50 Ways to Survive the Fat Season

Park 'N Walk. Ease the stress of fighting for a parking space and burn more calories by parking 300 yards away. You'll log more than a mile in just three shopping trips. If schlepping boxes and bags across Macadam Siberia isn't your idea of fun, go ahead and snag a prime spot - but then walk around the mall to enter on the opposite side while you're still unburdened.

Arrive Early. Check with your mall to find out if it has early hours for walking. You'll get in some exercise before you're laden with packages.

Choose your door. Main mall entrances tend to be lined with food booths whose sights and smells can break the toughest resolve. Enter through a department store, and you can start shopping without temptation.

Buy small. If you do decide to treat yourself to fries or ice cream, order the smallest size available. Researchers have confirmed that you're likely to eat up to 44% more snack food if you buy it in larger containers. The humongous "value size" is no bargain for your clothes size.

Make reservations. Running into the burger joint may save time, but the fat and calories will slow you down - and plump you up. Duck into a nice restaurant and make reservations for later in the day. Come mealtime, you'll breeze past the long lines and reenergize yourself. You're also more likely to make smart food choices when you're not rushing. A bowl of minestrone and a salad with low-fat dressing will save you more than 375 calories and 27 grams of fat compared with a cheeseburger and fries.

Just say no to free samples. If you dip and sip from every sampler tray, here's what you're getting by the end of the day: [1 cracker with 1 ounce port wine cheese: 109 calories, 7.7 g fat] [1 slice summer sausage: 77 calories, 6.8  g fat] [2/3-ounce piece of fudge: 81 calories, 3 g fat] [1 ounce of  potato chips: 152 calories, 9.8 g fat] [1/2 chocolate truffle: 30 calories, 3.5 g fat] [1/4 slice of fruitcake: 76 calories, 2.4 g fat] [1/2 white chocolate/macadamia nut cookie: 70 calories, 13 g fat] [1 cinnamon roll with icing: 109 calories, 4 g fat] - Total: 704 calories, 50.2 g of fat!

Pack a snack. The siren sniff of a Cinnabon shop can be irresistible when your tummy's getting empty. To indulge your taste buds and spare your waistline, take along a cookies-and-cream flavored Clif bar - sold in many health food stores). The taste is decadent, and each 250-calorie, 5 g fat bar packs an impressive 5 g of fiber.

Get a low-fat jolt. Can't resist the gourmet java stop? Duck in for a flavored coffee and biscotti (no icing). At just 143 calories and 5 g of fat, you'll save 146 calories and 10 g of fat compared with a cappuccino and croissant. If you must have half-and-half, figure on an additional 40 calories and 3.5 g of fat.

Sip smart. Drink often, but bypass the soda - even if it's diet. In one study, habitual diet-soda sippers had higher hunger ratings than people who drank unsweetened or naturally sweet beverages. Opt for naturally calorie-free beverages such as bottled water, flavored sparkling water or seltzer, or unsweetened iced tea.

Stop at the salon. Don't let holiday nerves lead to diet disasters. Plan a stress break; If you can't treat yourself on the spot, pop in to schedule an appointment for a pedicure and foot massage for your next shopping foray. You feet - and figure - will thank you!

Shop for a knockout outfit. Buy a killer dress for New Year's Eve now. Try it on weekly and see how great you'll look if you keep your weight in line.

Take 10. Do crunches while the kids are watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Or set the timer, crank the tunes, and jog, climb the stairs, or boogie while the gingerbread's in the oven. Working out for a mere 10 minutes, three times a day, has the same toning and calorie-burning benefits as a single half-hour session - and it's easier to fit into a hectic schedule.

Bake non-edibles. If you find holiday baking therapeutic, tackle it with abandon. But choose recipes that you can't eat. Make fancy, glazed cookies for the tree or a "just for show" gingerbread house. You can also scour the Internet for recipes for pet treats, or try bread-dough projects such as picture frames and magnets that the kids can decorate and give as gifts.

Keep the lid on candy. When well-meaning visitors present you with pounds of chocolate-covered goodies, don't feel obligated to open them and dive in. Instead, say, "Thanks so much. I need something fancy to put out on Christmas day!" They'll feel special, not slighted, and you'll save weight as well as face. Then live by your word: Put the sweets out only when company comes. Take any unopened boxes to work, or donate them to a food bank.

Indulge in five. When you make out your gift list, make yourself a food list; write down all those tempting treats that could blow your diet. Then select five "must haves" - maybe Aunt Sally's irresistible cherry cheese strudel, or the creamy lobster Newburg that you look forward to every New Year's Eve. A list of delectable "allowables" fights the sense of deprivation that can lead to bingeing. Looking forward to those special treats can also help you avoid transgressions in between.

