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In a few short weeks our annual candy holiday will hit again. Our house has already gone through several bags of Halloween sweets as we prepare to share what is left with the costumed children who will come to our door. I guess my husband is checking for poison, because every bag has been opened for a taste test!

Knowing that this annual event also kicks off the start of the holiday season, I thought it might be good to take stock of how to best prepare to “stay the course” on our road of healthy eating, consistent exercise and stress management. A little restraint from the start reduces the mountain of guilt and hard work we will face in the New Year to get back to where we were at the end of the summer.

Whether young or old, bags of candies and chocolates present a temptation for us all. Perhaps it might be wise to hold off buying any more candy until the day before Halloween, but what if the stores have run out of our favorite treats??? Remember, the focus should be on the children for whom this event has been tailored and let us exercise some self-control. Perhaps we can identify candy that children will like that is not as tempting to us. For me, that would be anything that does not have dark chocolate. What is your least favorite candy? Quick, stock up on that and avoid picking up candies we can’t avoid popping in our mouths. Those bite size portions are a tough temptation because they are soooo small.

From Halloween we flow right into Thanksgiving and Christmas. For many of us this time results in binge eating without us even noticing it. As we go from event to event and taste just a LITTLE bit of everything we find our clothes getting tighter and tighter. One suggestion: now would be a good time to trim off a couple of pounds and begin an exercise regimen we can maintain through the holidays. Let’s try not to commit to a program that is so far out of our regular routine that we will be doomed to failure. Consider a schedule of walking a certain amount of time, a fixed number of days per week at a pace that makes us “huff and puff” a bit. No pain, but a regimen that we can maintain and that will help us retain some control of our fitness.

Besides the temptation to eat too much of the wrong foods, stress always increases during the holidays. We overcommit or get pulled into too many directions and find it difficult to say no to invitations. We try to please those we love with thoughtful gifts and foods, we want to visit with all of our friends to share cheer and family members we do not see regularly suddenly appear in our lives. We are happy and busy, but even joyful stress is stress. We need to step back and take time for ourselves whether we meditate or do yoga or just curl up in a corner with a good book.

It would be nice if we were not bloated, exhausted and totally out of shape at the end of the holidays. Creating a holiday plan begins with the first holiday, Halloween, and should run all the way to New Year’s Day. From there we can prepare for Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day and so on and so on . . . .