Ask Ceil – Holiday Advice

Dear Ceil,

With the holidays coming up, how do I keep from gaining 20 pounds over the next two weeks?

Fat in Fargo

Dear Fat,

I share this concern. I come from a large Italian family that considers food just a shade less sacred than the baby Jesus. Our Christmas dinner usually comes in courses focusing on volume and variety. For dessert one year, everyone had their own pie.

Then there are the cookies. My mother makes a gingerbread cookie from a 1946 cookbook, that is nothing short of magical and is usually eaten in lieu of breakfast on Christmas morning. I look back fondly on those mornings, when three hyper children tore through their gifts. My parents must have concluded that we needed more sugar. A bold parenting choice.

So what to do about the catastrophe that is the American diet during the holidays?

The only answer is to exercise as you eat.

Let’s face it. You’re going to eat all that tasty, tasty holiday food. And you’re going to drink too much eggnog, and after dinner you’re going to have to try all seven desserts, even the one from cousin Lucy that doesn’t look that great, but she’s sitting right there, so you do what you have to do.

So, after you’re done setting the table for your holiday dinner, why not add a desk cycle under each chair?

As you’re mingling with the relatives, you might want to add a few treadmills to the living room. Use extra wrapping paper and bows to have them blend into your holiday decor.

You can even get a little muscle toning in. As you’re chatting, firm up your bottom using the Bum Clench, or lose inches off your waist with the Vacuum Pose. (Frankly, the “vacuum” pose is what usually gets me into trouble in the first place.)

When someone new joins the conversation, jog in a circle three times, or, with arms out to the sides, do those arm circles. If your holiday includes a football game, throw the touchdown! sign after each play.

Turn dinner preparations into a cardio workout. How fast can you get the appetizers out to the table? Take a victory lap around the kitchen each time you finish a dish. When you take the roast from the oven, do a couple of Roast Lifting reps.

Worried about ruining your holiday finest? No problem. Exercise clothing is available in many festive colors, like this shiny silver number. Or you can just go with an old standby, the holiday sweatshirt.

It might be easier to just celebrate at the gym. Of course, if you brought that much food into the gym, someone might kill you with a hand weight.

Dear Ceil,

This time of year they always have so many movies coming out. Which ones should I see?

Movie Buff in Mount Washington

Ah, the holiday movie rush. It’s always nice to remember the season of giving by going to a movie that has lots of explosions and a high body count. Good times!

At any rate, when a group of people you almost never see comes to your house in the middle of nowhere, you can only spend so many days in front of the fireplace feeling contented. After a while, you’re not so contented as much as you are homicidal. I’m here to help, with Ceil’s Holiday Movie Guide!


Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
A reckless band of ex-CIA (because they are dead) agents band together to stop a terrorist from blowing up chevy suburban parked outside someone’s mom’s house. Tom Cruise runs. They manage to remove the bomb, and it safely explodes in the nether plane where everyone is dead anyway. Then Gary Busey comes in and kills the mom anyway.

Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Matt Dillon and John C. Reilly stare meaningfully at each other for a full 102 minutes. At the end, John C. Reilly does an amazing song-and-dance number, then Gary Busey kills everyone.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Robert Downey and Jude Law get stuck in an animatronic monkey that Downey’s character Holmes has created, only to be saved by Gary Busey and Noomi Rapace. In a grand final scene, Holmes solves Angela Landsbury’s murder, and then Gary Busey kills him.


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
A girl gets angry with her trucker boyfriend and gets a tattoo of a dragon swallowing him. The movie then follows her quest to find him on his driving route, and when she finally does, she shows him the tattoo and says, “I hope a dragon eats you. Jerk.”

Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
A unicorn buys deodorant.


We Bought a Zoo
A regular family buys a zoo, and then puts all the animals in their spacious four-bedroom house. The movie follows the ensuing nightmare of children living in a dirty stinking, choking mess, making homemakers everywhere feel better about their own housekeeping. The light from Matt Damon’s smile dissolves all the dirt, and everyone (except the cows) sits down to a huge holiday meal.

In the Land of Blood and Honey
Angelina Jolie directs this moving flick about the residents of a small town who make the worst cookies ever.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A movie that explores what it feels like when a total stranger stands next to you on the subway and talks to someone using his bluetooth headset. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock stand on the other side of the subway car, shaking their heads sadly.

War Horse
A film that follows Gary Busey through a typical Wednesday.


Ceil Kessler spends many of her days trying to figure out where the day went. Then she settles back with a nice glass of scotch and watches old B-movies. Other times she writes while listening to Christmas music—and thinks fondly of the day that she will be able to sit on a beach and have a smiling Tom Cruise serve her drinks in hollowed-out coconut shells with little umbrellas in them.


3 thoughts on “Ask Ceil – Holiday Advice

  1. Aw shucks. Thanks! I don’t know if the Onion will have me. Thinking about starting a competing online publication. Maybe called “The Radish”. We’ll be mildly spicy, and every once in a while, we will add ourselves to a salad, just for color.

  2. Christmas day: do a buffet. Put the table outside the house. Make your diners walk outside to get their food and they’d better hurry before the snow freezes up the Tofurken (or whatever that vego version is called). Then turn off the central heating and make everyone run around to keep warm.

    Movie recs. Nice. I’ve missed Gary Busey.

    Thanks Ceil. I feel much enlightened now. All that thinking also made me lose 2lbs! Doubly thank you! 😉

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