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Here come the holidays.

It starts today when trick-or-treaters head out into their neighborhood. Come tomorrow, the Christmas commercials begin airing. Some malls already have out their Christmas decorations.

This is the time of year when many people give up their healthy eating habits.

The tell themselves: “It’s Halloween. We’re supposed to eat candy.”

Or they’ll say: “I’ll have a piece of pumpkin and apple pie. It’s Thanksgiving.”

And by the time Christmas rolls around, they’ll explain to their friends: “I’m just eating whatever I want. I’m going to start exercising after New Year’s.”

Moderation is a beautiful thing, because it works. But how many people abide by it?

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to avoid holiday treats all together.

If you usually give out cookies and candies to your friends and coworkers, consider small gifts instead. The less time you spend baking in the kitchen, the fewer empty calories you will be tempted to eat.

Start new traditions with your family that don’t revolve around food. Go caroling in your neighborhood or ice skating with your children.

Remember, the holidays are about giving.

Give yourself the gift of health.

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Halloween can be pretty scary if you’re trying to lose weight.

Do you dread filling up that big Halloween candy bowl?

There’s a reason I still haven’t filled mine.

Who needs the extra temptation every time you walk by it?

When I head into the candy section at the store this weekend, I’m going to let my children choose what kind of candy to give out this Halloween. I figure if I don’t pick up my favorite treat – those tiny foil-wrapped Reese’s peanut butter cups – I won’t have to constantly tell myself that there’s no nutritional value to how they melt perfectly in my mouth. Or how many minutes running on the treadmill it will take to burn off the extra calories.

Once Halloween is over, any leftover candy from the big bowl gets bagged up and given away. My kids, still young enough to go trick-or-treating, are allowed to keep their candy, but we have limits on when and how much they eat every day. I also place their stash up high where they can’t reach it without my help.

Do I seem a little strict?

You can blame my parents.

My dad was a dentist. We rarely had candy in the house. Come Halloween, my mom handed out loose, unshelled peanuts. Some kids actually loved it.

At the time, it embarrassed me. Today, I can appreciate the lesson my parents were teaching.

And it taught me something else about peanuts: they taste really good with chocolate.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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Do you like the flavor of salt? Do you keep a salt shaker on your dinner table?

Chances are you’re consuming too much sodium – even if you’re not using a salt shaker.

Federal researchers recently discovered that nearly everyone who should reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg consumes much more than that. Additionally, 90 percent of Americans who should limit their intake to less than 2,300 mg of sodium failed, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Where is all the sodium coming from, if it’s not from the shaker?

Researchers say it’s in frozen foods, canned foods, store bought meals and restaurant entrees.

If you want to lower the amount of sodium in your diet, try these helpful tips from the American Heart Association:

  • Avoid eating processed, prepared and pre-packaged foods.
  • Choose low-sodium versions of food.
  • Read labels.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose unsalted nuts, seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.
  • Use unsalted or low-sodium soups and broths.
  • Never add salt to cooking.
  • Use spices instead of salt.
  • Do not keep the salt shaker on your dinner table.
  • Avoid eating salted potato chips, lunch meats, hot dogs, salted pork, ham hocks, dill pickles and canned foods.

Remember these measurements when you cook with salt:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt = 600 mg sodium
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,200 mg sodium
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,800 mg sodium
  • 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Heart Association

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Pain. Stiffness. Discomfort.

These are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

But in today’s world, arthritic patients can improve their mobility and strength with physical therapy treatment programs.

In fact, a new study shows that people who have rheumatoid arthritis – yet believe in their ability to achieve physical activity goals – are more likely to overcome some of its effects. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the lining of the joints.

Researchers from the Netherlands also found that these patients report feeling less pain and enjoy a better quality of life. The study was published in the online edition of the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

“Our results suggest that an increased focus on self-efficacy enhancement, realistic goal-setting, and techniques that increase the likelihood of goal achievement will assist clinicians and researchers to develop interventions that have a positive impact on pain reduction and quality of life outcomes for rheumatoid arthritis patients,” said Keegan Knittle, the study’s lead author.

