BY LISA EARLE MCLEOD
Let the gluttony begin. 'Tis the season of sin. Other families may engage in meaningful religious rituals, but my family is whooping it up at the church of the holy drumstick.
Why settle for a single sip of wine and tasteless wafers when you can have cocktails and cookies all month long?
My family attends church every Sunday, but when the holidays come, what we really worship is food. And a little adulation at the altar of alcohol is a sacred tradition as well.
The devotionals began at Thanksgiving with fatted calf stuffing and a few goblets of wine, followed by a sacrament of chocolate pie topped with ice cream and Kahlua.
It's a timeless holy trinity of sugar, fat and alcohol, and there's nothing my family likes better than slopping it up all season long.
However, the revered rituals of my youth no longer serve my newly enlightened self, and I've made a vow to change my heathen ways.
Thanks to feeding my soul a steady diet of veggies and Diet Dr Pepper, I've lost 10 pounds over the last six months. And I'm determined not to succumb to the temptations of flabby flesh by piling them back.
Yet every time I turn around, someone's luring me down the path of portliness.
The PTA mommy temptress across the street brought over a holiday basket laden with sugary stuff.
Those soulless neighbors down the block have invited us to an open house where they'll probably serve up pigs in blankets and a vessel of brandy-laden eggnog.
My parents are cooking up an evil plan to have us over for pecan pie while we exchange gifts.
My wicked children are begging for a gingerbread house and think that Santa deserves an entire tray of butterscotch brownies.
And the most insidious culprit of them all? My minister's wife and her cunning plot to have our entire church leadership board over for savories and sweets.
Evil has a name and it's called holiday hospitality.
I'm either fighting off the urge to guzzle and gobble and resenting the heck out of the people who put the goodies in front of me or I succumb to temptation and suffer remorse when the pounds hit my waist.
But I feel so guilty eating or drinking the good stuff that I don't even enjoy it.
Why is it that every holiday event is organized around food and drink? Did Mary have a smorgasbord in the manger I don't know about?
Studies show that the average American gains 7 to 10 pounds over the holidays, so clearly I'm not the only one who has trouble staying on the straight and narrow.
In her 10 Commandments of Permanent Fat Removal, Janice Taylor, author of "Our Lady of Weight Loss" (Viking Studio, $19.95) suggests, "Thou shalt not deny thyself a treat or two."
I know that moderation is the secret of escaping the wrath of excess eating, but it's hard to remember that when a plate of divinity is calling your name.
So I prayed for a savior and, lo, the angel of the lean came upon me. The angel (Zone Delivery USA Owner Mike Naples) said unto to me, Fear not, behold:
"You will go to parties. You will drink. You will eat unhealthy food. But if you spend 60 percent of the December on the Zone, you will only have two pounds to lose come January instead of five or 10."
So three wise meals (plus two snacks) came from the East. For unto me was delivered a cooler of lean gourmet fare via www.ZoneDeliveryUSA.com.
And this shall be a sign that I was not meant to wear waddling clothes.
This holiday ye shall find me in a fitted red dress making merry with a multitude of heavenly hosts. And it came to pass, that I found salvation in the season of sin.
I wish you peace on earth and glory to good food in the highest caloric content.
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of "Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You've Already Got and the YOU You Already Are." She has been seen on "Good Morning America" and featured in Lifetime, Glamour and The New York Times. Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.