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COL How to avoid six weeks of eating like a pig

Is overeating on Thanksgiving really so bad? After all, it's only one day. However, there are a few reasons you should be concerned. The first is that Thanksgiving is the start of a six-week downward spiral for dieters that ends with extra pounds on your waistline. The other is that it sets the tone for how you eat the rest of the year. Research shows that those who maintain the same diet regimen throughout the year are more likely to maintain their weight loss than those who take "breaks" for special occasions.

Here are a few suggestions to keep this holiday weight-gain free:

Eat first: Plenty of people starve themselves before going to a party so they'll have "room" for all the great food. They arrive and make a beeline for the high-calorie, high-fat appetizers, easily eating more than a day's worth of calories. Instead, try eating enough healthy food beforehand so you're full before you arrive. Then you'll have much more self-control around tempting treats.

All or nothing: I don't know how many times I've heard someone say, "I've already ruined my diet, so it doesn't matter what I eat now." Eating a slice of pie shouldn't give you an excuse to eat two more. Have you ever heard of cutting your losses? Well, the same rule applies to cutting your gains. It's never too late to stop.

Strategize: You might think that planning what you're going to eat beforehand takes all the fun out of the occasion, but that's not so. In fact, practicing good eating behavior at special events could make you feel more relaxed and empowered. It gives you the sense of being in control instead of being lured into the dark world of overindulgence. So plan what and how much you're going to eat before you even get there. For instance, if you know there's going to be cake and ice cream and you typically have two or three servings, mentally rehearse having only one.

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Watch out for food pushers: How many times has a family member or friend told you that you'll spoil the party if you don't partake in the food festivities? Have your answer ready for those diet saboteurs. Mentally rehearse a few phrases like, "Oh, no thanks. I couldn't eat another thing." Or try the truth: "I'm dieting, and that piece of cake will throw me completely off track." ;  

; Recruit your friends: Getting the support of your friends and family is not always easy, but it's worth a try. Talk to them about the healthy changes you're making and enlist their help. The idea is not to have them police your behavior but rather empower you by being encouraging and enthusiastic about your new way of life.

Balance it out: Try consuming fewer calories the day before and after the holiday. By consuming 500 calories less the day before and after a holiday, you're leaving room for 1,000 extra calories.

Trade-off: Do a "trade-off." Eating more during the holidays can be offset, at least in part, by a moderate increase in daily exercise. Every 100 calories is equal to about 25 minutes of walking. 

; Bring your own food: Offer to bring a dish to the next party. By supplying your own food, you can eat without abandoning your healthy diet, bypass the higher fat or sodium foods, and still feel a part of the crowd.

Take control: Host a holiday event or party yourself. You can make healthier food, plus with all that constant moving, planning, cooking and preparing, you are bound to lose weight (as long as you give away the leftovers).

Enjoy it: We often eat without thinking -- we're so engaged in socializing that we stuff our faces without even realizing what or how much we're eating. Remember what your mom always told you -- don't talk with your mouth full. Make a conscious effort to pay attention to what you're eating -- you might even enjoy it more.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a syndicated health, nutrition and fitness columnist and founder of iWellness Solutions. He can be reached at info@dietdetective.com.

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