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How to Be Healthy and Enjoy the Holiday Season

Just Eat the Cookies! It's OK If You Gain a Few Pounds Over the Holidays

This time of year, tips for sticking to your diet through the holidays are everywhere: in magazines, on the news, and in that well-meaning email from your Aunt Margaret.

To that I say, "Who cares if you gain a few pounds over the holidays?" My advice may seem a little off-track compared to the other tips you're likely to hear this season, like to eat a healthy dinner before you hit the office holiday party or to follow the three-bite rule when sampling from the cookie tray. But hear me out.

In my work as a nutritionist, I've seen how often this type of restrictive advice can backfire. One minute, you're politely passing on the pecan pie, and as soon as everyone else is gone, you're licking the crumbs off the pie plate after finishing off the leftovers in a dark corner of your kitchen.

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Instead of going for this all-or-nothing approach, I'm giving you full permission to eat that slice of pie and savor it. Truly enjoy it. Instead of throwing caution to the wind and treating the holidays like a month-long all-you-can-eat buffet, if you simply eat nutritious foods most of the time (which we should all be doing anyway), your body can certainly handle a few Christmas cookies and a glass of Champagne to ring in the new year.

Because, in my experience, a moderate approach to eating — one that allows for the occasional treat — is much easier to follow than one that tells you to run away as fast as you can from the gingerbread man.

And, really, is two or three extra pounds the worst thing in the world? It gets pretty cold out there in the Winter, and that extra insulation might come in handy. Not to get too sciencey, but most animals (including humans at some point in history) store up a little extra body fat for the Winter months, when food is harder to come by. I've found that this extra layer of warmth tends to naturally fall off once Spring hits and we are all getting outside more and leaving the warmth of our homes to get back to the gym.

I know I'll be sneaking a few of Santa's cookies on Christmas Eve and having a glass of wine at my husband's company holiday party, and I hope your holiday is filled with a few of your favorite delectable indulgences, too. Look at it this way: we all know Santa won't be winning any swimsuit competitions anytime soon, but he's still the jolliest of them all.

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