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Bada Binge

Dec. 24, 2001 -- You do your best to stay in shape all year long -- sensible diet, regular trips to the gym, a good mix of cardiovascular workouts and weight training, along with regular meditation and calming imagery for stress reduction.

Then come the holidays, and your fitness lifestyle gets smothered under a torrent of big meals, sinful desserts, and plenty of alcohol. By January, your body is waving a white flag of surrender.

According to Liz Applegate, PhD, a nationally-recognized expert on nutrition and performance, and faculty member in the nutrition department at the University of California, Davis, one of the longest-standing love/hate relationships going is the one between us and our holiday festivities. After overindulging, we feel bad, almost shameful.

She offers a four-step plan to prepare for holiday bingeing without checking yourself into a weight-loss boot camp afterwards:

  • Focus on the positive. Rather than berating yourself for overindulging on Aunt Bernice's homemade chocolate truffles, enjoy and savor your food experiences. A better thing to say to yourself is: "Boy, those truffles were fabulous!" And don't forget the larger experience. Remind yourself how wonderful it is to see Aunt Bernice, to get together with friends and family over a big feast. After all, food often brings us together over the holidays.

Adopting a kinder attitude toward holiday eating will also help you recover from overeating. You'll be less likely to punish yourself with fasting or some other harsh weight-loss scheme.

  • Set your course. Give yourself at least a few days after all the holiday gatherings to let your food settle before you assess the damage. You've hardly gained 100 pounds -- it's more likely just a few, according to studies assessing average holiday weight gain. If you feel a bit bloated, it may be due to fluid retention caused by excess food and salt intake. That's not permanent -- it'll be gone in a day or two.

Plan on getting back to pre-holiday form over a period of at least a few weeks. That is, take off a few pounds by using a rational, step-by-step approach. Setting a course of gradual weight loss is better for your body and the results will be more lasting.

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