyond the review
and questions section. Ask if they in some way tag you for too
many returns. Assuming you are treated like an adult, and not charged
to ship back defective items, I’d stick with a retailer you have trusted.
Remember, every time you buy from a new place, all you credit info
ends up being spread about the Internet. And each breach of security
is one more hassle to remedy and takes you one more step into the pit
of identity theft.

Still In His Prime

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve worked for 35 years and could afford to retire tomorrow if money
were all that mattered. But I just cut a fabulous deal to go to .25 time
at my firm as a Senior Advisor starting in January, make big bucks per
hour, and even be eligible for a bonus. I am simply not ready to give
up such a windfall, at least without trying it for six months. But my
wife says I am too stressed out and I should quit. I say look at the
vacations we could take with the money. You get a vote, though I
know the details are sketchy. What say you?

Still In His Prime

 
Dear Still In His Prime:

Money is hard to turn down; in our society it is a necessary addiction.
Big money almost always comes with stress. Ironically, we can get
addicted to stress as well. My vote is to map out a typical week with
your wife. If you can limit work to fixed hours that will not corrupt
your ability to make a new life (for example, three to four hours a day
on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) and truly restrict it to those
hours, .25 might be feasible, like a hobby that pays you while you
develop new, lower-stress things to do with your time. But my bet is
that it expands into five days a week pretty fast unless you are
vigilant. I would commit to a three-month probationary period, and
then review how it’s going with both with your wife and your
employer.

 
But don’t delay creating your second life too long. You my find that
retirement is much more fun than you think or fear.

Yearning

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

All summer, when I was in a recess from teaching middle school, I had
plenty of time to be creative. For me that meant starting to learn how
to paint with watercolors and outlining my idea for a young adult
series. But now that school is back in session, I can’t seem to find time
to write or paint or even just lounge with a book to read for more than
20 minutes at a time. It’s not just grading and lesson planning, but the
complicated schedules my husband and I share, which has made us
put an emphasis on dining together on weeknights and cleaning
together on weekends. I take a yoga class two nights a week but
that’s not the same thing as feeling creative. I miss my freedom. Can
you help?

Yearning

 
Dear Yearning:

It is important to set reasonable expectations. You won’t have the
same unlimited time as you did in summer. But you can carve out two
or three times during the week that are “yours” beyond yoga,
housework, and work-work. Let’s assume Friday and Saturday are
date nights with your hubby, and Sunday night is school prep. If you
can spring Sunday from work you will get three sessions to yourself
beyond yoga.

 
First, set up a room or at least a desk and a chair that is your
designated creative space. Allow yourself to leave your projects there
in whatever state of organization (or even disorganization) that you
like. If you have a door to close all the better. Second, ask your hubby
if he will be responsible for meal prep one night a week, say
Wednesday. When you get home that day, go to your play space and
breathe for ten minutes. Let your ideas for what you want to do later
float around in your brain so they sound exciting. Write down what
seems important. Have dinner with your hubby and kiss him goodbye;
then go to your creative space and let yourself have two-three hours
to do whatever you please, even if it turns out to be reading a book or
napping. Ditto for Sunday afternoons. The first few times you do this,
the freedom to be creative may surprisingly sap your energy rather
than enhance it. But you will find your sea legs and once you start to
write, and your characters feel more alive, you will be drawn to it,
even called.

 
November is a month dedicated to writing. Google NANOWRIMO
(national novel writing month) If you can find even ten minutes a day
to jot down ideas, one paragraph or one scene, or even just an idea, in
a notebook you carry with you or an email you send yourself, you will
become inspired. By next November you may even have made a big
head start on your book. In the interim you will start to develop better
habits.

Suffering Supervisor

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I work with someone with whom there is mutual and active dislike. I
am her only supervisor and report to a boss of my own who thinks she
only needs better direction and instruction. He is unwilling to mentor
me in how to provide it or take his own time to give it. Sadie is a
single mom (something she tells us regularly) who tries to ingratiate
herself with everyone (except me). Ironically this has backfired and
she’s managed to annoy most of the staff with her prima donna
attitudes. I’m responsible for training her and getting productive work
out of her. I have tried being her friend, being stern, and being
professional, but nothing seems to dent her pseudo-sunny personality
and haphazard performance. She’s been here a very long three
months. How much more time do we owe her to see if she will work
out?

