Survive the Holidays, Without Packing on the Pounds!

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Your to-do list this holiday season probably includes family gatherings and last-minute shopping, festive meals and baking, office parties and school pageants. Chances are the only thing not on that long list is staying fit. This time of year is known as the Diet Danger Zone. You get too busy to fit in your regular workouts, and who wants to count calories at parties? The temptation is to give up and give in. But instead of carelessly packing on the pounds, you can concentrate on maintenance. Think how much better you’ll feel in January if you pay attention right now! Here’s how to start:

Be Flexible. Instead of throwing in the towel because you can’t do a full-hour workout, remember that half an hour or even a few 10-minute breaks throughout the day is better than nothing. Small exercise sessions also will help you combat holiday stress and sleep better—both essential to enjoying the season.

Start a New Family Tradition. Taking a walk with a relative before dinner is a great way to catch up and avoid all that mindless pre-meal snacking. After dinner, instead of zoning out in front of the TV, start a new tradition: a family walk. It’s a great way to bond and work off a bit of the stuffing. Walking to neighbors’ houses is also a great way to sneak in a bit of extra exercise—plus, no designated driver is needed!

Shop Till You Drop ... Pounds. It’s impossible to avoid shopping this time of year, so why not look at it as a fitness opportunity? Take an extra spin around the shopping mall. Park a few blocks away from the stores and walk to burn calories along with money.

Plan Before You Party.. Yes, it's tempting to starve yourself before a party to cut down on your eating that night, but doing so will almost certainly backfire. Having a light snack with protein and fiber beforehand will leave you less likely to overindulge.

Walk the Line. Buffets are notorious diet hazards. Instead of heaping your plate with each new dish as you go, walk the entire length first, decide what you want most and then take a plate. You’ll make much better choices. Most buffets also have fruit options for dessert.

Bank on It. If you know you’re going to want to indulge in a fabulous dessert—and, after all, the holidays should be a time to treat yourself—“bank” a couple of hundred calories over the two days preceding the event. The small cuts will be painless, and you’ll be able to enjoy your treat without guilt—or extra pounds.

Watch Your Spirits. It’s easy to forget that liquid calories count too—and, boy, can they add up! Need proof? One cup of eggnog has close to 350 calories! If you know you are going to drink, switch to lower-calorie choices like wine, a spritzer or light beer. Try to alternate each with a glass of water. Be sure to add the calories into your daily total and remember that alcohol also can lower your willpower when it comes to resisting temptations.

Put Fitness on Your List. Why not ask for—and give—some fitness stocking stuffers to help you stay motivated? A new pair of swim goggles, a pedometer to help you hit 10,000 steps, a jump rope for a great at-home workout or a new exercise DVD are all relatively inexpensive gifts that will give you some get-up-and-go.

Practice Forgiveness. Most important, this should be a season of joy. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up. Just get back on track and remember why you are doing this: Staying fit is the best way to ensure a happy and healthy New Year.