11/08/2011 12:39 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2012

Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain The Smart Way: Rationalization

The holiday season is upon us once again -- Halloween just past, Thanksgiving and the December holidays looming -- and already the queries have begun. It's like clockwork.

"Maggie," they ask, "what are those calorie rules you've suggested through the years that we don't quite believe but hold onto regardless because it's the only way we stay sane through these few months of constant eating?" Seriously. Not a day goes by.

I will therefore share once again the common-sense approach to calories and dieting. It follows along the lines of -- and darn well may have sprung from, come to think -- the famous "5-second rule," which of course suggests that if you drop food on the floor/ground, you have 5 seconds to snatch it up before it becomes totally germ/dirt-infested. These are theories that, while maybe not condoned by scientists at large, make a certain amount of sense to me.

For example, the last bowl of cereal in the box has fewer calories. It must. You can't look at the last inch of cereal in that bag and believe it has the same number of calories as the first inch did. It loses potency somehow, in the waiting-to-be-eaten process.

Similarly, the older the candy, the less the calories. If you can hold off eating your Halloween candy until the following summer, as I do, you're eating virtually calorie-free candy. Sure, you may chip a tooth here or there, but oh, the saved calories!

When eating with family or friends, a bite from someone else's meal has no calories. How can it? It's not yours! You can't simply commandeer someone else's calories! I have found it advisable, however, to ask first before stabbing your fork, willy-nilly, into other people's food. Particularly if the other people are at another table.

If you have a dessert -- a big, gooey, chocolatey brownie, for example -- and you eat half of it now and the other half later, the second half has less calories. I can't explain that one. It just seems right. And the corollary is that a dessert -- such as a big, gooey, chocolatey pan of brownies -- given to you as a gift (thanks, Sue!) has no calories. They are lost in the transportation.

Here's a rule of which my husband is particularly fond: If you eat between midnight and six, the calories don't count. They're still there somewhere, but your body just says, "Eh, we'll let this one go. We're too tired to count right now." Voila! Now, if you take one of the aforementioned brownies and eat it after midnight, you might actually be burning calories! Do you see the beauty of this?

Okay, so what else? Well, of course there's the "moving vehicle" rule, which dictates that if you eat in the car, on the subway, in a plane or on a train, the calories are reduced. Your body realizes the concentration it takes to not spill, for example, while your spouse is driving and seemingly aiming for squirrels (I'm not saying this happens in my family), and the calories are deducted accordingly.

Also, and you parents out there may want to listen up -- if you finish something your kids started, you're again absolved. You're "wasting not, wanting not," and you simply can't be hit with calories when there are starving children in the world. If one adheres to that philosophy, then it's a duty to finish a child's meal, and duty-bound eating should be duty-free eating. I'm just saying.

Don't let the holiday foods get you all worked up this year. The more you stress, typically the more you eat, and, sorry to say, stress-eating does not fall within the parameters of the calorie-reduced zone. Of course, if you can maneuver your thinking around to one of the established zones, then you'll be all set. So if holidays with your family cause some, oh, let's call it "anxiety," simply sit at the kids' table and eat all you want ... again, not saying that happens in my family.

Oh, for the love of ... "Honey, cut it out. The kids don't want you out there. Come in here and sit with the grownups."