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Spandex eases stress of holiday indulging

With heating fuel at an all-time high and frigid weather bearing down, we've switched from eating snow cones to becoming them. How to stop worrying and keep warm? Food helps.

Luckily, the holidays invite, even require, that we eat often, and with gusto. Not long ago, the remedy for overeating was a loosened belt and a snooze on the couch. Today, thanks to the marvel of science, we can indulge and expand quicker than rising dough, our indiscretions out of sight and mind, our leaden pots enrobed in Spandex.

DuPont cooked up Spandex Lycra in 1959. It is a smooth, supple, long-chain filament fiber of synthetic polymer. It is stronger than taffy and can stretch more than 500 percent without breaking. Miraculously, it rebounds to its original size and shape.

Spandex proved ideal for dance wear, athletic gear and surgical stockings. Ordinary folk joining the fitness craze of the 1980s could gird themselves in Spandex head to toe, miss classes and still appear toned.

The uniform of the day for women of all shapes and sizes was leggings and a sweat shirt or blouse with big shoulders. Iridescent and fluorescent Spandex defined the floozy. Black exemplified a penchant toward the unconventional.

The Spandex of this century is undetectable and unrecognizable from earlier, flashier times. It comes blended with nylon, polyester, cotton, linen, velvet and mesh. It has become a staple for all kinds of products: book covers, slipcovers, sneakers and table linens. In women's ready-to-wear, those dreadful leggings and stirrup trousers have been reinvented. They are now durable, pert Western jeans and crisp corduroy straight-legs.

While the clothing feels so much more comfortable, you need to study the labels of tailored shirts, dapper jackets and chic, satin and velvet party wear to detect Spandex. As little as 1 percent can be added, but up to 30 percent is commonly used. Once Spandex gets you in its lighter-than-air embrace, it's next to impossible to return to rigid, unforgiving, restrictive apparel. We can, at long last, be fashionable and comfortable.

That magic word "stretch" on the label transports us to a less stressful world. Who among us hasn't purchased peace of mind in the form of new, forgiving duds?

It's a cruel season for a hollow leg or sweet tooth, so self-control is the key. Spandex is sneaky, but you know the drill: When visiting buffets, eat rabbit food. At the potluck, nibble instead of noshing. After porking out, step on the scale and scale back. When tempted to wolf down, divide those portions and take home tomorrow's lunch.

If pleasingly plump or portly isn't your thing, instead of the groaning board, take stock. A dram of clear broth might restore reason. Aspire to food on a china plate, and transported to the mouth with actual silverware. Sit upright, at a proper table, and break the habit of dining like a Roman emperor sprawled on the couch.

Fine. Is it broiled fish and salad for me? Not so fast! 'Tis the official season to be jolly, celebrate and loosen the reins. I'm allied with Spandex and Maalox, so pass the hot rolls and butter. Come to mama, ravioli, lasagne and saucy fettucini Alfredo. Afterward, I'll savor a mere sliver of pie, and rejoice that I haven't fallen into the deep-fried Snickers pit. Ancient Rome knew plenty about war, misguided leaders and gluttony. It bounced back and gave meaning to the words "renewal" and "rebirth." And, of course, hope springs eternal.

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