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60 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy During the
Holiday Season
Part 1 of 2
By: Jackie Wright

The average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is approximately five to seven pounds. And, this does not occur because we eat one or two holiday meals. It is because we begin eating on Thanksgiving and then continue doing so until New Year's Day and we tend to miss our workouts as well.

While it is important to enjoy holiday traditions as these traditions can enhance our lives on many levels, it is also important to avoid continuous overindulgence and lack of exercise. Therefore, for the next six weeks, I will be providing you with 60 ways to stay fit and healthy during the holiday season. The first 10 are as follows:

1) Try drinking a glass of water prior to most meals. This will help you to feel full and may assist you in making wiser food choices.

2) Try drinking a glass of water prior to and following each alcoholic beverage that you consume. This again may help you to feel full, perhaps helping you to avoid drinking too much and the water may help prevent the dehydrating effects of alcohol.

3) Eat a light meal before attending holiday parties. This may assist you in making wiser food choices while there, and you may also eat less.

4) Choose foods at holiday parties that are healthy, lower calorie choices and save yourself for those really special dishes that are unique to this time of year. Remember to look at portion sizes when choosing those special dishes. Enjoy a taste but not the entire pie.

5) Make certain to adhere to your exercise program. This is not the time to miss your workouts. Not only will exercise help you cope with the holiday stress, you may also continue burning calories throughout the holidays.

6) If you have not begun an exercise program, do not wait until the first of the year. Now is the time to integrate an exercise program into your life. Then, by the time you welcome the New Year in, you may already be on your way to accomplishing your health and fitness goals.

7) Try a new activity or sport. Cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating are all great forms of exercise that are fun and burn those additional holiday calories in the process.

8) New Year's resolutions are rarely successful for the long term. Often, these resolutions are neither realistic nor attainable, at least not within the desired time frames. Rather than waiting until the ball drops in Times Square, set your health and fitness goals now.

9) Follow the SMART method of goal setting. Set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals and write the goals down. Written goals are more likely to be achieved.

10) Take time to relax each day, even if it is only for a few minutes. Designate time for relaxation, quiet reflection and stress reduction. Try deep breathing techniques, low intensity stretching, a massage or meditation.

11) When attending holiday parties where a buffet laden with delicious food is available, prepare a plate for yourself, then sit down, if possible, away from the table. Hanging around a buffet table just encourages "nibbling," which can lead to excess caloric intake.

12) On those special occasions when a meal is served later in the day, eat healthy, lower-calorie meals during the day and "save" a few of those calories for the special meal. Do not, however, skip meals that day.

13) If you are the chef preparing the special meal, keep healthy, low calorie foods nearby, such as celery or carrot sticks, to help avoid eating what you are preparing.

14) If you are on a weight loss regimen, you can continue to lose weight throughout the holidays by avoiding those same pitfalls that created the weight gain initially. Continue exercising and monitoring your caloric intake and you can join the ranks of many who successfully lose unwanted pounds during the holiday season and begin the new year already on track.

15) Focus upon maintaining your weight during the holiday season if you are not on a weight-loss regimen. Choose a specific clothing item that you are wearing comfortably and try it on throughout the season. If it begins to feel snug, get back on track.

16) Choose a weight range of one to three pounds to remain within during the holiday season if you are at or below your ideal weight. Once you begin to creep toward the top of that range, reign in the partying and get back on track.

17) Limit empty calories. Choose nutrient-dense foods that provide you with the energy you need to complete your holiday shopping, greeting visitors and handling stress. Empty calorie foods include simple sugars such as candy, cookies, cakes and pies.

18) Enjoy the many wonderful aspects of the holidays that do not include overindulgence, such as connecting with friends and family, giving to those in need (and there are so many this year particularly), finding that special gift for someone dear to you and taking a walk around the neighborhood to observe holiday decorations.

19) Park as far from the entrance of the mall as possible and walk into and out as well as up the stairs rather than taking the escalator. Rule of thumb - if you do not have more than five floors to ascend, walk up the stairs, if possible, rather than taking the elevator or escalator. If you cannot manage the stairs, then walk the escalator, especially down.

20) The little things do matter - remember that one pat of butter is 100 kcal. If you were to eliminate it from your daily diet for a year, you would lose approximately 10 to 12 pounds as long as you do not add another substitute worth that caloric value.

21) You still can enjoy a special holiday dessert without breaking the calorie bank. Just substitute higher caloric value foods, such as pecan pie at 480kcal per slice, for a lower calorie alternative such as pumpkin pie at 180kcal per slice.

22) Plan and prepare your holiday meals in advance, if possible, so that you are not spending the entire day in the kitchen, which may reduce your stress level. This way you can actually enjoy the day with your family and friends.

23) Eat when you are hungry and avoid mindless nibbling. Just because the food is there does not mean you need to consume it. Savor your holiday favorites moderately and leave the other foods behind.

24) Use smaller wine glasses rather than the huge "bowls" that are so popular these days. True, the wine may "open" up a little easier with a larger glass, but it also may hold twice as much as a smaller glass. A serving of wine is approximately 110-120kcal for three-four ounces of wine. One glass of wine consumed daily, 365 days a year, is approximately 12.5 pounds a year.

25) Exercise on holidays. Take a walk or a hike but get your workout in that day. You may eat less, feel less stressful and more energetic.

26) Encourage your visitors to join you for some exercise before and after your holiday meal. How about a game of touch football?

27) Encourage family and friends to help clean up the mess from the holiday meal. It will take less time, be less stressful and conserve your energy so that you have more time to spend together.

28) Start out the holiday season the way you want to end it up. Think about how you would like to feel the day after each big holiday meal or party and how good you would like to feel when the holiday season is over. Then, set about making that good "feeling" a reality.

29) Purchase a cookbook (or ask for one on your wish list) that features healthy, low calorie meals and learn how to prepare those meals now. Then, offer those meals during the holiday season between the special meals. By the time the holiday season is complete, you will already know how to prepare healthy, low calorie meals for the new year.

30) Give or ask for the gift of fitness this year. Purchase a gift certificate for a personal training session or sessions from a certified, qualified and experienced personal trainer or ask your fitness professional what types of gift certificates they would recommend for the one you love, or the one who loves you.

Click here to read part two of the Holiday Fitness series.
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