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How to Get Through the Holidays

Tips for surviving the holidays without sacrificing your weight-loss goals.

Identify Difficult Situations

One of the best outcomes of a calorie chat group is identifying the situations that cause you to overindulge. Barbara Bohner, a 55-year-old elementary-school guidance counselor, who has worked with Bartlett since last December, has her own trick for getting through parties: "I eat raw vegetables or a piece of fruit before I go out, so I have something in my stomach. I don't drink any alcohol; instead, I try to hold a glass of sparkling water, so I feel like I'm doing something with my hands. And I try to talk more than I eat.

Avoiding alcohol also appeals to Martha Barchowsky, a 43-year-old businesswoman who has lost more than 100 pounds working with Bartlett. "Last year I had a New Year's Eve party; I served everyone champagne to toast the holiday, but I had sparkling water in my champagne flute. It's not the champagne that matters; the real deal is that you're celebrating with your good friends."

Pay Attention

What if you've identified your red flags, but you don't heed them? Bohner uses a quick test to put things in perspective. "I use a scale of zero to 10, with zero being starving and 10 really stuffed. I write down how I felt when I started eating and when I finished." When she goes over seven, she knows she was eating to meet emotional needs rather than actual hunger. "There's no reason to eat until you're stuffed," she adds.

Whatever method you choose, it's best to take stock and be honest with yourself. If your goal is to exercise three times a week, how many sessions do you miss before you admit you are slipping? Going to an event without a plan is also a signal that you're not focusing on your eating.

Be Honest

Besides the red flags, it's important to understand other, more subtle tricks you use to justify an overindulgence. "We all tell ourselves stories that are the same, time after time, like 'if I overeat Friday or Saturday, I'll be extra good Monday morning,'" Bartlett says. "Other familiar half-truths are: 'I've eaten an extra thousand calories so I'll do an extra session at the gym,' or 'I'll eat what I want tonight and worry about it tomorrow.'"

Still, lapses are inevitable no matter how well prepared you are. And when you slip, you become vulnerable to a common pitfall — abandoning your entire plan until after the holidays because you made one mistake. It's far better to forgive yourself and move on. "Recognize what's going on, stop it and get back on track quickly," says Bartlett. "I tell people to put things in perspective and remind them that overeating on one occasion is not what causes weight gain; it's consistently eating too much."

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