Friday, April 18, 2014 · 4:47 p.m.

To many of us, the holidays mean traveling, spending time with good friends and mostly good family, and doing a good deal of nothing as the year draws to a close. Usually this includes spending a little too much time in front of the TV, indulging in delicious food and partaking in some warm holiday cheer (alcohol). But kicking back a little too much may also relax your waistline, and no one wants that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to kill your holiday vibe. We all need our cheat days, and you probably deserve it. The problem with staying healthy during the holidays isn’t so much about getting your fill of holiday-themed treats at the office, but more about overindulging. This practice of overindulging during the holidays often leads to guilt or an "eat up now, work it off later" mentality. The guilt is likely to push you further into irresponsibility, while the latter is just not being honest with how you know the body to work.

The real trick to making it through Christmas and New Year's with your pre-Thanksgiving jeans in tow is to enjoy what you are eating, be mindful and avoid overindulging. With this general guiding principle, let’s take a look at a few practical suggestions we can all take up to have a healthy holiday season.

Keep your routine.
Yes, you will probably be traveling for the holidays, and your time will be limited. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to modify your exercise regimen or find a new routine that you love and that you will be able to do away from home. Go for a run the morning after a holiday gathering. Use your Kim Kardashian workout DVD. Just consistently do something active, and you will be far less likely to overeat.

Eat what you love.
There, I said it. Eat what you love, folks. Don’t waste your time (and your calories) stuffing your face with junk food, cookies and cake just because they are there, you’re laying on the couch, or someone else is eating them. Save your calories for special holiday foods you really love.

Eat more fruits and veggies.
Of course, we should all be eating more fruits and veggies year-round. But it’s especially important to load up on the fiber and nutrients at a time of year when you’re less likely to get adequate amounts of both. Try loading up half of your plate with the fruits and vegetables that are available.

Limit the liquids.
Drinking your calories instead of eating them tends to limit your body’s ability to register fullness. Therefore, we end up consuming more calories than we intended, and these calories are often completely empty. Instead of guzzling down a soda after dinner, fill up with water before and after your meal. Soft drinks are nutritionally empty and filled with sugar, while water contains zero calories. Also, be mindful of the alcoholic drinks you consume. Alcoholic drinks tend to be high in calories, and drinking reduces inhibitions you may normally have regarding your diet.

Police your portions.
Simply put, eat larger portions of the healthier foods and smaller portions of high-calorie, indulgent holiday sweets. Divide your plate accordingly.

Drop the guilt.
Lastly and, most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you overeat or overindulge this holiday season. It may happen, but it’s important to move forward and not let the guilt cloud your mind and inhibit you from making mindful, healthy choices the next day. In fact, research shows that those who feel guilty after indulging in large amounts of snack foods tend to gain more weight than those who do not. A reason for this phenomenon may be that the guilt causes people to give up their attempts at healthy eating and continue the overindulgence.

Eat, drink and be well, folks!

Rashad J. Gober is a gym junkie, avid runner and freelance writer whose interests include pop culture and healthy living. But he's not a doctor, so his suggestions are no substitute for medical advice. Feel free to contact him via Twitter or email with any comments or suggestions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.

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