Q: With the holidays just around the corner, I know we're going to be receiving tons of gift baskets and an assortment of food from customers as well as attending parties and dinners. How do I stay fit and eat right during the holidays?

A: During the holidays, there's one word to remember: moderation.

The holiday season can be a busy, stressful time that challenges our exercise and nutrition routines. You'll be tempted by lots of treats, and it's unrealistic to think you can completely deny yourself. Strive for balance: Enjoy your holiday favorites, but eat smaller portions. Skip a few days at the gym, but make up for it by getting exercise in other ways.

Here are some easy-to-implement tips for keeping your energy high and your waistline in check during the holiday season:

Stick with a scaled-down version of your fitness plan during the holidays. If you tell yourself you can't possibly diet or exercise with all these temptations, you'll just be setting yourself up for failure. Don't abandon your healthy lifestyle-you're stronger than that! Sit down right now and decide how many days per week you can squeeze in some exercise time. It may not be as much time as you typically spend exercising, but it has to be some time. Set appointments with yourself and make them as important as any business meeting. Remember that exercise is a natural energy booster. It releases endorphins and makes you feel good about yourself.

Use your shopping mall time wisely. Park far from the mall entrance. Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators-or climb the escalator and you'll get there twice as fast! In between stores, do a lap or two around the mall at a brisk pace. Drink lots of water to keep your energy high and avoid filling up on empty-calorie sodas or fast foods.

Think before you bite. It may be a fun break in your day to receive a basket full of chocolates or cookies, but do you really need to eat them right then and there? Are you really hungry? Or are you just shoveling in five or six cookies because that's more fun than getting back to work? Make an effort to moderate your "treat time." Don't eat just because the food's there.

Prepare for the party. Before you shower and put on your best dress or suit, take the time to eat a healthy meal. Huh? With all that delicious holiday fare, why would you eat before dashing off to the party? If you have a light meal of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits or veggies, before the event, you'll feel full and avoid overindulging on creamy, fatty or sugary foods. Even better, host the party yourself or volunteer for a role at the office party. Keeping busy will keep you away from the buffet.

Don't eat to avoid insulting the host. Quite often we indulge because we don't want to insult the person who gave us the gift or is hosting the party. Simply explain that you already ate or aren't very hungry right now but you'll be sure to partake later.

Rest up. During this hectic season, be sure to get enough sleep and relaxation time. Stress and poor planning contribute to unhealthy binge eating.

This is a special, joyous time of year, so take the time to think about what the season means for you. Hint: It's not about eating!


Shannon Entin is the publisher and editor of FitnessLink (www.fitnesslink.com) and co-author ofThe Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Health and Fitness(Macmillan). An ACE-certified (American Council on Exercise) fitness instructor, Shannon thrives on inspiring people to live healthier lifestyles.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.