If you’re a “professional” dieter like me, you dread this time of year more than any other. Some people call it the holiday season. We know it as the Eating Season.
This time next week, the fam and I should be traveling over the Ohio River and through the woods of small, valley towns – where, I swear, deer outnumber residents 100 to 1 – to the kiddies’ grandmother’s house, we go. Hopefully, there won’t be a great deal of white and drifted snow, oh . . .
Yes, we professionals – which definition No. 6 on Dictionary.com defines as “making a business or constant practice of something not properly to be regarded as a business” – know that the average weight gain from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is one to 10 pounds.
For African-American women, I’m guessing we’re closer to the higher end of that scale.
Amateurs who pass themselves off as weight-loss pros say goofy things like “Thanksgiving weight gain isn’t inevitable.” Clearly, these folks haven’t been to either Ma Dear’s or Sweet Mama’s house for the holiday, where the feast covers every inch of space on kitchen-counters, stovetops and card tables.
Me, I start meal prep before I’ve unpacked my suitcase. Most times, I don’t even make it to the bedroom. I enter through the dining room, hug Mom and start chopping onions.
OK, it’s not exactly like that, but pretty close. Mom and I quickly slip into the rhythm of the holiday, discussing and coordinating kitchen time: Well, I’ll need to get the sweet potatoes started for the tarts. I’m going to need the oven today for the mac ’n cheese. Mom, what’s these green stuff in the back of the ’fridge? We need to toss everything to make room for pies.
(Ethnic note: It’s dressing, not stuffing. At least that what my Mom says, so there.)
Tonight, I’ll be emailing the Thanksgiving grocery list to my sister, Cynthia. Like last year, she’s volunteered to foot the bill – which is hundreds of dollars – for all the stuff we need, including onions out the wazzoo, pounds of sweet potatoes and greens, elbow mac and at least two turkeys. This is a good week to shop, because next week it’s going to hard to find a lot of this stuff, especially seasoning meats, like smoked turkey necks and smoked turkey butts. (Yes, “butts.”)
Last year was a highly stressful ordeal because Mom had injured her foot, so the grocery shopping had to wait until I arrived. I picked up Cynthia, and brought along Trey and Sky. We ended up with two-and-a-fourth carts – the fourth being my estimate for the amount of goods the basket on Cynthia’s scooter could hold. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned my sister has multiple sclerosis.) The shopping trip took nearly three hours, and we had to go elsewhere to fill in the missing ingredients, since it was so close to the holiday.
Even though I ended up making just about everything, it was not without significant help from relatives, including Cynthia, who roasted one of the turkeys, and will do so again this year.
Anyway, it’s at least two days of nonstop cooking and baking, and that means tasting and sampling and snacking, not to mention hitting all of our favorite Dayton, Ohio haunts – Cassano’s for pizza, White Castle’s for belly bombs, and Skyline for chili dogs. I can easily pass on the chili dogs, but likely not the White Castle burgers – plain, with just the onions and pickle are best – and definitely not Cassano’s. It’s the only pizza upon which I’ll order anchovies.
There’s something about being home that translates into chronic overeating, and I’m going to be extra vigilant so I don’t gain. It’s going to be tough, but I’m better equipped now – mentally, physically and emotionally – to not let anything or anyone trigger a need to use food as solace.
Onward and upward.
Even though we're a week and a half away from Thanksgiving, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. ~ Richard Roeper
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.