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Enjoy the Holidays Without Packing On Pounds

You can eat, drink and be merry, but you have to watch your intake and exercise more between parties.

The holiday party season is upon us, and I say, go for it. Indulge. It’s the holidays, and no one likes a party pooper. Eat, drink and be merry. It’s more important to be relaxed and enjoy the company than to obsess about the number of calories on your plate.

At other times during the year the prudent advice is to pick your indulgences, and then moderate them. We live in a time where it’s possible to have a “special occasion” nearly every day. In fact, I saw a Hallmark ad the other day that said “life is a special occasion.” So it’s important to know how to pick, and plan for your special rewards and celebrations. Know the difference between an indulgence and an overindulgence. Trouble is at this time of the year there are too many "special occasions."

So, how do you hit all the parties and not gain weight?

Well, how many parties are you going to this season? Two per week? (That's a lot.) So that’s two of the 21 meals per week, and yes you can do a lot of damage in two meals, but it’s still only two. What you do the rest of the week is critically important.

One idea is to go on a strict diet the rest of the week — no sugar, no alcohol, no bread, no pasta, no fried foods. That also means no leftover pie, none of the candies and treats at the office, and no special holiday coffee drinks when out with friends.

Or, instead, you could just try to eat at least two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables each day, especially with all the great squashes this time of year. It’s also a great time to eat hearty soups and stews. They fill you up without a lot of calories.

The other thing to do is step up the exercise between the feasting frenzy. You might not have time to put in an extra workout or add minutes to your current workouts, so up the intensity instead.

Remember the not-so-old idea that the slower you go the more fat you’ll burn and that you need to go for at least 45 minutes to kick in the fat burning. Baloney. Sure the slower you go — say walking and hiking — the more percentage of fat you burn, but you’re burning very slowly and the total calorie burn is lower. At higher intensities, say jogging, you burn a lower percentage of fat, but a higher total, and that’s what matters. Pedal to the metal burns more gas. Also at the higher intensities you’ll get more afterburn; your metabolic rate stays higher for a longer period of time after your workout. Resting metabolic rate is fueled by fat, so you’re burning more fat after your intense workout than you normally would with your light workout.

Lastly, when you go to a party, try to sample all of the conversation before sampling all the hors d’oeuvres. The purpose of the get-together is to mingle with people who are special to us, not to pig out. Focus on friends and not food.

Also remember to drink as if you're the designated driver even if you’re not. We may not like party poopers, but we like drunks even less.

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