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Please don’t get the wrong idea. I truly do love the holidays.

But when Christmas is over – and that would be about now – I am sick of looking at a certain platter of cookies that’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for way too long.

It’s covered in homemade goodness that’s loaded with sugar and empty calories.

Did I eat some of those bite-sized lemon bars?

You bet.

Did I have one or two of those cookies that look like snowflakes? Umm, yes.

And that’s exactly why I feel no guilt about packing up the treats and putting them somewhere high that I can’t reach without standing on a step stool.

It’s my way of declaring that indulging in holiday sweets is over. Time to stick to eating healthy foods. Time to focus on losing weight I may have gained over the holidays.

Perhaps putting the cookies away is more of a mental exercise. A small, private way for me to acknowledge that moderation is a choice. A choice I can make.

Go ahead, join me.

I know you’re tempted.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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Here comes the New Year! With every second that ticks by, 2012 is getting a little closer.

Are you ready?

Are you making any resolutions about losing weight? Thousands of people just like you are doing the same thing.

As a fitness instructor, I love the month of January. At the gym where I teach, this is when I have the privilege of sharing my passion for fitness.

There is nothing more satisfying than helping people achieve their weight loss goals. And I have some basic advice for anyone who’s going to be stepping into the gym for the first time in five months or possibly ever.

Take it slow at first. Set up a schedule that works for you but doesn’t drastically alter your lifestyle. If you’re trying to work out every night in the gym, you’re going to be fed up within a few days. Consider the federal guideline for two and a half hours weekly of moderate exercise.

Do something you enjoy. If you hate running on the treadmill, do something else. Exercise should not be a chore or you are going to find any good reason to avoid it. Try swimming laps, a cycling class or playing golf with a friend.

Wear proper footwear. Pain and injuries will stop an exercise routine faster than anything. Make sure your shoes match the sport you choose. Ask an instructor for advice. If you’re running, consider a professional fitting to find the right shoe for your arch and stride. If you have bunions or other problems with your feet, wearing orthotics in your athletic shoes can help you stay away from injuries.

And lastly, but most importantly: eat healthy foods in moderation. Not only does it help you lose weight but it makes you feel better, too.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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How would you react if your boyfriend or girlfriend gave you a pair of running shoes for Christmas?

Would you be insulted? Would you take it as a tacky hint that you need to lose a few pounds?

Or would you jump up and down with excitement? Maybe you’d even grab those running shoes, slip them on your feet and lace them up perfectly to see how they fit.

I’m hoping you would do the latter. I know I hope to be.

I have never been a runner. I’ve never understood how people can run outside for an hour and be happy about it. Just thinking about running on the treadmill makes me cringe.

I am the perfect example of someone who loves group exercise. I like talking to people, socializing as I sweat and making new friends in the process. I’m a group exercise instructor, go figure.

Yet, I did the unthinkable this year. I asked my husband to buy me some running shoes.

I didn’t ask for an iPhone or a Coach bag. I asked for sneakers.

Hear me out on this one.

I don’t plan on running every other day in the morning when it’s so dark you have to wear reflective tape. I’m not going to enter any half-marathons either.

But sometimes I wish I didn’t have to drive over to the gym at a certain time of day, with or without the kids, to get my workout. Sometimes, I just want to walk out my door and start my exercise. And I know from my experience teaching fitness that proper footwear is vital.

And that’s why I put a pair of Asics – hint, hint – on my Christmas list this year.

Come Christmas morning, that might just be me you see running around the neighborhood.

I’ll be sure to smile and wave.

Alice Warchol is a freelance writer and fitness instructor.

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My entire house smells like Christmas cookies.

Downstairs, my husband is cutting out bells, angels and Christmas trees for our two children to decorate.

I’m upstairs contemplating how yummy those cookies are going to taste.

You see, it’s hard for me to eat just one. Perhaps you understand.

So I’m hiding with my laptop, trying to ignore the delicious aroma wafting up the stairs.

Here’s my strategy: I’m going to eat a cookie. Not five cookies. Just one.

I can do this.

Like so many people, I have to consciously choose what I put on my plate and what I don’t. If I ate whatever I wanted, I’d easily gain 10 pounds this holiday season. Who needs that?

For the most part, I stick to my healthy eating habits around the holidays. I make sure my pantry and fridge are stocked with healthy choices that I like so I don’t give in to eating all the goodies that make their way into my house.

At the same time, I don’t believe in completely denying myself a little holiday treat.

So I’m going to have a cookie.

And it will be delicious.

Alice Warchol is a freelance writer and fitness instructor.

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You don’t have to tune into The Biggest Loser television show every week to enjoy the season finale.

Last night was like flipping the pages of a magazine loaded with “Before” and “After” pictures of people who barely look like themselves anymore. The only difference is that the slimmer silhouettes on TV are not doctored photographs for some alleged “miracle” weight-loss pill.

The contestants on The Biggest Loser are living proof that eating healthy meals and exercising consistently can work – incredibly well.

If the show didn’t make you want to start spending a few nights every week at the gym, maybe you missed the segment where Dr. H, a physician on the show, gave a medical update on three of the male contestants.

Each one had severe fatty hepatitis when they started the show. By the end of the 12 weeks, they had shrunk their livers to an extent not achievable through medication, Dr. H said.

Contestants Ramon and John also lost enough weight and improved their health that they are no longer considered diabetic. The men set a finale record for lowest body fat ratio at 15 percent.


Granted, the contestants on The Biggest Loser are at an advantage when it comes to losing weight. They are isolated for months from temptation and taught how to choose nutritious food and exercise regularly.

