By Russell Rawlings

Brownie doesn’t distinguish between Thanksgiving Day and any other day of the year. Nor does he grasp the concept of Saturday and Sunday, which most of us refer to as the weekend.

All our beloved four-legged friend knows is that when my feet hit the floor every morning, we’re going for a long and rewarding walk. That’s all he cares about.

There’s a lot to be gained from this strategy, or better yet not gained, if you’re approaching Thanksgiving Day and the subsequent holiday season with fear and trepidation over what you will eat and what you will weigh once it’s all said and done.

For starters, control the damage. Even if you can’t approach Thanksgiving Day with the indifference that Brownie will undoubtedly display, try to limit your feeding frenzy to one day. A day off from self-control and discipline is not a license to eat uncontrollably throughout the extended weekend or, worse still, all the way through New Year’s Day.

The holiday season can be tough on those of us who are attempting to lose weight or striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even for a nation that routinely enjoys an overabundance of food and drink, this can be a treacherous time, what with all the parties and the seemingly endless supply of baked goods that mysteriously appear in the home and workplace.

Lord knows I don’t have all the answers, but I have been waging this war long enough to learn a few things about navigating these calorie-infested waters. Here are three of them.

1) Pick your spots: Depending on the year, the expanse between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day is anywhere from five to almost six weeks. That’s a long time. More than just your waistline, think about your health and the long-term damage you might incur if you mail it in over the final month of the year.

2) Earn your party: For every 100 calories that I expect to take in at whatever special event we might attend, I add an extra mile or the equivalent number of extra steps to my daily routine. Not only does this work, it will also make you more selective when it comes to picking your spots as suggested above.

3) Don’t trust your brakes: In the latter years of my mother’s life, she opted out of cooking a big meal and having everyone come to the house. Instead, we went out to eat at this fabulous little restaurant in Farmville known as The Colonial Inn. Generous portions were enjoyed by all, but when our sitting was over, we headed home empty-handed. Thus, with no leftovers to tempt and torture us throughout the afternoon and evening, we avoided the relentless grazing that undoubtedly would have followed.

I employ the same approach to this day. My mother-in-law is a great cook, a truly great cook. And try as I might, I know that when we sit down for lunch in Elm City on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, I will eat too much. I will avoid the dressing and the desserts and hopefully the second helpings, but I will eat too much.

But when I head home for the evening, I will be empty-handed. Leftovers will be graciously offered and politely refused. The sweet potato casserole with the crunchy pecan topping will live rent free in my head all the way to Holly Springs, but it won’t be there when I settle down to watch the football game.

And it won’t be there the next morning when Brownie steps into his harness and drags me out the front door to begin what in his way of thinking is going to be the best day in the history of the world.

Mine too.

Russell Rawlings serves as director of external relations and communications for the North Carolina Bar Association and welcomes every opportunity to write and talk about wellness, weight and walking.