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Marilu Henner hopes to avoid holiday stuffing

Marilu Henner | Slaven Vlasic~Getty Images

Marilu Henner | Slaven Vlasic~Getty Images

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Updated: December 28, 2012 6:16AM

Our national plan for holiday gluttony is like those crazy guys who run with the bulls every year in Pamplona, Spain: “This animal might kill me, but it’s sure gonna be FUN!” Our holiday super-sizing is not, however, a phenomenon that started recently, but goes back to the mindsets we established with our early Thanksgiving feasts. I remember myself in 4th grade. As January rolled around, so did I. I couldn’t even button my Catholic school uniform blouse comfortably until March, and my plaid skirt was no longer pleated.

This insatiable holiday mentality is not only debilitating to us; it spills over to our children, and they carry on the tradition, the legacy, the obesity, the diabetes and the heart disease. But I’ve learned that you don’t have to fall apart during the holidays. If you try some of these tips, I’m betting you can still have the happiest, tastiest holiday season ever.

Focus not on the food, but on the activities. Approach the holidays as you did when you were a wide-eyed-can’t-sit-still little kid — the days before you discovered pecan pie!

Be aware of the tendency to hide extra pounds. Cold weather means heavier clothing and less opportunity to exercise. Don’t let your wardrobe be taken over by sweatpants and flannel. If I feel I need to put the brakes on, I’ll wear tight jeans for a day and that gets me back on track. If you don’t want to pig out at a party, try wearing an outfit that’s snug enough to tell you when to stop, because your eyes won’t tell you as much as your waistband.

Find little pockets of exercise throughout your day. This goes beyond the once-a-year family touch football game; I’m talking about doing some form of exercise every single day during the holiday season. One of the best ways to do this is to wear comfortable shoes and clothes so that you’re able to move freely and, therefore, are always ready for a workout. You can power walk through shopping malls, do squats or calf raises at the bus stop (let ’em point — they’re just jealous) or climb the stairs.

Stay properly hydrated! Winter is very dehydrating because of radiators and heaters, and since you don’t sweat as noticeably as you do in summer, you don’t think of grabbing water as often. Always keep a water bottle handy. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re really just thirsty — for water, not soft drinks (which, by the way, are one of worst saboteurs of proper digestion, but that’s another article).

Increase your consumption of “wet” foods. By this I’m referring to high-water-content (raw or steamed) whole vegetables and fruits as opposed to concentrated foods, which are typically meats, fish, pastas or grains. A high wet food to concentrated food ratio is best for efficient digestion and nutrient variety.

Avoid “manic-depressive holiday syndrome.” It’s fun to party on down for the holidays, but a blowout mentality almost always leads to post-holiday depression. Feeling a little blue in January is normal: The good times with family and friends are over, and you’re back into boring old work mode. But when you add seven extra pounds, lowered self-esteem and lots of cravings for the overindulgent food and behavior you’ve grown accustomed to, that’s too big a mood swing for most people to handle. Believe me, I know. As a young actress I once canceled January on account of fatness — I was too depressed to audition!

Marilu Henner donated her fee for writing this coumn to PCRM: Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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