It’s that time when you look in your refrigerator, take a long, lingering look at the container of leftover turkey, and make the judgment call that we all dread making. That container has been sitting there for a week now. You’ve had your fill of turkey in its various incarnations and now you must decide if it is to become yet one more meal, dog food or garbage.
It’s just one of the many important, life-changing decisions all of us face as we round Thanksgiving and make a beeline for Christmas. The decisions we make now will have longer lasting impacts than most of us realize. Everything from the gifts we give (or don’t give or forget to give) to the food we eat and the clothes we wear can shape people’s opinion of us for years.
For example, when my kids were little, their aunt and uncle went to great lengths to give them Christmas gifts that made a lot of loud, repetitive, obnoxious sounds. You have no idea how good it feels now to have boring teenagers while we get to return the favor with a healthy dose of karma.
Actually, my wife Sandy does the lion’s share of the Christmas shopping and she is a lot more merciful than I am. She is usually the only one I shop for. I let her do the rest of the shopping because: A) she is a woman and that’s what women do, and B) I am a man and men don’t do shopping.
When I do go Christmas shopping for Sandy, I get a budget and a list. From that point on I am an apex Christmas shopping predator. I find what I want, where I want it and the price I want it for; then I go out and bag that sucker like a 10-point buck on opening day. Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Christmas shopping for me usually happens on Dec. 24 sometime after 5 p.m. It’s the hour of desperation known to men and journalists (of which I’m both) across the land as The Deadline. That’s when our finest and most inspired work gets done. (It’s when this column is getting written!)
Some people say we procrastinate because we’re lazy. Not true! We procrastinate because we need more time to put more thought into it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Getting back to the importance of making decisions this time of year, it really is true that what you wear impacts how people think of you. Are you a Santa hat person? Do you wear ugly sweaters? People remember those things. If you don’t think the clothes are important, trying going a day without them. (People really remember that!)
What you eat is also very important. Every single calorie you consume between Halloween and New Years will stay with you for a very long time. I’m still pretty chummy with a piece of pumpkin pie I ate in 1983. There’s also that fruitcake from ’92 and the Great Mashed Potato and Gravy Flood of 2004.
People will not only judge you based on how much of your annual indulgence is still with you a year later, but on how you indulge. If your indulging includes imbibing you may leave an indelible impression – indelible to everyone, that is, but you. I must confess to consuming Christmas confections at a rate that would make a pig proud. It’s a shameful time of my life also known as my first 50 years. I don’t eat like that anymore. I reformed my gluttonous ways a very long hour ago.
Now when I select delectables during the holidays, I very carefully consider healthy choices, smaller portions and reducing how much I eat, how fast I eat it and when I eat it. I then boldly and confidently forget my willpower and fill my plates with thirds of dessert.
In all seriousness, this time of year can be challenging to those of us trying to lose weight but that’s because we make it harder than it needs to be. Just remember as you stare at those turkey leftovers that it is a really lean, healthy meat to eat. Your real battle is not with the container of turkey, it’s with the leftover pie in the container next to it.
Do yourself a favor and chuck the pie and engage the turkey. Just go easy on the mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and (oh man, I’m hungry again). You can also do what works best for me. Raise up a couple teenage boys and leftovers become a problem you no longer have to worry about.