Avoid double batches. If your family can't live without your chocolate chip cookies, make a batch for them. Then make a batch of something less weighty that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Here are some classic holiday cookies paired with lower-calorie, lower-fat - but equally festive - partners: Traditional (Shortbread, 3", 120 calories, 7.4 g fat) - Alternative (Sugar, 3", 66 calories, 3.3 g fat); Traditional (Chocolate chip, 2 1/4", 78 calories, 4.5 g fat) - Alternative (Oatmeal raisin, 2 5/8", 65 calories, 2.4 g fat); Traditional (Peanut butter, chocolate kiss in center, 2 5/8", 97 calories, 5.2 g fat) - Alternative (Peanut butter, crisscross fork marks in center, 2 5/8", 60 calories, 3.3 g fat); Traditional (Gingerbread men, 2, 150 calories, 4.5 g fat) - Alternative (Gingersnaps, two 2", 59 calories, 1.4 g fat).

Sign up for lessons. If past attempts at exercising between baking, shopping, and partying have been futile, plan in advance: Before Thanksgiving join a dance class, preferable one that builds on each week's lesson so that you won't be tempted to skip. Practice faithfully, and you'll be in dazzling form - and shape - by New Year's Eve.

Gift wrap those cookies. If you're baking for the family, wrap and label the goodies; they'll be less accessible for you to nibble.

Chew gum while baking. Keep your mouth busy, and you'll be less likely to sample your creations. If you have to dip in, melt a chocolate chip in your mouth - it gives a blast of pure chocolate heaven with only 2 calories and 1/10 g of fat. (At that rate, go ahead and have 9 or 10)

Cook strategically. Heading to a dinner party tonight? That makes today the perfect day to cook. "People who are exposed to smells of food during the day eat less at night," says Alan Hirsch, MD, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. More evidence: During Ramadan, a Muslim holiday of daytime fasting followed by nighttime feasting, women's hunger ratings dropped. But men's hunger stayed the same throughout the month-long holiday. The reason? The women prepared food all day, and by mealtime, it was not as appealing.

Halt the non-holiday treats. Even if that pint of ice cream that you ordinarily dip into just once a week helps you stick to a healthy eating plan, keep it out of your freezer during the holidays, says Betty Nowlin, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. You'll be eating plenty of other tempting desserts. "That special snack that you allow yourself at other times of the year may put you over the top," she says.

Make them smaller. If you really want to make your favorite high-calorie cookies, go ahead and make them - but make smaller cookies. Or keep just a few out and freeze the rest in plastic containers (separate the layers of cookies with waxed paper). Stash them in the back of the freezer.

Get out! Too much time indoors can rob you of the sunlight that your body needs to make serotonin, a brain chemical that can quell hunger. To keep your serotonin levels high, get out of the house. Chop down your Christmas tree, have a snowball fight, do a little window-shopping on your lunch hour, and walk wherever you can. Take up a winter sport and you'll burn loads of calories too.

Arrive satisfied. Snack on a bit of chicken beforehand. The protein it supplies is super-satisfying and can help you eat less. In a study at Laval University in Quebec, people who were fed high-protein foods ate 164 fewer calories a day.

Head for the crudities. Marrying a carbohydrate course with your pre-party protein snack will make you fee full sooner and can help you burn calories more efficiently. In a recent study, women eating high-protein, high-carbohydrate meals burned 80 more calories during a 24 hour period than those who ate the same number of calories in high-fat meals.

Get juiced. Some mixed drinks pack as many calories as a rich dessert. Instead, try a Virgin Mary or a juice spritzer. In one study, people who drank an alcoholic aperitif consumed about 200 more calories for 24 hours afterward than those who drank a juice-based beverage. If you must have alcohol, here are your best and worst options. BEST: Wine spritzer (6 oz): 81 calories, 0 g fat; Champagne (4 oz): 84 calories, 0 g fat; Bloody Mary (6 oz): 87 calories, 0 g fat; White wine (6 oz): 121 calories, 0 g fat; Red wine (6 oz): 126 calories, 0 g fat. WORST: Rum toddy (10 oz): 334 calories, 11.4 g fat; Pina colada (6 oz): 330 calories, 10.8 g fat; White Russian (4 oz): 295 calories, 3.6 g fat; Irish coffee (7 oz): 190 calories, 1.7 g fat.

Save the bubbly till midnight. Even one serving of alcohol can break down the resolve to limit your eating. If you can't wait until the evening's end, drink two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you have.

Move away from the buffet. Serve yourself, then move to the opposite end of the room. You won't be as tempted to keep eating. Socializing on the way there and back will also cut down on your overall number of trips.

Read your napkin. If hors d'oeuvres are circulating, use a fresh cocktail napkin for each one. Before you reach for seconds, check your napkin for grease spots. If the paper's soaked through or the spot is huge, make a different selection next time.

Switch hands. A sneaky but surprisingly effective trick: Hold your drink your right hand if you're a righty, or vice versa. It will make grabbing food a bit more difficult - so you'll eat less.

Enlist your partner. Before you leave for a food fest, let your spouse know that you do not want to overindulge. Ask him to not devour your favorite chocolate cheesecake in front of you and to skip the "Honey, you've just gotta try this."

Circulate. "I make it a point to meet at least two new people at every party," says Nowlin. You'll be focusing on people, not food - and you may be so busy that you won't have time to overeat.

Look before diving. "If you see something on the dessert table that you've just got to have, plan accordingly," says Lisa Hark, PhD, RD, director of the nutrition education and prevention program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "Buffets make smart trade-offs easy; skip the butter on your bread and turn down that second glass of wine. By planning and balancing, you can enjoy that dessert without guilt."