Suffering Supervisor

 
Dear Suffering:

It’s always hard to be caught between bad help and a hard boss.
Assuming you want to keep your own job, you’ll have to tread carefully
and document your footsteps. Most of all, don’t take it in emotionally
so much that you lose your own self-esteem or act in ways that might
reflect badly on you. Give all your instructions in writing, finding a
balance between micro-management and careful explanations. Cc your
supervisor if the task is particularly important to his deadlines, so it’s
clear that you see the big picture and gave your staff enough lead time
to meet the needs of the project.

 
As for how long you’ll suffer before a change, immediately do a three-
month evaluation. Be explicit about both her flaws and performance
expectations for the next month. Repeat this exercise every four
weeks until she improves and you change your mind, she leaves on
her own, or your boss sees enough to fire her. Protect your own
reputation as a supervisor by acting like a friendly mentor (even if
you’re gritting your teeth inside). Be seen as putting the organization’s
needs first, at least in public rhetoric. Be sure not to take your
frustrations out on your family. Keep a calendar countdown to six
months, the outer limit of deciding. You’re already halfway there.

Uninspired

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I spent three years in a bad relationship in which my now-ex cheated
and lied so often that even when we were making up I think both of us
felt like actors in a bad play. I finally realized I am worth more. After a
year of counseling and not dating, I decided I was ready The first guy I
met, whom I told I did not want to date exclusively, texts me several
times a day, and generally acts adoring but never takes me out on a
real date, just invites me to his place “for a movie” which translates to
making out. The second guy I met is his opposite, very shy and almost
too afraid to make a move. He’s nerdy and sweet but we don’t seem to
have enough in common. Despite this, he invited me home to meet his
mother, which felt much too fast. I’m feeling very:

Uninspired

 
Dear Uninspired:

If you have two guys pursuing you my bet is that others will too. It’s
hard to turn down birds in the hand, but the bushes are full of men
who aren’t right for you, and you’ve failed to convince me that either
of these guys is even close to being “the one.” That said, number two
at least seems to treat you like a person of value. The first guy sounds
like a jerk, and I think you should clear his slot for the as yet unknown
number three.

 
Sit yourself down and inventory what you want in a good date and a
good mate. They may not be the same things, but be honest with
yourself and get clear on what the differences are. Then make a list of
non-negotiables, things you won’t put up with, no matter what. I’d like
to assume that means no abuse (physical or verbal), rejecting
someone who expects you to pick up the tab all the time, and avoiding
other horrors you’ve already suffered through. No matter what, don’t
compromise on those. Look for someone who has your list of wants,
and know that you might need to test out numbers three through
three hundred before finding who you truly love and deserve.

Feeling Judged

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My family is not particularly close. My brother and sister haven’t
spoken in decades for reasons I understand. I speak to both, though I
enjoy my brother and tolerate my sister. He and his wife just
relocated. They’re about seven hours away by car and a half-day by
plane, as opposed to across the country. I see plenty of them on Face
Book and when we play cards online, but have no particular interest in
spending a week or even a weekend visiting. It’s not just their two
slobbery dogs. We don’t share enough to strengthen the relationship
and we are both fine the way it is. I have a new friend, whom I like in
most respects, but she is very judgmental about how my brother and I
relate. She comes from a very large and close-knit family. How can I
convey that our family values are just fine for us?

Feeling Judged

 
Dear Feeling Judged:

The opening of Anna Karenina is cited in psychology as much as
literature: Happy families are alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy
in its own way. Your family has found a way to be happy that is
different than her family. If it works for you and your sibs, it is
intrusive and rude for her to suggest that your family be like hers.
But it does raise the issue of what happens when we make new
friends. We get very used to being ourselves. When we connect with
new folks, whether it is through dating or a social friendship, we tend
to exchange stories about our lives and history through which others
learn who we are. We cannot control their opinions (except perhaps by
shading or concealing information) but we can control how we let their
judgments affect us. She may have questions about your sibs that are
worth considering. But if she is respectful, she will accept your
answers as right for you. If not, she may not be the right friend for
you.

Flabbergasted

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

For years we have been friends with former neighbors who moved to
Hawaii. We mourned when they relocated. We have been there twice
in ten years. They have come to visit twice most years and three times
more than once, and early on we were happy to have them. While I
understand Hawaii is considered more desirable than our small town,
having guests is not merely a break in routine but burdensome and
expensive.

