The other day, I was relaxing at home when I thought we were experiencing a total eclipse of the sun. It turned out to be something much more disturbing. My old friend, Professor Van Von Venn, was standing on our front stoop, blocking out the sunlight.

I hadn't seen the professor for several months, and I did not talk about his absence too much because I didn't want to jinx my lucky streak.

It turned out that Von Venn had been at Vito's Bowling Alley and Medical Center. The professor said that he wanted to reduce his weight after he discovered that he was so big he had two moons orbiting around him.

Unfortunately, the professor could not afford to have gastric bypass surgery, commonly referred to as stomach stapling.

Instead, he went to Vito's, where a team of doctors and mechanics wrapped a couple rolls of duct tape around Von Venn's stomach to try to control his food consumption.

Duct tape can be used for many purposes, but it could only hold out against the professor's stomach for so long.

Since it was too late to run (besides, the professor was blocking the doorway), I got the idea of tapping into the professor's excellence in eating to do a public service column as the Christmas holidays approach.

The topic is holiday eating, and if there is one subject that Professor Von Venn knows, it's eating. And he's not one of those professors who have only "book knowledge."

He has put in countless hours of stuffing his face during every season of the year for every possible reason. He even pigs out when he has no reason. Pound for pound, he weighs more pounds than almost everyone.

"Ahem," Von Venn began. "The mistake most holiday eaters make is that they don't warm up properly. You wouldn't jump out of your recliner and expect to run the Boston Marathon, would you?

"Well, the same goes for gobbling down holiday goodies. OK, I suppose most people would be able to eat quite a few more tollhouse cookies than the number of miles they could run. But that's not the point.

"Unless you are like me and keep in eating training all year long, you are liable to peak too early. Then where will you be? You'll be 'cookied out' before Christmas.

"While all your relatives and friends are wolfing down cookies and other baked goods of all shapes, sizes and calories, you will be stuck nibbling celery sticks and baby carrots from the relish tray.

"Just the thought of healthy eating during the holiday season is enough to make me shiver. It's almost enough to make me lose my appetite.

"No, the trick is to start out light and build from there. We are fortunate that Thanksgiving precedes the Christmas holiday season since that means most people's stomachs will be stretched out and limbered up for the challenge ahead.

"It's even better that the Thanksgiving dessert is usually pumpkin pie. While that is tasty, it's not as good and delicious as to make us lose our appetite for other, more sugary baked goodies.

"Family bakers usually don't start to gear up cookie production until the Thanksgiving leftovers are taken care of, so you might have to eat store-bought cookies as a warm-up until the good stuff is available.

"Once the cookie containers start filling up, you can start emptying them by eating an increasing number of cookies each day. Sometimes my wife gets mad at me because I'm eating the cookies faster than she can bake them.

"Of course, most people are not going to regard their spouse as a cookie-baking, king-size Keebler elf. If you do, be sure never to say to him or her, 'Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles.' If you do, be prepared to duck a flying rolling pin.

"It seems I'm running out of time and you're probably running out of patience, so I will conclude with a few tips.

"Do not drink too much eggnog. The eggs are not that bad, but it's hard to eat cookies when you're really nogged.

"As a matter of fact, I would recommend that you eat cookies in lieu of drinking alcoholic beverages.

"You will consume the same amount of calories, but you will never to worry about waking up with a cookie hangover.

"The worst that can happen is that you might discover a trail of cookie crumbs from the kitchen to your bedroom. On the plus side, you can follow the crumbs back into the kitchen for more goodies.

"Do not eat fruitcake. Not only does it take up room that could have been used for oatmeal raisin cookies, pumpkin roll and those delicious Italian waffle cookies called pizzelles, the fruitcake has a tendency to hang around in your stomach for a while. It might even last long enough to cut down on the amount of chocolate Easter bunnies you can eat in the spring."

I was about to pull the fire alarm to end the professor's lecture, but he finished it himself.

"I have to run," Von Venn concluded. "My wife baked today and I can't wait to get home and get into the Christmas spirit - and the cookie jar."

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)