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Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Without Adding Holiday Pounds

Feasting is a major part of the holiday season, but a local diet expert weighs in with a needed reality check.

This installment of Get Fit Babylon is a timely reality check for many of us. When the holiday season hits, it's easy to put off healthy eating and exercise until the new year, but Rachel Ezelius, a Babylon registered dietician and on-site nutrition expert at , reminds us that overeating during these few weeks isn't always harmless.

Ezelius dispenses her dietary wisdom through Eat Smart, a program at the Babylon Village gym, designed to provide customizable eating, shopping and cooking advice for anyone interested in getting, or staying, healthy.

Patch asked Ezelius for her top tips on how to emerge from the holiday season relatively unscathed.

Is it true that most of us gain a few pounds every year after Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's celebrations? Is it inevitable or are there ways to be festive without gaining weight or overdosing on junk?

Think of it like this: just 100 extra calories a day (a sip of eggnog here, one Christmas cookie there) translates to one pound per month. But in addition to eating more high calorie, high fat and high sugar treats, we are over-scheduled. The first thing to go is our exercise, which could help us burn those extra calories. So what I typically see after the holidays is that if someone gains only a few pounds that's actually a success story!

Any tips on how to navigate all those parties? Between appetizers, drinks, the main meal, heavy desserts of pie and cakes, how can we avoid going off the diet deep end?

I have two general tips. One is to wear a form-fitting outfit, not a baggy sweater and leggings. If you have to stay conscious of how much you are eating so you can breathe, sit down or not have to unbutton your pants it helps to keep you accountable. The second suggestion is to visualize what you are going to eat and drink before you do it. For example, if I put out on a table everything you were going to consume on Christmas Day most would look at the sheer volume and think that it was impossible. But when you are in the situation you don't think about what you are eating,. you just pop the next best thing in your mouth.

Does it really matter if we get a little Santa-like in December if New Year's resolutions are right around the bend? As a registered dietitian, have you found that weight gain can tend to appear by accident but stick around permanently?

It no doubt is much easier to gain weight than to lose it. Gaining is so much more fun and losing is work. We gain by doing more social eating, eating more calorie-dense (but not nutrient-dense) foods and by skipping our workouts. Losing means we have to pull out the food journal, watch how much and what we eat and try to get back into workout clothes--thank goodness they are stretchy.

How can we stay motivated to eat healthy and exercise when the days get shorter, it gets dark so early, and our bodies are telling us to fatten up and hibernate?

Schedule it! Treat your exercise or desire to eat healthy just like you would any appointment. Schedule time to plan, shop and cook and definitely plan time to exercise. It should go into your day planner just like any other event would and don't break your appointment no matter how bored, cold, tired or hungry you are.

Check back next month for more Get Fit Babylon, when we examine how to make, and keep, New Years' fitness resolutions .

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