Holiday Eating Tips for Enjoyment

In a recent Broom Hilda, cartoonist Russell Myers provided a wake up call about the upcoming holiday feasting. "I can always tell when I've had too much dessert," Broom Hilda confesses to her friend. "The chair leaves the restaurant with me."Holiday eating is truly delightful. So many wonderful treats and family traditions -- turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberries, sweet sausages, and out-of-this-world desserts. While Broom Hilda may exaggerate a little, for many of us, the holidays bring a little guilt about eating too much and some dread of a new diet.Over the years I've found a few common sense steps help to really enjoy holiday eating and rid me of guilt and diet worries. If you have mixed feelings about all the food in the holidays ahead, check out these tips.Tip 1 -- Have a Plan!Certainly the holidays are a time for relaxing and for spontaneous get together. But one can relax and still have a plan for yourself for holiday eating. It's helpful to:* Plan meals on holidays or days with one or more parties like any normal day. Substitute, for example, two party snacks for one meal or make breakfast and lunch a little smaller when there's a large holiday meal on the agenda.* Avoid foods that set up a craving for more. For me that's foods high in processed sugar or fats. Some of my friends pig out with nuts or chips. Pay attention to what you eat in excess and avoid it, even though it's difficult.* Keep it simple, even for big holiday meals. I like to serve and eat enjoyable nutritious foods with a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables and desserts.Tip 2 : "Just Say No, OccasionallyMostly we want to say yes to all the wonderful treats and special foods that aren't available quite the same way the rest of the year. That's normal. But you know the old saying about needing to say no in order to get the most out of your yes. Unfortunately this applies to holiday eating as well. Pick your spots and decide when it's important to say no. Sure the host or hostess will offer the untouchable more than once. It's amazing how many ways there are to politely say no when one decides up front "I want to". Here are some ways I practice saying no:* Postpone eating something you really want, for five minutes or 10 minutes or even one minute. Each time the thought comes back, postpone it again. Before you realize it, you're home from the party and feeling good about the food you chose to enjoy and saying no to foods that cause a problem.* Continue the delay tactic day-to-day and party to party throughout the holidays, particularly for foods you just can't get enough of.Tip 3: Build a Support NetworkWe all like to about food and diets. Turn talk into support by picking a friend or two who want to focus on the solution instead of the problem. Networking is a tool using more and more frequently. Try applying it to holiday eating by:* Talking to one or two close friends about your desire to really enjoy holiday eating this year without going overboard. Ask them what they do to avoid guilt and a need to diet after the holidays. Talk to these friends every few days about your success and setbacks in eating sensibly.* Make a call before going to a party or festive meal.Commit to a friend your eating plan for the day and perhaps any "no's" you need to say to certain foods.Tip 4 : Exercise While You PlayMany of us enjoy a little extra time off over the holidays. Children and grandchildren are excited about new toys and the festivities. Make a decision to build exercise into enjoyment of the holidays. You might try some of these combinations of fun, family and exercise:* Take a family walk after a big meal. Encourage everyone to go and let the brisk winter air and chatter while you walk add to the joy of the holiday meal.* Get to the mall early or stay late with a friend or family member. Stop shopping and simply walk and enjoy the smells, sights, energy in the air.* Join the kids in trying out their new sled or basketball or skis. Choose to be a little more active and see what happens. For most of us, increasing our enjoyment of holiday foods may be as simple as trying a few of these tips. For a small percentage, though, overeating isn't a minor nuisance. It's a major health problem. If holiday eating has gotten worse for you every year, you may need more help than the above simple tips. It may be time to talk to your physician or try a self-help group. Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is a Twelve Step fellowship that has helped many men and women with eating problems return to healthy eating. For more information about OA and the many meetings in your community, call the local OA hot line at (insert #) or the national office at 505-891-2664.Holiday eating is meant to be one of life's wonderful pleasures. Following some of the tips above may make it more so for you. Try it -- you'll be glad you did.Frank Thomas is a leadership and management consultant and writes for newspapers around the country on personal growth and self-help topics.

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