SWAINSBORO, Ga. — I was born in Swainsboro, in the flat, sandy southern portion of Georgia, where social prestige is measured by the size of your pond and pond house and the number of hunting dogs you own. Having a good, dirty truck helps, too.
Each year about this time, my holiday season begins with Swainsboro. Wherever I am, I fly to Atlanta, pick up my mother at her Marietta, Ga., home and begin the drive south. Mom usually has me make about six stops before we've driven six miles. In the South, giving home-cooked things at holiday time is as normal as saying "ya'll."
After the six stops, Mom and I drive the three hours to my birthplace without eating a thing, an absolute necessity if one's stomach is to survive the great holiday equation: Love plus family conviviality equals eating everything put before you. And in our family, that equation is particularly true and wonderful, for my south Georgia kin in particular can cook as well as they can play the piano and sing.
Quite a Spread
My cousins Bunny and Buck usually host about 20 of us for the entire Thanksgiving Day. We have real cracklin' bread, creamed onions, sweet potatoes baked in the oven, then split open and filled with butter, turkey dressing made with two dozen oysters and turkey drippings, a whole ham cured in honey and sugar at a friend's farm, fried chicken, venison, maybe some rabbit, vegetables put up by my cousins and their friends, and five or six salads, including my Aunt Peggy's best glazed carrots. And that, honestly, is for lunch before the big meal.
Most of us nap after that. The very energetic walk out to Buck's greenhouse to look at his latest plants. I usually compromise. From the window I watch the people headed to the greenhouse. Then I nap. The TV, of course, occupies the younger set and eventually draws the rest of us, too, for an athletic afternoon watching football players exercise. There is no better way to open the holiday season than a day like this.
Of course, if you're thinking that about nine-tenths of this doesn't fit my new life style, you're right.
So I've developed an emergency plan for the holiday season that will maintain my health, satisfy my conscience and, at the same time, still my lust for real holiday food and fun. First, I'm going to eat more, but smaller, meals. Second, I'm going to be very choosy about unimportant meals. Then I'm going to trick my taste buds on the serious meals. And finally, I'll even get a few of my relatives involved in some exercise.
During mid-morning and afternoon, I'm adding high-fiber, filling, low-calorie meals. A piece of apple and a carrot or two, then some celery for the main course and popcorn without butter or oil for dessert. Garlic salt flavors it well. For the big meals, I'll treat main courses like side dishes, and the healthier side dishes like the main course. Even pulling half the coating off a piece of fried chicken can get rid of nearly 50% of its saturated fat content, and your taste buds won't know the difference.
Rather than watching the walk to the greenhouse this Thanksgiving, I'll ask a few of my really adventuresome cousins to walk to town with me to visit the Dekles, friends that go back as far as my parents' childhood.
Since a three-mile walk is easy for a man in my improving condition, I will, of course, walk briskly, occasionally looking back at my cousins. I could walk back, too, but I do not want to be to uppity this Thanksgiving. I think I'll save that for Christmas.
Simple changes in your exercise and eating habits can leave you weighing the same or less--and feeling better--after the holidays.
--Exercise before a meal, even a simple 10-minute walk, will raise your body temperature slightly and usually curb your appetite rather than raise it. If the weather's too bad outside, do simple calisthenics in the house.
--Eat mid-morning and afternoon snacks of high-fiber, filling foods like fruits, vegetables and popcorn (unsalted and unoiled). At mealtime, take larger portions of vegetables and smaller portions of the more fattening foods.
--Drink less liquor, too. Water down your wine slightly. Measure the drinks themselves carefully, and drink lots of water.
--Eat slowly. Your stomach doesn't send "filled" signals until many minutes after you've eaten. That's why you can feel stuffed without realizing you're even full.
Beginning 12th Week Waist: 43 inches 33 3/4 inches Right biceps: 12 3/4 inches 12 inches Flexed: 13 inches 13 inches Weight: 201 pounds 170 pounds Height: 6' 1" Blood pressure: 128/68 128/68 Pulse: 64 62 Bench press: 55 110 Hunk factor: .00 .20