But it doesn’t take a reality TV show to lose weight.

It takes commitment. And that’s reality.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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I understand why people want to believe losing weight is as simple as taking a pill or going on the latest diet featured in a beauty magazine.

It’s hard to be overweight.

It can lower your confidence and lead to serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

It’s no wonder that thousands of people buy herbal and “natural” products that claim to “speed up metabolism” or “block the body’s absorption of fat.”

The scary truth isn’t that these supplements usually don’t work. It’s that they can be seriously hazardous to your health.

Look at this week’s action from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission. The agencies issued warning letters to companies that illegally market over-the-counter HCG products as “homeopathic” for weight loss.

For several months now, a growing number of people have been taking HCG – human chorionic gonadotropin – while often eating no more than 500 calories. The HCG products were sold in stores and over the internet in the form of drops, pellets and sprays. Doctors use HCG, a hormone produced by the human placenta, to treat female infertility, according to the FDA.

Not only is HCG not approved for weight-loss but restricting diets to 500 calories can be unhealthy, federal officials said.

“Consumers on such a very low calorie diet are at increased risk for side effects including gallstone formation, electrolyte imbalance and heart arrhythmias,” a FDA news release states.

The best way to lose weight is gradually – through proper diet and regular exercise.

You’ll like the side effects a lot better, too.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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It’s not hard to drop healthy eating habits around the holidays. Everywhere you go, someone offers you a Christmas cookie or a piece of fudge. Saying no doesn’t seem very polite, does it? It especially becomes tricky when it’s Grandma asking you to indulge in a little sweetness.

But you really don’t have to eat all the gingerbread cookies smiling at you from that holiday platter.

It’s OK to say no. Plenty of people do.

And no one should be offended or hurt that you’re trying to improve your health by losing weight.

Will one little Christmas cookie hurt?

It can if you can’t stop eating them for the next few weeks. Many people have trouble with eating in moderation.

And it’s good to admit that to yourself and others. Knowing your limit is important when it comes to controlling portion sizes and calories. When your friends, family members and co-workers understand that, too, they may be less likely to tempt you. In fact, a few of them may be struggling with temptation themselves.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to completely avoid treats all together.

Try these tips to stay on track with your weight loss goals:

  • Skip the neighborhood cookie exchange. Or, if you can handle it, attend the event but offer to bring coffee instead.
  • Eat your own lunch before the holiday office potluck. If you’re not hungry, it’s easier to ignore the stack of homemade fudge.
  • Keep holiday treats out of sight and reach. If you’ve heard this one before, it’s because it works. In the time that it takes you to find a step stool to reach the brownies, you might find the willpower to say no.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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I am a lucky girl.

I am reminded of this especially during the holidays.

I try not to brag about it too much, but my husband cooks.

The best part?  He’s really good at it.

It’s something he learned when he was a cash-strapped college student. But as you get older and more health conscious, you realize that not only is making your own food less expensive than eating out at restaurants, it’s usually better for you.

If you’re trying to lose weight, creating your own meals is one of the easiest ways to cut back sugar, calories and fat while increasing nutrition.

Take, for instance, the pumpkin pie.

If you buy one from the store, you’re going to be eating ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. Don’t believe me? Look at the label next time you’re in the store.

Using canned pumpkin and following a recipe may be no healthier either. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, lurks in cans. This so-called endocrine disruptor has been linked to infertility, breast and prostate cancers, diabetes and obesity.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I’m looking for in a piece of pie.

When I serve dessert this Thanksgiving, I’m going to fully enjoy knowing that my husband used fresh pie pumpkins for his recipe. In five minutes flat, he had them cut, scooped and sliced for the steamer.

Did I mention I’m a lucky girl?

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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older couple bikingI can’t help but want to cheer for the underdog. Maybe it’s because it makes winning that much sweeter.
Today, I’m rooting for the American public.
Perhaps you haven’t heard the latest dire prediction.

By 2020, the majority of American adults will either qualify as overweight or obese. Researchers from Northwestern Medicine also predict that more than half of us will suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions.
I guess part of me can’t believe that the obesity epidemic in our society today can get any worse. As it is, 72 percent of men and 63 percent of women are overweight or obese. Obese is when someone’s body mass index is greater than 30. A person qualifies as overweight when they reach a BMI of 25 to 29.
Another reason I think the predictions won’t come true is because people can lose weight with the right knowledge and support.
Whether it’s learning proper nutrition from a Registered Dietitian or hiring a personal trainer at the gym, weight loss can be achieved. For those who are seriously overweight, there are medically-supervised diets and bariatric surgery. Sometimes it takes physical therapy to recover from an injury that prevents exercise.
Lastly, I think the researchers who make these predictions are also forgetting to consider the obvious: losing weight feels really, really good.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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The last thing you want to do when your knees hurt is jump on the treadmill for an hour-long run.

A simple step aerobics class or walking lunges can send you rummaging through your gym bag for some ibuprofen. A good workout at the gym shouldn’t end with an ice pack.

But this is a predicament for many people struggling with weight loss and knee pain. How do you lose weight without hurting your knees more?

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure this out by yourself. Whether you’re working with a physical therapist or a sports medicine technician, knowledgeable health professionals can recommend an exercise routine that will help you safely burn calories.

Many people find that non-impact aerobic exercise, such as swimming and cycling, is effective for burning calories and dropping pounds – and that can significantly lessen knee pain. But ultimately, your knees – and the scale – will tell you what works best.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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