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“The holidays are around the corner, time to start my healthy eating plan” – said no one ever!

It’s a classic mistake. Let me get through the holidays, and then I’ll start back on my healthy plan come the New Year. In my new book, Brain-Powered Weight Loss, I examine in depth just why this is such a terrible idea. It’s probably not the reason you think.

Want to take a guess? It’s a simple word that most of us will understand but don’t account for when the holidays roll around – biology.

Or more specifically, Resistant Biology. So, what does that mean?

If you have a weight problem, there is no doubt that the holidays are a vulnerable time. Your Resistant Biology is working overtime to please your fat cells, and your emotional connection to food is put to the test by all of the nostalgia, family and stress.

There are many behavior changes you can implement to make your healthy goals stick, even during your most vulnerable times. Because like it or not, the holidays are upon us, and no matter what you are celebrating, one thing is for sure – there will be lots of food and yummy treats to choose from. Added sugar, high fat and salt abound!

The holidays are what we call a “high-risk” time because temptation often gets the better of us, and one temptation can generally lead to more and more.

Before we know it, we’ve started with a piece or two of Halloween candy, and we’ve eaten our way through the New Year, promising ourselves we’ll start again in 2017. Sound familiar?

The problem is that our biology does not know, nor does it care, that it’s the holiday season. And it’s not going to give you a break just because you only see Grandma’s homemade sugar cookies once a year! Your biology works the same all year long. This means that staying on track with your goals during the holidays is just as important as the middle of June.

As executive director of Wellspring Camps, the nation’s leading provider of fitness and weight loss camps for children, teens and young adults, I use the following tools to help during these high-risk times.

Here are four tips to keep you going through the holidays:

  1. Keep a food journal. This is NOT about calorie counting and deprivation. This is about accountability! All of the bites, licks and tastes add up quickly, and if you start writing them down, you’ll be more aware of them. Research shows that people who kept a food diary and adhered to it greater than 75% of the time not only maintained their weight during the holidays but were actually able to lose weight (if that was their goal).
  2. Make moving fun! Moving is a surefire way to keep yourself on track. One of the neat things about the holidays is that there are fun ways to keep moving without feeling like it’s a chore. Try ice skating, a holiday 5k that you can walk or jog (most cities have holiday races going on), a family holiday step challenge (who can get the most steps for one week in December) or even a snowshoe adventure. One of the best parts of the holidays is time with family. So make moving a family affair, and make it fun!
  3. Remake some of your old family recipes. Eating healthy is gaining popularity, and there is nothing that says you have to continue to make your recipes in a way that means you’ll consume too many calories in one side dish. Try looking up your favorite recipes on the internet, and specifically look for healthier alternatives. For instance, did you know you can make mashed potatoes with buttermilk and low-fat milk instead of butter and cream? Or how about pumpkin pie with no added sugar and only three ingredients? These recipes are easily available on the web, just a few clicks away!
  4. Set small, manageable goals. One of your best weapons for staying on track is to set yourself goals that you can achieve daily. This gets you in the right mindset and keeps you thinking about the finish line. For instance, “I will get 10,000 steps today” is a good goal to have for the big family get-togethers. It is specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely.

Staying on track during the holidays is possible, so don’t let all of the hype tell you otherwise. It takes consistent focus, commitment to whatever your goals are and a desire to stay healthy.

Spending the beginning of 2017 feeling frustrated about overindulging during the holidays is no way to ring in the New Year. Follow these tips to stay on track and find many other tips and exercises in Brain-Powered Weight Loss that can help.