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Surviving the Holidays

Five tips to get you through the holiday season unscathed
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Well, the weather outside is frightful, and that cake looks so delightful. . . Here we go again; the season of the never-ending party is upon us. Starting this week, most of us will be faced with a gauntlet of temptation that won't let up until the Super Bowl clock reads 0:00—a date that seems to extend the official holiday season further and further each year. Now everyone deserves a break or an off-season, when you don't have to count calories, stay on a program, or even consider the foods you eat. But now we're talking two months, more or less—plenty of time to see all those hard-earned results go so far south that hearing the name "Debbie Siebers" may cause déjà vu.

But what can you do? You deserve a holiday. Not only that, your family is demanding you take one. Here are a few tips to help you survive until next year with your "after" photo waistline still intact.

  1. Plan a spring athletic event. Don't wait until after the new year. Find something you've wanted to do and plan it right now. Web sites such as active.com list local events well in advance. Or head into your local gym or sporting goods store and pick up all of those free event listings. This could be a marathon, triathlon, backpacking trip, or even a cruise. Anything that plants a seed in your brain that you're going to have to be fit in the not-so-distant future should do the trick.

  2. Design your program, starting now. Even though you'll want to kick your training up a notch (with everyone else) after January 1st, you can still plan your program right now. All training programseven for a cruiseare most efficient if they follow various periods of altering intensity. So perhaps the holiday season will be your recovery, rest, foundation, base, or some other type of "easy" training phase where strict attention isn't needed. This is okay because it will still be a training phase in your program when you're supposed to do something. Even if your daily workout revolves around stretching or low-intensity jogging, walking, riding, etc., it's still 100% better than doing nothing at all. And it will keep your mind set in the right direction. You may feel like you're being lazy, but it's planned recovery, not laziness, which just sounds better, right?

  3. Give rather than receive. Remember, it's supposedly better to give than receive. Let's test this theory. Instead of just eating, be the one doing the cooking. Offer to set the table, do the dishes, plan the partyanything that keeps you proactive and busy. If you're busy, you don't have time to sit around eating and drinking because your job is to make sure everyone else is doing that.

  4. Fill up on salad—skip the gravy and other high-density foods. At holiday meals there's usually a lot to choose from. Try and make low-density choices. By this I mean foods that take up a lot of space and don't weigh a lot. Salads, and all veggies, are a good example. An entire salad bowl filled with veggies has less than 100 calories. Gravy is a counter examplethat same bowl would have more calories than you need in a week. Low-density foods typically have a lot of fiber. This takes up stomach space. So eating a lot of low-density food early in the meal will help you get full faster and eat less later, like when dessert gets served.

  5. Provide a lot of conversation. Both talk and listen and add to what's being said around the table (room, venue). Even if your in-laws are the most boring people in the world, do your best to engage yourself in the conversation. The more engaged you are, the less you're likely to eat. Plus, you'll win all sorts of kudos for politeness. Plus-plus, the more you divert your attention from food, the longer you'll be giving your brain to catch up with your body and signal it's full. Most overeating is done during the period when your body still thinks it's hungry but hasn't yet received the 'stop' signal from your brain.
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