 

This time they gave us very little warning before they
arrived, never asked if the dates were convenient, and when we told
them we needed them to leave by Sunday morning latest, laughed and
said, “Oh we planned on Tuesday.” I didn’t want to be rude, but I was
under a massive work deadline. I just said, “I’m on deadline so you’re
on your own for meals,” and stayed in my office. After returning home
the wife sent me an email that said in essence, “This is not turning out
to be the exchange we expected. Please look for alternative
accommodations on your next vacation.” How do I reply?

Flabbergasted

 
Dear Flabbergasted:

Economists have this notion of “sunk costs” which leads to the idea
that it’s not worth throwing good money after bad. What’s past cannot
be changed, but it can provide you with lessons for the future when
dealing with other guests. Common courtesy suggests asking the
hostess if dates are convenient, agreeing on length of stay, amenities,
expectations about food and access to vehicles, and any household
peculiarities such as rising/bedtime quiet, etc. A gift of food, wine, or
something for the house, taking the hosts out to a meal, or another
thank you is common. Any potential guests who doesn’t meet that
standard gets a polite, I don’t think those dates will work for us.

 

In this case, it seems clear that the friendship is both one-sided and
not particularly close anymore. I would reply simply, Our views on
what this exchange has been are very different. I warned you I was
under deadline and was more accommodating than I should have
been. Your note suggests a sense of entitlement that makes it easy to
agree that this exchange is over, and overdue for that. She will take
umbrage no matter what you say, so sit on your email for 24 hours
before sending; if you feel better than worse after rereading, hit send,
or edit accordingly.

Patient (Not!)

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Breast cancer has killed half the female members of my family. They
all fought hard but succumbed. I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I
gave birth to sons! Now I have been diagnosed, and learning from
their example I have decided to make fighting it the single most
important thing that I organize my life around. I am a divorce attorney
and high enough in the organization that I could negotiate leave for
the full period in which I will be doing chemo and related treatments. I
know the toll it takes not just in the immediate period but also in the
recovery time, so I wanted to have absolutely no distractions while I
shifted everything in my life around this battle. I expect to return to
work, but not until I feel whole again, and probably after a vacation.
The problem: Everywhere I go, from synagogue to the supermarket, I
bump into people who want to discuss both my medical condition and
“just one quick question….” Which never is. I cannot believe the
rudeness of the latter and frankly consider anything except “Good
luck” to be more than I can bear. What can I say to deter unwanted
attention?

Patient (Not!)

 
Dear Patient (Not!):

I’ll presume that you are not shy or you wouldn’t do what you do for a
living. Two simple things you can say when people start to speak
beyond Good luck. The minute they start to wind up and launch into
anything legal, hold up your hand like a traffic cop. That should stop
most but sadly not all folks. Then say, I am on a total sabbatical from
the law so I can focus on getting healthy. If you want to talk about
anything related to it, please call So-and-so at my office who will take
very good care of you. Then turn away and start walking.

 
If people come up to you and ask about medical details or want to tell
you stories about their own or a friend’s experience, do the traffic cop
routine again, and say, I’m only talking about medical things with my
doctor and family. Thanks for your good wishes but let’s focus on other
aspects of life, preferably ones that are filled with hope. Walk away as
needed if they do not comply, and don’t worry what anyone says or
thinks.

Sobbing Sister

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My sister died in much more discomfort than necessary. She had
breast cancer for too long. She went through several rounds of chemo
early, and then it went into remission. We had a long good period of
time, but when it cam roaring back it came through everyone’s lives
like a freight train. I think we had all pushed it to the back of our
minds and were afraid to acknowledge that the change might not last.
In her last days she was in a hospital under a lot of medical care to
keep the pain and complications to a minimum. On her floor was a
very loud patient. I do not know what he was being treated for, but he
was clearly very unhappy with everything and made sure that
everyone in a big radius knew of all his complaints. We were trying to
keep Deborah’s passing gentle (think harp music and low prayers) and
this man was not just disruptive but a severe hindrance. The nurses
acted like we were being fussy until the complaints from other
patients’ families got loud enough and they finally moved him. I know
part of my anger is grief, but what can I do to make sure others do not
die this way?

Sobbing Sister

 
Dear Sobbing Sister:

In such circumstances, protecting the dying person is the single most
important thing.

