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Avoid packing on pounds over the holidays

Save your calories for holiday treyou look forward all year long. | PR News

Save your calories for the holiday treat you look forward to all year long. | PR News

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a game plan to follow

Avoid gaining weight during the holidays with these tips:

» Talk with your family about eating well before outings.

» Play outdoors with the kids, dance at the holiday party. Do anything to stay active.

» Schedule and modify your workouts ahead of time.

» Watch out for liquid calories (eggnog, alcohol, etc.).

» Drink twice as much water as any alcohol at a party.

» Don’t stop in the employee lounge or stay too long at buffet tables. Out of sight is out of mind.

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:47PM

It is the holiday season, and shopping, parties and festive dinners fill calendars everywhere.

Too often during this time, exercise routines disappear, resolutions are broken and we say yes — repeatedly — to high-calorie food and drinks. We’ve all heard that people can and do gain weight over the holidays, pounds they don’t ever lose. What can you do if you don’t want to be one of them?

First, identify what breaks the resolve you normally have. Less sunlight and more stress can put people in a negative mindset that spirals into bad eating and ditched workouts, according to Weight Watchers.

Resolve to keep moving. “The most important thing is to remain active,” says Dr. Karen Gustafson, sports medicine and primary care physician from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “Start a new family tradition with walking or running a 5K or longer distance. More and more holiday races are popping up all over the place. It is a nice way to exercise before you are put to the test with the temptation of wonderful food.”

Bethany Doerfler, clinical research dietitian for Northwestern Medicine, offers advice on how squeeze in fitness when life is so hectic. “The motto here is ‘accumulate’,” she says. “Often people put off exercise because they don’t have an hour to devote to getting to the gym. Any movement helps. I encourage my patients to look at ways they can layer in 10-15 minutes of walking at lunch and at the end of the day to accumulate a 30-minute walk. If you are dining out with friends or co-workers, try to walk to dinner to accumulate more exercise.”

Being proactive also is a great way to avoid pounds. “Prepare a healthy dish and dessert you really love so you’ll look forward to eating them and won’t feel deprived,” says Chicago personal trainer Guadalupe Ramirez .

While it may be easy to spiral out of control once bad eating has begun, hope is not immediately lost. Regaining a healthy regimen and staying active can be accomplished while still enjoying the season. “Get a good workout in on mornings of parties,” advises Ramirez. “You’ll set a healthy mood for the day.”

And allowing yourself a few holiday treats actually can help you stay on track, according to Gustafson. “Don’t restrict yourself from the dessert table or your favorite holiday foods; just try not to overindulge,” she says. “Save room for your favorites; don’t waste calories on the others. Make sure to make time for yourself. Listen to relaxing music or go for a walk in order to de-stress. Stress can lead to a build-up of cortisol, which can lead to overeating.”

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