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Avoid Holiday Food Traps

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Dear Dr. Levister: The holidays are a time of stress and anxiety. My biggest fear is overeating. What can I do to cope?” Debbie

Dear Debbie: 'Tis the season to feast with family, friends, coworkers and the like.

Thanksgiving is the unofficial kickoff to holiday indulgence and overeating.

Holiday stress is as common as holiday blues. The holidays can emphasize feelings of isolation and loneliness -- which can cause us to eat to deal with the pain -- and leads to fattening results.

There are many reasons we overeat during the season of celebration.

Preparation for the holidays exacerbates everyday stress by adding more social obligations, financial pressures and time constraints. Stress can also accumulate from family members or expectations to have a great time at parties.

Even if you're having a great time, it's easy to lose track of calories. Social pressure from "food pushers" may be difficult to manage without hurting their feelings, or you feeling guilty. And if you think New Year's resolutions will eliminate those extra pounds, think again! Most weight loss resolutions don't last.

So, what can we do to manage our cravings, stress and avoid weight gain during this time of caloric bombardment?

Allow yourself to have anything and everything you want to eat, but become a conscious food manager. Eat seasonal foods you aren't likely to eat during the rest of the year -- For example, choose squash pudding instead of eating bread with butter.

Politely insist on serving yourself. Take very small portions, eat slowly, and pay close attention to taste and cues of becoming full. Leftovers are either wasted in the garbage or wasted on your body, and the former is much less fattening! Handle well-intentioned hosts who continually offer more food by showering them with compliments and appreciation.

Know Your Limits. Fats are fattening, eat nuts one at a time, eliminate some crusts on pies, and limit the alcohol, sodas and eggnog.

Continue to exercise by adapting to the season. Try a family activity or work out inside, run up and down stairs, or sneak away to the gym, even for 20 minutes! Minimize calories throughout the day or week by having low calorie nutrition bars or a glass of a low calorie nutritional drink. Doing this before going to events can help you avoid food traps.

Try to become your own best friend by soothing yourself with kind words, instead of beating yourself up for overindulging or not meeting increased demands. Find support from family and friends.

Make the holidays a time of sharing. If you’re inclined to bake holiday deserts, think of donating to a shelter or nursing home. Remember, deprivation as well as over-indulgence can sabotage any reasonable plan, so enjoy responsibly. Happy Holidays!

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