Many of you who have seen me lately, having noticed I've dropped a few pounds, have asked me what I'm doing differently, how I managed to lose weight during a time of year when many instead find themselves bulking up. What follows is a basic outline of the plan I've follwed up to this point. Please remember, it is important to seek the advice of your doctor before beginning this or any other weight loss program.
Let me begin by opening everyone's eyes to a harsh reality--if that baby of yours is more than a year old, it's just called "weight." Unless it really makes you feel better to call it "baby weight," which it probably does, and it might until the little darling graduates high school. My own experience with this plan resulted in the loss of baby weight I had maintained successfully since the birth of my youngest son, now aged 21 months. In my case, it was clearly still "baby weight" due to the simple fact that this is my plan.
Step One: Come Down With Bronchitis the Day Before Thanksgiving.
Make sure it's a really severe case, too. Preferably viral. You won't be able to take in adequate amounts of oxygen and will, therefore, be too preoccupied with breathing/survival to think about food. When you do manage to eat, it will be primarily clear broth-based soups, tea, and water, anything to help thin those bronchial secretions and keep you from getting one of those devil-in-a-blue-dress Mucinex hangovers. You will be too ill to attend family celebrations on Thanksgiving day and will thus be spared the proverbial tryptophan overdose and belt-loosening that usually follow. Congratulations. You're on your way!
(Weight lost: 5-7 pounds)
Step Two: Have One of Your Children Diagnosed with a Scary Sounding (Though Ultimately Harmless) Illness.
As you finally recover from the bronchitis (approximately two weeks from its onset), take your 4-year-old to the doctor for something to dry up the cough he's had for four weeks, a cough that you had attributed to an unnamed allergy and had previously assumed was harmless. Panic when your pediatrician tells you he has pneumonia.* By "panic," I mean experience intense feelings of guilt for not suspecting he was so sick; obsess over whether or not he is running a low-grade fever at all hours of the day and night; lose sleep; become slightly manic, which will result in skipped or forgotten meals and questionable personal hygeine. You become so afraid that something will happen to your baby (regardless of his age, this child will always qualify as your "baby"), that even stress-eating is off the table, so to speak. Congratulations! This will ensure that your initial, bronchitis-induced weight loss is at the very least maintained but more likely that it is parlayed into additional pounds lost. The average length of an antibiotics course for walking pneumonia is 14 days. This strategy should deliver you safely to the doorstep of Christmas week.
(Cumulative pounds lost: 10-12)
*It is imperative that your child not become so ill that hospitalization is required. This would introduce variables such as hospital cafeteria food, homemade food delivered by well-wishers, vending machines, and those little pudding cups they keep in pediatric/maternity hospital guest fridges, none of which are included in this plan.
Step 3: Experience a Christmas Blizzard
Since by now you will have achieved at least a partially cleansed palate, Christmas, with its accompanying parties and numerous scheduled family gift grabs and buffets, has the potential to completely undo all of your hard work. A significant, nay, record-breaking blizzard can insulate you against an embarrassing backslide. Here, timing is imperative. Local media should start their doomsday prophecy almost a week in advance, giving you time to finish the bulk of your Christmas shopping (so you're not housebound on Christmas morning with disappointed, hysterical children). It is important, however, that you remain skeptical enough about the forecast so as not to plan a Christmas dinner of your own. In other words, do not buy ingredients for a Plan B holiday meal. Maintain instead that, surely, you will be able to get out to at least one of the four gatherings you're planning to attend on December 25th.
The linchpin of course, for this portion of the plan, is the snow. It should start falling in earnest on the 23rd and increase steadily in intensity until early Christmas morning, when it can decrease as long as the winds pick up. Total snow fall MUST equal at least 12" to guarantee reduced access to food. It will help if crews are slow to plow the roads and/or if plows are able to turn what were previously functional two-lane streets into narrower, one-and-a-half-car-wide snow canyons edged with ice. Conditions should only improve marginally, if at all, over the course of the next week and can, if you prefer, be coupled with sub-zero temperatures and/or windchills to help sustain weight loss through at least the New Year's holiday.
(Cumulative weight lost: 12-15 pounds)
Step 4: Your Optional Hypothetical Bonus Number
Because, due to circumstances beyond your control, you have not had your usual unencumbered access to holiday food and beverage, at this stage you qualify to subtract an Optional Hypothetical Bonus Number of your choosing. Although you didn't gain the average 7-10 pounds of extra, celebratory weight the average American gains over the holidays, I see no reason you should be cheated of subtracting it from your overall weight loss total. I suggest something tasteful, believable. Enough to encourage you but not enough to arouse suspiscion in others when they ask how much you've lost all together.
(Suggested cumulative weight lost: 15-20 pounds)
This Brings Us To January
January is Girl Scout Cookie season. You're on your own here, but keep in mind that your cookies won't arrive for a month or two. By that point you'll likely have either gained all of your weight back (or, if you prefer, your "baby weight"), or you will have lost so much that a few (dozen) boxes of Girl Scout Cookies will be but a blip on your dietetic radar. You can always freeze 'em, right? Just an FYI on that. I found out the hard way one year that although frozen solid, Girl Scout Cookies are still perfectly edible. Previously, I was under the mistaken impression that taking time to thaw out an entire box of cookies would give me a chance to think about whether or not I really wanted to eat them. All. And I had just gotten a toe-hold on that thought process when I decided to see if frozen cookies could still be easily consumed (ie: without chipping a tooth). They can be. If this occurs, your only hope is to eat so many that you become simultaneously nauseous and so hopped up on sugar that you burn right through the calories without regaining the appetite to replace them.