Battle of the bulge

Survival of the fittest. It’s the only way to describe the holiday season — day after day of festive feasting combined with disrupted schedules. Meal times and fitness routines are often anything but ordinary. And overeating, coupled with inactivity, can certainly take its toll. Not only can readings on the weigh scale skyrocket, but stamina and the ability to enjoy all that the season has to offer can suffer. Mapping out a holiday eating and fitness strategy can allow you to come through the celebration in roughly the same size and shape as you began it.

While maintaining your weight through all the partying is an achievable goal, losing weight is another story . A change in strategy to damage control, rather than weight loss, won’t find you giving up on healthy eating after the first week.

To help in your game plan, keep an important point in mind: don’t be a turkey and stuff yourself. Taste all the offerings you like, but pay careful attention to hunger and satiety cues and stop eating when you’re full.

During holiday season, tomorrow truly is another day. In order to follow through on this strategy, eat at your usual times during the day — even if you’re not hungr Otherwise, at a cocktail party, you’ll be tempted to hijack the first hors d’oeuvres tray that passes by. Before a midday celebration, make sure to breakfast on a balanced meal and, if the festivities are happening in the early evening, have a snack beforehand.

Once at the party, another winning move in the battle of the bulge is not to sit yourself down immediately in front of the fat-laden offerings. It’s simply too tempting to reach over and grab a few hundred calories worth of cheese and crackers when there’s a lull in the conversation. If you’re the one doing the entertaining, lighten up.

These days, guests will appreciate the availability of lighter fare along with traditional favourites. And to help avoid the temptation of leftovers, give out doggie bags to lessen the likelihood of eating fat-laden fare for days afterward.

As for the assorted beverages of the season, moderation is key. While moderate alcohol is often thought of as a heart-healthy beverage, excess is another story. Among health risks, it’s linked to high blood-pressure readings and elevated triglycerides. Besides the ravages of a hangover, drinking too much can upset sleep patterns, potentially leading to a decrease in stamina.

An easy way to curb your alcohol intake over the course of a party is to drink two non-alcoholic beverages after each one containing alcohol.

After all, there’s only so much you can drink. If waist management is a concern, make them calorie-free options as well, such as soda water or diet pop. Regular soft drinks and tonic water, along with fruit juices, consumed plain or as mixers, can substantially add to calorie totals. Another survival strategy that’s frequently forgotten during the holiday season is regular exercise. Making the time for a walk at the mall before shopping or even taking part in a regular fitness routine can pay big dividends at this time of the year. It’s a terrific antidote to stress, often an unwelcome but not unexpected visitor during the holidays. Exercise can also boost metabolic rates, which — beside the obvious perk of burning more calories — goes hand in hand with greater energy levels.

And, at last, but not least, an important rule to practice through the holiday season — and for that matter into the next millennium — "Make it a 10!" When confronted with a decadent delight, take only one bite and rate it on a scale of one to 10. Only continue eating it if it’s a 10. There’s one sure thing in life: You never regret the 10s.