Thursday, November 28, 2002
Turkey merely the shill
This is a tough day for dieters.
We call it Turkey Day, but the bird is merely the low-cal shill for sugar and starch. Turkey with all the trimmings, we call it. This usually includes specialty dishes from family members, who have never worshipped at the conflicting altars of Dr. Atkins and Jenny Craig.
In our family, noodles are not fattening enough, so we put them on top of mashed potatoes. We slather gravy on dressing. We serve vegetables in their creamed incarnation and dump brown sugar and marshmallows on sweet potatoes. And we are civilized, semi-fit people who ordinarily eat bran for breakfast and ask the waitress to put our salad dressing on the side.
Perhaps this carbo and fat-loading tradition was necessary during primitive days when Thanksgiving was the starting gun for the rigors of Christmas shopping. But we have endured Christmas Muzak and Chia Pet ads for nearly a month by now.
So, there's really no excuse to overindulge today, except the lovely pleasure of eating real food that has not been tofu-ized or had all the flavor sucked from it by the Fat Police.
Nonetheless, Thanksgiving may be the single most dangerous day for people hoping to greet the new year in something besides sweatpants. What happens is we fall off the wagon on Thanksgiving. So, we figure we may as well clean up the leftovers the next day. Then it's almost December and, as every committed dieter knows, you have to start on a significant day. A Monday. Or the first day of a new month. Or immediately after you receive the invitation to your class reunion. By now, it is looking reasonable to postpone our climb back on the wagon until Jan. 1.
I have, however, some simple advice. I offer impeccable credentials as a person who has probably lost 600 pounds or so over a lifetime. (If you want tips on dieting, do not ask a skinny person. They know nothing. And they will not understand why you do not simply stop eating before your waistband becomes a tourniquet.)
First, sit next to somebody who has to perch on a phone book or toddler seat to reach the table. By the time you clean up spilled milk, scrape the food off your clothes and cut their meat, you will have very little time to rev up your own fork. Sit at the card table annex if there is one. The best food never makes it there.
Take plenty of cranberries. They taste terrible and will bleed over the rest of your food. When you're offered the molded salad, remind yourself of the last time you had Jell-O. Which was probably because it was the only thing you could keep down.
Just stay away from pumpkin pie altogether. Even bad pumpkin pie is irresistible. Ask for mincemeat pie instead. I've been told it actually contains no meat, but these are the same people who snigger and look wise when I ask what kind of bread they use to make sweetbreads.
If all else fails, look around you today. Not at the food. At the faces. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by the people you love, I'll bet you will feel very full.
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