The Hatch-Palucks, Week 13: Christmas Gifts

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

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Happy Meals make Henry very happy, indeed. Credit: Amy Hatch

It's true what they say about Christmas.

There really is no place like home when it comes time to celebrate the holidays. It isn't easy for us to get to my mother's house in Rochester, N.Y., but when that skyline comes into view my heartbeat quickens -- and I think it always will.

We pulled into my mother's driveway about 10:30 p.m. EST, after 13 hours in the car (this year we managed to shave two hours off our drive-time, don't ask me how) and far fewer snacks than usual.

I was extremely pleased with our new travel strategy -- unlike past car rides from Midwest to East Coast, Emmie and Henry did not eat the miles away. Instead, we ate breakfast before we left home and each kid was allowed one snack two hours into our drive. Two hours after that, we stopped for lunch and, for the most part, ate sensibly.

I gave each one of them one more snack before dinner (and yes, we stopped at McDonald's, but you try to find a salad bar in rural Ohio at 7 p.m.), but after that they were too busy whining to bother eating.

I'm calling that a win.

Just as I anticipated, my mother had baked her fool head off, so 30 minutes after we arrived I was stuffing my face silly with black-eyed Susans. And egg nog. With a shot of rum.

Christmas Eve brought with it a feast of epic proportions -- lasagna with homemade meat sauce, sausage and meatballs (with angel hair pasta for the kids), ham, homemade dinner rolls and cookies for dessert.

And nary a whole grain in sight.

After the kids finally went to bed and Santa piled the gifts under the tree, Channing and I helped ourselves to more heaping plates of cookies and more eggnog.

The cookies and pasta were weighing on my mind Christmas morning, when I opened a wrapped box to find a pretty red dress I'd put on my wish list more than six weeks ago. I eyed the fitted waist skeptically, holding it up to my body and pulling the bodice tight across my ribs.

"I hope you kept the receipts," I said to my mom. "This looks kind of narrow."

Later, when the carnage, er, I mean the gift opening, was over, I took the dress upstairs to the guest room to take another look. I put it aside and proceeded to eat myself silly on beef tenderloin seasoned with pepper, horseradish, mustard ... and mayonnaise.

What can I say? My family, they like to eat.

When Dec. 26 rolled around, I was once again confronted with the coveted red dress. Oh, what the heck, I thought, I might as well try it on.

It slipped easily over my hips, and, when I buttoned it up, I realized that it fit me perfectly, with even a little breathing room on the waist.

I was overjoyed.

The scale seems stuck at 140, and my frustration level has been rising. Channing and I haven't exercised at all since the Great Plague of 2010, and we've been eating like there's no tomorrow.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, all those little choices -- taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking far away at the mall and making better decisions about food -- are making a difference. My weight may be the same, but clearly, my body is different.

That's the best Christmas gift I can give myself, and my family. Now I'm fired up to make 2011 our healthiest year yet.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.