 
Nurses have a great deal of authority but it is not unlimited. In the
future, should God forbid you encounter such circumstances, I would
do the following: Start with a complaint at the nurse’s station. Ask that
the disruptive patient be told to keep his/her voice down or s/he will
be moved into a room with a door that is kept closed. If that does not
work, start your way up the hospital food chain, both medical and
administrative. Ask each person to stand in the hallway outside your
sister’s room and listen for ten minutes to what other families are
being subjected to. That should be enough to do it. If not, ask your
doctor to request a room transfer to a different floor. As a last resort,
suggesting sotto voce that you prefer not to consult your attorney
should motivate almost any administrator.

Fierce

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Am I being over-protective and possessive? My son and his fiancé
were visiting for the holidays and one of my friends texted my future
daughter-in-law (whom she knows only through me and sees in a
group setting maybe once a year) asking for “a favor” (delivering a
large bulky item to the city where they live, two hours away). I
suspect she knew my son would say No so she approached the fiancé
directly without asking me if it was okay, and it ended up messing up
my time with the kids. I’m angry and feel like she took advantage of
them but I don’t know how to express it without blowing up at her. Is
there a nice way to say “Back off of my time with my family!”???? For
the record, I’m a former attorney and have been told that people that
I am:

Fierce

 
Dear Fierce:

If your son and his fiancé are old enough to marry they are old enough
to know how to politely say No thank you if they feel like they are
being exploited. There may or may not have been a direct correlation
between doing the favor for your friend and their time with you, or
they may have been happy for a reason to leave early for home. But
even if doing the favor harmed you a little, you should: (a) be kind to
them for helping her out, and (b) refrain from being fierce with her
when you ask her why she chose to accomplish her delivery using your
son and fiancé rather than other people, a delivery service, or
delivering the item herself. If they didn’t see it as a big deal or
perhaps wanted a favor chit from your friend in return, you should
respect their adult decision-making. Good friends are hard to come by,
and it’s not worth picking a fight unless you’ve been damaged in a
more significant way. In the spirit of the season spread kindness
rather than anger, and light rather than darkness.

Finally Happy

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Long complicated story made very short: Abusive first marriage.
Divorce. Fabulous year with husband #2. Perfect son born. Everything
crashes to disaster one year after his birth with second husband’s
brain cancer diagnosis. Horrible five years until he dies. Single
parenting. Remarriage to a good guy but my son who is angry about
losing his dad decides the new stepfather is “abusive.” I know abuse
and this was not not not, rather strict parenting for a kid headed down
the road to slacker-dom and pot addiction. A decade later, the family
is intact but my son has discovered his birth father’s journals in the
attic, somewhat unreadable because of his declining mental capacity.

 

He tried to transcribe them but could not read his handwriting and now
has asked me. I started, and originally found them fascinating, in part
because Dave’s parenting hopes and goals ironically seemed very close
to the step-father’s, but also disconcerting because he wrote about
things he never shared with me. When I got to the diagnosis and
decline section I had to stop. How should I proceed? I could tell my
son they were illegible (almost true), show him the parts that I did
translate which might help him reconcile with his step-dad, or pay a
stranger/professional (which requires borrowing money for which I
have a list of alternative uses). What say you?

Finally Happy

 
Dear Happy:

Many folks need more than one try to get marriage and parenting
right. I’m sorry for your tragedy with husband number two, who
sounds like he was a fabulous husband and would have been a great
parent. I agree with you that it’s important to educate your son about
the values he would have been raised with had his birth father not
succumbed to cancer. Even if life circumstances had been different
those parenting plans might have changed, but their congruence with
your third husband’s values are an important message for the young
man, especially if he hasn’t yet found his footing in adulthood.

 

 

I’d suggest sharing the journals in small bite-sized pieces, with each of
you doing your best to transcribe a section and then trading the
original and your attempts, followed by sessions to talk about the
content. After you do this once or twice you should have a longer talk
about his perceptions of parenting, and his father and stepfather. As
his long-term parent you owe it to him to provide the guidance that
you now have the safety and security to offer. Maybe his deceased
father’s voice will help.

(Maybe) A Hoarder

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I am a garage sale junkie. I have spent a decade filling up my garage
with “finds” that I know would cost me a lot if I had to buy them. But
now my husband wants to create a workshop and I need to
consolidate. I have acquired many beautiful picture frames, the kind
that would cost a lot in a frame store. I have also finally started to
take my painting hobby more seriously. Don’t laugh or freak out but I
probably have a hundred of them, many more than I could fill even if
my art were good enough to display, which it is not yet–but might
become. I’ve donated a lot of the other junk to charities, but I don’t
want to give up on my dream of a show. I promised Hubby I would
listen to you. Do I need to trim by more than half?