Score points (and stack the deck). Next time you're invited to a party, offer to bring the veggie tray. You host will be grateful for the help, and if you add a low-fat dip, you'll be guaranteed something that you can eat with abandon.

Cross-examine. As friends pass you what they've prepared, exclaim, "That looks terrific! What's it made with?" (Ask the same of the hostess at other parties.) You're likely to get valuable information that'll help you decide how deeply you want to dig in to a dish.

"Preview" recipes. Since few parties pass without a number of recipe requests, ask your guests to come prepared with copies of recipes for their dishes. You'll get a valuable peek at the ingredients to help make your food choices, and you can send partygoers home with mini-cookbooks for the holidays!

Dance the night away. It's gotta be the happiest way to burn off calories! Here are the Calories burned per hour (based on a 150 lb person): Jitterbug - 400; Country and western - 375; Disco - 375; Swing - 300; Waltz - 200.

Quick Tip. Christmas brunch can be a festive alternative to a heavy sit-down meal. Serve low-fat crepes with fresh fruit and make veggie-stuffed omelettes using half the usual number of egg yolks. Set out the coffee and tea with a pitcher of fat-free, evaporated milk instead of heavy cream or half-and-half - you'll get the creamy color and taste, and save more than 3 g of fat in a 2 tablespoon serving.

Poll the family. What are their favorite holiday dishes? You may find that you're slaving over a green bean casserole or candied yams that don't make anybody's top 10. Use your findings to simplify and slim down your selections: Serve green beans with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, or make baked yams, for example.

Forget fruitcake. Instead, serve cake and fruit. Angel food cake has only 73 calories and less than 1/2 g of fat per slice; a cup of raspberries and a dollop of low-fat whipped topping brings the total to a mere 153 calories and slightly more than 2 g of fat. Compare that to 302 calories and 9.7 g of fat in even a slim slice of homemade fruit cake.

Cut calories, not flavor. Some foods are so flavorful that a little goes a long way. Mix 1/4 cup of eggnog into 1 cup of fat-free milk, whirl in the blender, and dust with nutmeg. You've cut 171 calories and 13.9 g of fat!

Get the right-size bird. Cooking too big a turkey can lead to making extra batches of fattier side dishes such as stuffing and gravy, says Nowlin. Figure 1 pound of turkey per person, and you'll still have leftovers, says the National Turkey Federation.

Serve one appetizer. If you're doing the turkey and trimmings, don't drive yourself crazy preparing endless dips, hors d'oeuvres, and cheese trays, most of which are high in fat and calories. Set out crudities with salsa, or shrimp with cocktail sauce. You can eat heaps of these practically calorie-free finger foods. (Save time and stress: Order a ready-made shrimp platter.)

Dock the boats. Pouring gravy out of a boat nearly guarantees that you'll use too much. Serve gravy, hollandaise sauce, and other pourable toppings in bowls, not boats, with small serving ladles.

Serve sticks. For nibbling between courses, substitute a sesame breadstick for a slice of Italian bread and a tablespoon of whipped butter. You'll save 110 calories and 7.6 g of fat per portion.

Pass on potatoes. Starchy foods such as mashed potatoes and refined grain products such as white rice have a high glycemic index (GI), which means that their sugars are absorbed rapidly into your bloodstream. That sudden sugar "spike" may trigger hormonal changes that make you eat more, according to a recent study. Overweight subjects who snacked freely ate more after consuming two high-GI meals than they did after eating low-GI fare. To play it safe, choose other vegetables, legumes, and fruits - most have a lower GI rating.

Seduce with baked apples...minus the pie. You'll get a mere 81 calories and 1/2 g of fat compared with 411 calories and 19 g of fat in a slice of apple pie. To make: Core, cover, and microwave apples for 2 minutes. Top with cinnamon and, if you like, drench with 1/2 cup of fat-free milk.

Do a mental food log before eating. It's a quick and easy way to rate how you're keeping to your holiday food plan. If your mother-in-law is hosting dinner, and you know it will be a sumptuous spread, stick to a simple salad and chicken breasts for your noon meal.

Deck the calories!  Here are some great ways to lose weight in the spirit of the season, along with the number of calories burned (Calorie values - per hour - based on a 150 lb person):  Shoveling snow: 408; Cutting down the tree: 357; Bringing in the Yule log(s): 340; Hauling decorations down from the attic: 340; Putting up the tree: 170; Wrapping gifts: 136; Addressing cards: 122; Kissing under the mistletoe: 122; Standing in checkout lines: 82; Watching "It's a Wonderful Life": 68.

Keep the fun coming. You may be able to skip desert entirely. "My family and I hit the computer to play games or look up sites after holiday dinners. We're so eager to get to it, we leave the table before dessert's even served," says Dr. Hark. If you don't have a computer, break out some board games or a 3-D jigsaw puzzle, or start some songs at the piano. Even better: Walk around the neighborhood to view the holiday displays. The bread, coupled with exercise, will dampen appetites.

by Melissa Gotthardt
Prevention Magazine