Live Free or Diet

Dieting at any time stinks, but pre-holiday dieting is the worst. You self-deprive to get ready for upcoming orgies of high-calorie delights. I’m currently sacrificing for Thanksgiving (November 21), Christmas (December 25), New Years (January 1), and St. Patrick’s Day (March 17). I just finished up pre-holiday dieting for Juneteenth (June 19), the Fourth of July (July 4), National Left-Handers Day (August 13), Stepfamily Day (September 16), Halloween (October 31), and Guy Fawkes Day (November 5). It’s a never-ending struggle.

I once read a quote by Linda Ronstadt: “The figure my body maintains naturally went out of style the year I was born.” My natural build went out with those plump, pudgy, and poochy Renaissance babes draped over settees, surrounded by dogs and grapes. So I diet, I splurge, and I go back to dieting. That interim splurge is as inevitable as the penitent return to Spartan fare. I know the lapse is inevitable, because no matter how hard I try, I can’t convince myself that kale tastes better than gingerbread pancakes.

Undoubtedly we humans are hard-wired to associate eating with comfort and love. As babies we wolf down mother’s milk or formula and drift off into blissful sleep. As adults we do the same with Thanksgiving dinner, lucky to finish the dishes before we lose consciousness. Eating your fill is the way of life on the savanna; it’s unfortunate it doesn’t translate to the suburbs.

Exercise is key. I blame the development of farming for my problem. When we started gathering more than we hunted, it was all downhill from there. Undeniably, there’s nothing like bulldogging a mastodon to rip a six-pack or levitate a bottom-lift.

I was never very athletic in my youth, and I expected to stay that way as I aged. Unfortunately, my husband had a penchant for forced marches and Hannibalesque mountain crossings on foot. I managed to hang in there for quite a while, but after a trip to Big Bend, transecting the Chisos Mountains, my knees rebelled. A couple of surgeries later, my knees make sounds usually associated with a need for WD-40. My doctor has told me not to do exercises involving walking, and I’m left to ponder the effectiveness of deep finger-bends.

As the days wind down toward Thanksgiving, I’m trying to figure out how to lighten my mother’s recipes, which were developed by women who believed lard was good for you. For one thing, I’m making just enough this year for Thanksgiving Day and one day of leftovers. That will eliminate several days of guzzling what is supposed to be a one-time, special occasion munch-down.

The main challenge is desserts. There’s just no way to cut calories in pie, so I’ve decided to cut the pie, literally. This year we will have miniature pies, little two- and three-bite versions of the traditional Killer Pumpkin Pie and Death-by-Mincemeat. The trick is to eat them the right way. Never pop one in your mouth for a snack. Sit down with it. Give it your full attention. Appreciate the cute factor. Take a small, tentative bite. Concentrate on the kaleidoscope of flavors that burst forth on your tongue—and then disappear.

Truly, if you blink you will miss it, so don’t blink. Savor it, enjoy it, and turn away. The next day you won’t feel as guilty. And you may even convince yourself how uncannily tofu tastes like pumpkin pie. Possible, but not likely.

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