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The big holiday meals and parties are inevitable this time of year… not to mention a whole heck of a lot of fun! It’s a time to celebrate all of our blessings and create happy memories that will last for years to come.

My grandma, me, my mom and my aunt, Mary – Christmas, 2011

My grandma, me, my mom and my aunt, Mary – Christmas, 2011

Therefore, I am in no way about to suggest that anyone deprive themselves of eating tasty holiday foods by sticking to only water and salad at parties, or by doing tireless hours of cardio every day from Thanksgiving to New Years to make up for all of the extra treats, either. That would be lame and unrealistic.

But, I’m also not about to say, “Hey, it’s the holidays – go ahead and indulge! You can always start your new fad diet in January.” Let’s just throw that idea out the window right now, because as we all know deep down, crazy deprivation diets don’t work when it comes to lasting results.

So without further ado, here is my #1 tip on how to create a balanced life during this season of festivity while preventing that oh-so unwanted weight gain:

Be organized, mindful and take it one week at a time.

Here’s how: On Sunday mornings, take a look at your calendar. If you see that a big holiday meal or party is happening during the upcoming week, make the decision to eat sensibly at every other meal during the week and to take it easy on the treats.

For example: You see that you have your company holiday party scheduled for Friday night, and you know the food and drinks will be a plenty! Keeping this in mind, you may not want to order a thick crust pizza with double meat and extra cheese on Wednesday night. If you have to have pizza that Wednesday night, order the thin crust type with extra veggies or a simple thin crust Margherita.

Thinking in terms of your week as a whole like this creates not only a sense of control, but also a sense of harmony. With these positive emotions in place, you are less likely to feel super guilty after your holiday meals and parties, and you are also less likely to add inches to your waistline.

You: “OK, so I get what you mean by ‘eat sensibly for every other meal that week.’ But what do you mean by ‘take it easy on the treats’? Should I say ‘NO’ to all treats until the night of the holiday party?”

Me: Thanks for asking. I’ll explain…

The fact is, in most cases, extreme deprivation leads to crazy, overboard, stuff-your-face madness the moment you tell yourself it’s ok to eat freely again. We really don’t want this because it usually leads to feeling regretful and guilty. You know, that’s actually important enough to repeat, only this time in bold letters:

In most cases, extreme food deprivation = crazy, overboard, stuff-your-face madness = negative emotions

There are a few exceptions to this, of course. The main one being, some people have an easier time sticking to an ultra rigorous clean eating style because the pain of looking/feeling/being unhealthy, sick or out of shape is stronger than the pleasure of eating the treat foods they crave.

But for the average person who attaches a great deal of pleasure to eating whatever whenever, know this: If you put yourself on a strict diet in preparation for the company holiday party, chances are you’ll show up that Friday night so fixated on food that you’ll eat and drink five of everything, because you’re just excited to be broken free of that mental prison. Usually what happens after a binge fest like this, you’ll end up heading home from your company holiday party with bloat, indigestion, the aforementioned negative emotions, and in this case, your secret Santa gift.

So instead, just take it easy on the treats on the days leading up to the party instead of feeling like you need to swear them off all together.

Here are some great ways to satisfy a craving without feeling totally derailed:

• Have a hankering for something sweet after lunch? Opt for one or two squares of dark chocolate instead of one of those Christmas cupcakes hanging out in the break room.

• Dying for something salty and crunchy? Have a cup or two of popcorn (the type where the only ingredients are popcorn, sea salt and a bit of oil) instead of a bag of Cheetos from the vending machine. Plan ahead. Pack your snacks at home and take them with you to work. (Psst: Popcorn Indiana makes a very tasty Sea Salt Popcorn.)

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• Desperate for an alcoholic beverage to help unwind after work? Go for a glass of red wine rather than a mixed drink such as a Mai Tai.

Jeff: drinking wine through a straw, because he’s crazy like that.

Jeff drinking wine through a straw, because he’s crazy like that.

FYI:

One glass of pinot noir: 117 calories, 1 gm of sugar + a dose of disease fighting polyphenols

One Mai Tai: 260 calories, 17 gms of sugar

Another really great way to keep cravings at bay is to load up on a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. The vitamins, minerals and fiber in them keep the body feeling vibrant and satisfied. Health icon Jack LaLanne swore by this. So add “several servings of fruit and vegetables” to your list of snacks to pack for work. My personal favorites are baby carrots, grape tomatoes, sweet peppers, sugar snap peas, apples, berries, peaches and pink grapefruit.

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So there you have it. Be organized, mindful and take it one week at a time. From Sunday to Saturday, “balance” is the name of the game. And when that special meal or party comes along, pick, choose and savor the bites and sips that are really worth it. Most importantly though, focus on and enjoy the company, conversations, decorations, games, music and taking lots of pictures! There is so much to celebrate and be thankful for, and that’s what this time of year is really all about.

Jeff and me – Christmas, 2010

Happy Holidays!!

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Comments

Roy white

I think Jeff uses a straw to drink red wine to avoid staining his teeth. Makes sense to me.

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Deb

This is good advice for not only the holidays, but for life… All things in moderation! Balance is everything. I am a diabetic and I know from experience that depriving yourself of foods completely can have the opposite effect that you are looking for. Great advice for the holidays!

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Marge

Audrey,

Thanks so much for the health tips. My husband and I decided last December 1 to lose 30 lbs. We loved our carbs! I know this wasn’t a great time of year to start but by May we had both done it with diet and exercise. I’ve gained a couple of pounds over the last several months but don’t want to go to that guilty place again so your tips have been very timely for me. Moderation is also the key to living a healthy life. Keep these tips coming and let Jeff know he’s has never looked better with his weight loss. He is obviously very happy in life. So happy for you guys! So much to be thankful for.

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PATTIE AND Peter OCONNELL

Thank you for this great information. I am always looking for sensible and easy approaches to my food struggles thank you again

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