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Holiday Hangover: Is That Pie and Eggnog Belly Inevitable?

The holidays are upon us, that special time of year when our schedules fill up with parties, potlucks, and gift exchanges, when cookies are being gifted faster than Ricky Bobby at the Talladega Speedway, and when our best efforts at sticking with a workout schedule and healthy diet seem…at best challenging and at worst entirely pointless.

It is easy to give up, accept our fate to end the year with a few extra pounds and a little less muscle. After all, the New Year offers that glittery promise of a rebirth, a reset, a blank slate. So why not just cut loose, consequences be damned?

Such thinking is a gateway to some questionable habits: feast or famine, all-or-nothing. I hate to sound like a broken record, but that good old boring standby – MODERATION – offers room to cut loose a bit without sacrificing your hard work the other 10.5 months of the year. Moderation sounds stodgy, boring, like a PBS special your weird aunt hounded you to watch. But moderation is almost like cheating – edgy, bold, like your equally crazy aunt who insisted she take you clubbing on your 21st birthday. Because by embracing moderation during the holidays, you can quite literally have your cake and eat it too. Just not the whole cake.

So how to navigate the seemingly endless buffets, the smorgasbords of cookies, pies, and puddings, the party invitations that cut into your time at the gym? A few small allowances and you can breeze through the holiday season with your healthy habits intact. Relatively speaking, of course. Nobody breezes through the holidays completely unscathed, not even Martha Stewart.

· Schedule, schedule, schedule. Get one of those massive white board calendars if you must but add every event you plan to attend (or RSVP “yes” to). Then add those events to the calendar in your phone. Then pay attention to this calendar every week so there are no surprises!

· Speaking of RSVP’s, you know that you aren’t actually required to attend every holiday soiree to which you’re invited, right? It can be tempting to say yes all around. It’s the holiday season, after all, and your great-aunt’s second cousin’s hairdresser would LOVE to have you attend their white elephant gift exchange. But selectively agreeing to a few events that are important to you can save you time, energy, money, and boozy-punch calories.

· And speaking of schedules, include your workouts on your household schedule. Especially if you have kids with a bunch of class parties, friend parties, etc. Make sure everyone is aware that you have blocked that time off and be firm. No negotiating, no protests. That’s your time.

· Be the boring one. Going to a potluck? Bring a healthy (or healthy-ish) dish so you know there will be at least one non-gut-busting option there.

· If you’ve ever seen that Seinfeld episode with the soup, you’ll know what I mean when I say that soup can be delicious, especially in these colder months. Fill up on some non-cream-based soup before heading to a party and you are far less likely to raid the cookie tray when you arrive.

· Imbibe a little…if you drink. A glass or two of wine, champagne, etc. won’t wreck your diet or health (in most cases). And I’m not here to be the fun police. We all deserve a little celebration now and then – it’s just about that dreaded “M” word…moderation! Alternate each glass of alcoholic beverage with a glass of sparkling water. Better yet, slap a lime on that sparkling water and people will assume you’re drinking a cocktail and leave you alone.

Finally, schedule something fun for after the New Year. The post-holiday blues are a real thing – the parties are over, our wallets empty, and the winter looks long as January settles in. So do yourself a favor now and get something on the January schedule that you’ll look forward to. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive – even just a coffee date with an old friend – but we all need something to look forward to or we lose momentum. And momentum is what will carry your healthy habits through the holidays!

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