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Buddy Up

It's easy to underestimate the toll that the season takes — physically, psychologically, and emotionally. To avoid gaining weight, you need commitment and awareness. It's best to do this with a group of people — even one or two friends or a close buddy — whom you can call upon to talk about eating concerns.

In Bartlett's group, members "got specific" when providing one another with support, preparing strategies for potentially troublesome situations coming up that week. For instance, how would someone manage her food intake with three holiday parties in a row? When the group got together the following week, they'd review how things had gone.

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.

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