Question: I love Christmas and New Year's, but I hate what happens to my body during the holidays. What can a person do to keep from getting fatter with all the sugary, fatty treats that are available?

Answer: The holiday season is surely the most difficult time for me in terms of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. My neighbors and friends all seem to become master bakers/candymakers at this time of the year and the goodies they bring are difficult to resist. And it is often difficult to exercise when family and friends are around. However, there are some things you can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the holiday season. I'll list a few things that work for me:

1. Eat some goodies. This may seem like strange advice, but I have found that it is difficult to completely avoid any one food item or type of food. For instance, a friend of mine who has been really successful in losing weight likes Big Macs. So, every few weeks, he buys and eats a Big Mac just so he doesn't feel deprived of this pleasure. He does keep track of the number of fat grams he eats each day, and on the day he buys the Big Mac, he eats very little fat from other sources.

You can use this same procedure. If you say you will simply avoid all holiday goodies, you are being unrealistic, and you may end up bingeing on cookies or candy because you feel so deprived. A better approach may be to chose just one goodie a day and savor it.

2. Have some good alternative foods on hand. I love the holiday season because there are so many sweet fruits available. Eating a large navel orange or a beautiful delicious apple often fills my need for sweetness. A cello of carrots or some cut pineapple or melon can also satisfy the taste for sweets.

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In addition, you can buy no-fat, no-sugar cookies and sweets that taste a lot like their less nutritious counterparts. One of these can be eaten when you get the strong urge for sweets.

3. Eat regular, high-quality meals - including breakfast. Sometimes during a holiday break, it is easy to skip meals and use snacks to satisfy your hunger. Eating a good breakfast of cereal and fruit can help you start the day properly, and decrease the chance of overindulging in snack foods later. Nutritious lunches and dinners, with lots of grains and vegetables, can also help stabilize the appetite center and decrease the need for less-healthful snacks.

4. Be sure to make time for exercise. If you have been exercising faithfully throughout the year, keep the same schedule during the holidays. In fact, if you have more time, you might want to step up the amount of exercise a little to balance out the extra goodies you eat. You could also use this time to go skiing (either cross-country or downhill); or go for walks in the snow with your spouse. You could also play racquetball or tennis with your kids or grandkids. You might even begin a strength-training program over the holidays to take up some of your time and keep your mind off goodies.

With a little determination, you can really change the way you weather the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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