The easiest way to lose weight is to avoid putting it on in the first place, a strategy that becomes even more important over the next six weeks. As we enter into the holiday season, the average American will put on a pound or two before the first of the year, some much more, but such a fate is not inevitable. Here are some tips to help you enjoy, rather than regret, the season.

1. Eat what you enjoy, and enjoy what you eat. I'm convinced that we don't gain weight from the food we savor. The villain is food we eat without even noticing we've done so, at parties and family get-togethers while engrossed in conversation. Keep you hands out of the nut tray, the candy dish, the beer cooler. Leave the table when you're full. Start the party by fixing yourself a tall, iced low-cal drink and move snacks away from where you intend to sit. If you have to munch on something, find a veggie tray.

2. Keep track of what you eat. Simply writing down what you eat will help keep you focused on eating with intention. There are many web sites such as my-calorie-counter.com that will aid you in this.

3. Focus on eating, rather than not eating. Set a goal of eating five fruits and vegetables each day, and plenty of dietary fiber, before starting on the high-calorie foods. You'll find yourself satisfied with more modest portions of the stuffing and gravy, the pumpkin pie.

4. Take a low-cal dish to potlucks. Fruit salad or roasted vegetables make colorful, tasty contributions that everyone should enjoy as an alternative to the chips and chive dip and green bean casseroles. Cooking Light offers some great recipes.

5. Know your enemy. What are the highest calorie-lowest nutrition holiday offerings? Three that finish at the top of most lists are pecan pie (and the mini-pies that we call cookies), eggnog, and mashed potatoes made with cream cheese. Don't mistake green jello salad with mayonnaise for a vegetable, either. And check the calories on that White Moccha Latte. This season is a great time for broth-based soups, winter squash, and low-cal hot chocolate.

6. Move around. Taking a walk not only burns a few calories, it settles your food, keeps you from picking at the leftovers in the fridge, and calms your mind.

7. Plan ahead. When you're heading to grandma's house for a midday feast, have a light breakfast and prepare supper beforehand. Snack before you leave so you don't arrive famished.

8. Hang that special New Year's Eve outfit on the closet door where you see it every day. It would be a shame if you couldn't fit into it at the end of the holidays, eh?

Finally, don't beat yourself up if you slip. Give yourself the gift of compassion, and count your blessings that we live in a country where too much food is a problem.


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