'Tis the Season to Be Healthier

Breaking bread together is something God's people have done since, well . . . Abraham was a boy. Have you noticed? Most fellowships center around food — especially during the holidays — and the minister is invited to them all.

It's more than possible to enjoy the season and avoid wearing the effects.

But this season of cookies, candies and baked goods does not have to thwart your healthy diet! In fact, it's more than possible to enjoy the season and avoid wearing the effects. These tried-and-true tips will help.

1. Run!
Or walk, jog, pedal or aerobicize for 30 minutes, three to five times each week, for a healthy heart. Don't have a half-hour? Three 10-minute sessions yield virtually the same benefits.

Not currently following an exercise program? There's no time like the present! First, consult with your physician, especially if you have any ongoing conditions or concerns. Then, if you're not sure how to get started, contact a certified personal trainer in your area (consult your telephone directory or local health club). He or she can design a realistic program tailored to your needs and time constraints. Ask for references — you want to work with someone who will inspire you and take an active role in helping you reach your goals.

2. 'Fess up!
If you're serious about improving your health, losing weight or maintaining your current condition, receive support (and accountability) by making your efforts known. Announce it from the pulpit. If that's a bit too bold, take a more subtle approach by telling your hosts when they call with the invitations. Saying "I'm on a restricted diet, but would love to join you for the evening" graciously lets them know that, while you don't care to nosh, you relish the opportunity for fellowship. After all, isn't that the point of holiday parties? (For sit-down dinners, see #3.)

3. You gotta have a plan!
Look at your calendar and determine the functions you'll be attending. Then design a "lite" meal plan around those events. If the banquet is on Thursday evening, eat "lite" fare on Wednesday and Thursday. Doing so doesn't give you carte blanche to eat everything and anything Thursday evening, but it will help compensate for the added fat and calories you'll consume even in a modest portion.

4. Don't go hungry . . .
To the party, that is! Before you leave home, have a quick bite to eat: A slice of turkey on half a bagel or a piece of cheese and a small apple will ease your hunger and make you less apt to devour an entire platter of hors d'oeuvres when you arrive.

Say "No, thank you" to seconds. (In fact, if you leave a few bites on your plate, you'll be less tempted to go back for more.)

When it comes to buffets and dessert tables, sample only three small items and opt for healthier choices.

When it comes to buffets and dessert tables, sample only three small items and opt for healthier choices: cider over egg nog, raw vegetables over cheese blintzes and a small wedge of fruit pie over cakes and tortes. "It all looks so delicious!" goes far with both your hostess and your dieting efforts.

5. When delicacies show up on your doorstep . . .
Serve them at your open house. Set a buffet table and put a placard near each one — "Mrs. Fribble's Fabulous Fudge," "Bonnie's Best Butter Cookies" or "Chuck's Chocolate Chunk Supreme." Doing so honors the confections' creators and allows you to share their generosity with others. (Include your own healthy choice — "Pastor Paul's Spectacular Spinach Dip with Veggie Dippers" — to encourage others toward healthier eating.)

And don't let your guests leave empty-handed! Send them off with plates of leftovers. Or have your kids spread Christmas cheer by delivering wrapped goodies to your neighbors.

By making exercise and healthy eating part of your lifestyle, you'll feel better, have more energy and get through the holidays without wearing them! Plus, you'll have a jumpstart on that New Year's resolution.

Taken from the Pastor's Family Edition of
Focus on the Family magazine, December 2000.
Article copyright © 2000, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Tanya Price is an ACE-certified personal trainer and has been an associate editor for several magazines at Focus on the Family.