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How to Get Through the Holidays

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

Be Honest continued...

Taking this into account, the group members did a lot of planning for "the day after." When someone slipped up at a party, they mapped out what to eat at their next meal, checking calorie and fat intake. Surprisingly, even when someone breezed through a party, she often needed a strategy to get through the next few days.

"It's easy to underestimate how difficult it will be to avoid overeating at a party, either as a reward or because you've been stimulated and you're biologically hungry. And psychologically you're tired, so you may not be as good at recognizing the danger signs," Bartlett maintains.

Relieve Stress

The holiday season can be stressful. You may be feeling financially pinched or extra tired from lack of sleep. And extended visits with your family are not always tension-free. To avoid getting trapped into using eating as an emotional crutch, devise strategies for basic self-preservation. "Focus on what you absolutely need so you don't get caught in a whirlwind," suggests Bartlett. This may mean having time alone, getting enough sleep, having your family help out with shopping or food preparation, or hiring extra help to clean.

Because you may feel under a lot of stress, it's easy to overeat at home too. Here, it pays to challenge some of your basic assumptions. For instance, just because you've always done it, do you have to bake six dozen sugar cookies this year? If you have them around the house, you'll eat them. Bake fewer or give some away.

Several group members found themselves in a quandary about what to serve at their parties, worrying that their guests would only enjoy rich foods and eggnog. But it's perfectly acceptable to modify recipes, using lower-fat options, or to offer a variety of choices.

"When I have a party, I can control the kinds of foods offered," says Barchowsky. "Obviously, I'm not going to invite my friends over and give them only low-fat, low-calorie foods. I'll serve cookies too." And share the wealth: Give calorie-laden leftovers to guests as they leave, instead of packing them into the refrigerator, where they'll be tough to resist.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Every week, try to have as many "normal" days — when you eat healthy foods and exercise — as possible. While a workout can't compensate for overeating, it does help stabilize weight and gives you a psychological boost too. Of course, it's frequently the first thing to be eliminated from a busy schedule. "Write your exercise time in your weekly planner and consider it as absolute," says Bartlett, who also suggests tapping into what may be a hidden resource, namely, your family.

If you have a weight problem, family members may not know how to help. It's up to you to figure out your vulnerabilities and strengths — and communicate them.

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