(Maybe) A Hoarder

 
Dear Maybe/Hoarder:

While replacement cost is generally a good decision-making tool for
what to stash in one’s garage or attic, keeping a lot of junk (especially
flammable material) that one doesn’t need is a hoarding symptom.
Even if Hubby wasn’t asking for space, doing an annual clean out is a
good reality check on what’s worth keeping and what might be worth
putting in a garage sale of your own.

 
Most non-professional shows are hung in small restaurants, coffee
houses, or arts collectives. Even a relatively big show might have
twenty pieces. I’d suggest taking your favorite frames, and perhaps
those that are considered standard sizes for which you could get some
pre-cut mats, and hanging a show in your own home of your dozen
favorite paintings. Take a wall and treat this project like it matters.
Seeing your art hung will give you perspective and invite feedback
from family and friends. After a few weeks, rotate a few of the
paintings. Then cut your frame hoard in half; if you haven’t gotten a
show in the world by next year, do it again. Be sure to look for a local
arts organization that works with the young to donate what you don’t
keep. With schools doing less, we all need to do more to engage
growing imaginations.

Witness

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m of an age when my peers are inheriting money from their dying
relatives. Some of the bequests are modest, enough to pay off a car or
loans. But others are seven digits and I am watching an array of
responses. Some friends who have lived modestly and have good
social and political values have decided to donate much of it, in part to
live consistently and in part so they can honestly respond to requests
from children, friends, relatives, and hangers-on for gifts, loans, and
“emergencies.” I have seen the money become a burden and a
responsibility more than a source of pleasure. One particular friend has
an adopted child who has been in rehab more often than I can count.
She has begun to get her life on track, but everyone is always on pins
and needles about whether it will stick. My friend with newly inherited
wealth wants to but this child a house and a car and “make her life
easier after all she has been through.” The rest of us are horrified and
see the child as a black hole of misery who has ruined our friend’s life.
Should we speak or hold our peace?

Witness

 
Dear Witness:

No one can truly understand the bond between parent and child from
the outside. What you perceive as misery could be interpreted as love
and saving a life by them. But I understand that you think your friend
is somewhat of a soft touch and that some rational guidance now
might forestall more unhappiness later. It would help if you were an
attorney or financial planner who could speak with authority. At a
minimum you should encourage your friend to consult one.

 
A gift of a car is big in most people’s lives, but if your friend wants to
support her child’s recovery and make her daily life easier, that seems
like a whopping nice way to do it. A gift of a house seems like an act of
trust but perhaps an optimistic one. I could imagine your friend buying
the house in her own name and being the landlord, letter her child pay
rent towards eventual ownership in a manner that reinforces a healthy
financial regimen. Recovery is a very hard road. The principles that
support it should guide your friend as much as her love and hope for
her child’s future.

Helllppppp

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Can you remind me of the rules for not gaining weight over the
holidays? I rolled from Thanksgiving out to my car swearing I would
never eat again. But of course I am already dreaming of pie.

Helllppppp

 
Dear Helllppp:

I’m not such a great place to turn for this kind of advice, as I violate
the rules as often as I keep to them. But after decades of enjoying
both food and holidays, I know the guidelines. The biggest is to
remember that you are among festive people and occasions for
connection, not calories. I don’t think you need to eat first and go full
so that cannot enjoy sharing food. But focus on the people and the
festivities more than what you put on your plate.

 
Allow yourself to sample everything, but start by taking half (yes I said
half) as much as you would normally serve yourself. Holiday meals
have more courses and components so it is easy to end up with a plate
that is twice as full as usual, and the temptation to taste more of what
is best is always great. So start light and after your first plate, or when
you start to feel full, take a break. Avoid eating dessert right after your
meal. Enjoy the company and an hour or so later, if you are hungry,
have a thin slice of your favorite dessert.

 

Above all do not judge or berate yourself if you screw up. You and half
the people on the planet will be in the same boat, and most of you will
be making the same vows next month about eating less and exercising
more. So give yourself a head start by focusing on people not food and
try to think about feeling lighter rather than assuming you will fail.