Minor adjustments help maintain health, weight over the holidays

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’Tis the season — the season for turkey, mashed potatoes, holiday cookies and an array of pies.

’Tis the season, too, for spending time with family, baking and shopping rather than hitting the gym.

With all the excuses that come up, is it really possibly to stay healthy over the holidays?

If you give yourself a little leeway and think about trying to maintain weight rather than lose weight during the holiday season, you truly can be successful at keeping off those excess pounds.

Holiday parties are notorious for encouraging poor eating habits.

Try eating a small meal or snack before heading to the party. If you are hungry before arriving at the party, you are more likely to overindulge.

Focus on portion control. Choose a smaller plate at the buffet line and load up on the healthier options first, such as the veggie tray or the fruit salad.

The more you fill up on those foods first, the less likely you will be to binge on the other options.

Allow yourself a cookie or piece of pie. Don’t deny yourself all desserts and unhealthy choices; that is improbable, and you will most likely find yourself eating more than if you would have allowed yourself a small indulgence in the first place.

It is all about moderation. Try choosing one option you enjoy the most, such as grandma’s famous pumpkin pie, and skip the store-bought baked goods you could get anywhere.

When asked to bring a dish to the party, choose a healthier option you will enjoy, such as hummus and whole-wheat chips or a vegetable dish.

Avoid snacking while you cook; you take in more calories than you think if you are continuously tasting the batter. Also, make substitutions in your recipes, such as low-fat cream cheese, egg whites and applesauce instead of butter or oil.

Another issue with the holiday season is finding the time to exercise with all the running around and all the parties to attend.

Schedule your workout just as you would an appointment. Write it on the calendar and commit that time for exercise.

Try making it into the gym earlier in the morning before all the errands overrun your day and make it so you’re too exhausted to go in later.

Get your family involved. If you have in-laws staying at the house, invite them to the gym with you. Recruit the whole family for a walk 30-45 minutes after the big holiday meal instead of taking the usual nap or camping out in front of the football game. Studies show going for a light to moderate walk following a big meal aids in digestion and lowers blood sugar levels.

Take the focus off food and put it onto other fun holiday traditions, such as cutting down the Christmas tree, decorating the house or playing games with the kids.

Offer to help with the dishes and the cleanup to burn some extra calories.

With some self-control and planning ahead, anyone can avoid weight gain during the holidays. Remember, don’t get angry or frustrated if you slip up. Just know that you may have to eat lighter at the next meal or go the gym tomorrow.

Jessica Goldsmith is a health and fitness advocate at the Walla Walla YMCA and member of BMAC AmeriCorps. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and is a certified group exercise instructor.

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