Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One day only Don't make holiday meals last forever

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It sounds like a total scam, right? How can you possibly eat whatever you want on Christmas and not get fat?

Well, the fact of the matter is that you can't get fat in one day. You can't even get fat in a week.

One meal that you eat once a year is not the problem when it comes to weight gain; it's the other 364 days of the year. The key to having your stuffing and eating it too is to enjoy Christmas on Christmas.

That makes intuitive sense, and you've probably even promised yourself that you'd do this for yourself in years past. The hardest part for everyone is getting yourself back on track the day after because you've got all this food around (that is delicious), and you are now craving it (because it is literally addictive). Here are three very simple steps to making sure that actually gets done:

1. Only take home the protein: If it's in your house it's going to end up in your mouth. So, only take home the turkey and the odd veggie that is not covered in marshmallows, brown sugar or fried onions. (Turkey without the gravy, ham without the glaze and the like.)

If you are the guest, keeping the macaroni and cheese (or whatever else you love) from following you home is pretty easy. Make it taste really good, and only make a medium amount (not an institutional batch). The problem will solve itself.

If the host tries to push pie on you to take home, just politely (but firmly) decline. No need to say, "Oh, I'm watching my figure," because that will likely lead to some sort of guilt trip that will have you waking up to an all-pie breakfast.

If you're the host, just send everyone home with whatever they brought. This is easier if they bring it in the serving dish because you don't need any Tupperware after dinner, just some plastic wrap.

Again, if the guest says, "Oh, you should keep some," just politely (but firmly) decline.

2. Do it while you're stuffed: right after dinner when you are full is when it's the easiest to ensure that your home is safe in terms of food. That means unloading (or declining) the pies, cakes and tarts. When you've had four butter tarts an hour ago, you can let the rest of them go. But, when you had four butter tarts last night and you wake up with intense tart cravings the next morning, those tarts own your willpower.

Temptation grows, not shrinks with time. This is especially true with what is called "hyper-palatable" foods, like everything on the table at Christmas. ("Hyper-palatable" means it's excessively delicious food that triggers you to just want to eat, and eat and eat. For me these include chocolate chip cookies. If I make a batch of them, I tell myself, "Oh, I'll just have a few," but I will just not stop until every single cookie crumb is gone. I'll keep eating even though I feel sick. Guess what? I don't make them, nor do I keep them in the house.)

Don't make your life harder than it needs to be. Bite the bullet, and just get it done before bed. You can wake up the next morning and feel pretty good about yourself for being so smart, and for having the will to follow through.

3. Don't use this article in a negative way: some people will read the "You can't get fat in one day" line above, and expand that to mean, "Well, if you can't get fat in a day, then what's one more day? I'll keep the pie, and maybe deep fry the macaroni and cheese, but it's just one more day."

The old cliché, "Today is yesterday's tomorrow" is a profound truth. Putting off doing the right thing is how the right thing(s) never actually get done (and awful things happen by default). Shut your brain up. Don't think about doing the right thing with yourself. Just do it and be done.

So, have a blast during holidays. Make your favourite dish. Eat your favourite dishes. Eat a lot of it. Just pull the trigger on your best intentions before you go to bed, so you wake up set up to succeed.

-- McClatchy-Tribune

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2012 D4

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