Sam Venable  

Special Contributor

OK, folks. Let’s tighten up—as in belts. Better get it done now before the rush begins.  

Thanksgiving Day, the official start of holiday pigging, beckons. This culinary assault begins with cranberry sauce and a verse of “Come Ye Thankful People, Come;” peaks with a wedge of fruit cake and “We Three Kings;” then goes out in a fury with the last drop of champagne and “Auld Lang Syne.” All of which means you have barely enough time to get the ol’ waistline whipped into shape before those calories come calling.

How to lose weight? Easy. When it comes to shedding excess baggage, I am a decided expert. I’ve done it hundreds of times. In fact, if you added all the weight I have lost in the past 20 years, you could easily match, pound for pound, the interior offensive line of the state champion high school football team. (Of course, if you added all the weight I then have regained in that same period of time, you could easily match, ton for ton, the entire roster of the Minnesota Vikings, including cheerleaders, mascot, and pep band. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Most people start a diet with the same enthusiasm they have when they sit down to figure their taxes. This is a big mistake. They count calories diligently—157 here, 206 there—and get all bent out of shape if they pile up one too many. This makes them sad. So they eat to drown their sorrow, and the next thing they know the belt goes out another notch. 

What they fail to realize is that by picking and choosing their food carefully, they can forget calories altogether. Honest. It’s like making a cool $1.5 million and then finding enough shelters to avoid paying taxes. 

Ready to eat? Great. Lick those chops and dive in. There are absolutely no calories in food if the following rules are observed: 

  • The meal is free. 
  • It’s the kind of food you really don’t enjoy. 
  • You eat off someone else’s plate, especially the plate of a child who has not developed a taste for fried chicken, gravy, rolls, and cheesecake. 
  • It’s the last piece. Of anything.
  • Someone insists you take a bite “just to see how it tastes.”
  • The food is actually good for you, although I rarely employ this rule.
  • You make taste-tests of the food you are preparing. Especially desserts.
  • The meal is bottled and may be sold only to persons of legal age. (In this case, two meals at one sitting are acceptable.)
  • You do not remember eating. (See previous rule.)
  • No one is around to see you eating. 
  • The food is consumed between midnight and 4 a.m. 
  • You are in any of these emotional states: sad, happy, depressed, anxious, glad, cheerful, jolly, elated, dejected, disappointed, or despondent.
  • There is leftover dough or icing.
  • Some foods actually have negative calories. For example, if you are forced to eat beets, you will run up a calorie deficit and may compensate to your heart’s—or your belly’s—content. Figure on two Twinkies per beet. 

See? Just listen to your Uncle Festive Feasting, and you’ll be a completely different person by Thanksgiving Day.

If you work extra hard, I’d say two, maybe three, sizes different. 

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at