An estimated 1.3 million adults in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

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If you want to lose weight by eating fewer calories, try eating around men.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, eating around men makes you eat smaller portions, according to a new study that examines our eating habits.

I’m not really surprised that female college students tend to eat less when they’re sitting next to guys their own age. A lot of girls I know feel like they have to be thinner in order to be attractive – regardless of whether that’s really true.

But I have to wonder why this same theory applies to men.

I really doubt they’re trying to impress each other with their portion control.

The researchers weren’t really sure what caused that result either.

In the study, men ordered roughly 952 calories each when they sat by themselves. When they shared their meal with women, they ordered 1,162 calories, according to the study.

Before you start thinking about who to invite for lunch, consider this: it really shouldn’t matter.

I think the point of this study is to understand that some of our food choices have nothing to do with hunger or nutritional value.

I wonder what happens when people eat alone.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

Source: Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Last night on The Biggest Loser, viewers watched a women shed 14 pounds in one week. How did she do it? She took her personal trainer from The Biggest Loser Ranch to her home in Frisco, Texas.

With celebrity trainer Bob Harper at their side, who wouldn’t lose weight? Right?

Wrong.

I think the contestant, 41-year-old Sunny, deserves a lot of credit for the pounds she sweated off during those seven days. She ran so fast on the treadmill at her local gym that she fell on her butt behind the machine. And she didn’t really whine too much as she lugged giant bags of feed up countless stairs. I had to chuckle when Bob made her push a pick up truck by herself. This girl does not give up.

I hope people watching this show at home realize you don’t need Bob Harper encouraging you all day long to get a great workout and lose weight.

This is reality TV. It’s not how the majority of people stay fit and healthy.

And nobody knows this more than the trainers.

I have to applaud when they tell contestants that this a permanent lifestyle change that needs to be embraced and practiced everywhere you live – not just on The Biggest Loser Ranch.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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You want to lose weight, but you just don’t have the time. You work eight hours in the office, and when you get home there are too many chores waiting for you. Dinner, kids, housecleaning…and by the time everything is done it is time for bed and the new day, where everything starts all over again.

Intentions are always good, but intentions don’t assist with weight loss. You need to take action. Now, it is not suggested that you quit your job, or leave your family or let the dishes pile up in the sink. One important key to weight loss is constant movement. By burning the calories you consume throughout the day, you stand to lose pounds. You may ask how you can lose weight while being chained to an office desk all day. It can be done, with a bit of self-control and know-how. Here are a few tips to get started.

Avoid unnecessary snacking! If you are like many American who work nine to five in the cubicle, you may have noticed you have put on a few pounds over time. The morning pastries and doughnuts left in the employee lounge are certainly not helping matters, and when your only exercise is the short walk to the vending machines you know something has to be done. But how do you combat the desire to snack as you work? Long hours may lead to boredom and the temptation to nibble in between reports, true, but you can fight back.

Always keep water at your desk, and drink when you have urges to get a candy bar. Rather than plunk change into a machine for something unhealthy, bring a more nutritious treat to work. Many grocery stores offer bulk selections of veggies and dried fruit, trail mixes and other treats. Just mind the labels, because some things sold in the organic or “health food” sections may have added sugars and sodium content you don’t need.

Take five to stretch! Prolong sitting can be detrimental to your health. You might find your posture failing, poor circulation in your limbs, and you may feel fatigued. A human being can only do so much in one position, so it is necessary to get the blood pumping.

Take small motivational breaks at work when you can. Stand up, stretch, engage in deep breathing exercises. Consult a yoga manual and learn a few positions you can do in a small space, as yoga practice offers many benefits with regards to mental and physical health. A few breaks during the day can make a world of difference and improve your physical and mental abilities, not to mention your work.

Walk! In this age of computer communication, you may notice co-workers chatting via instant messaging and intercoms. While effective, it doesn’t do much for your physique just to sit. If what you have to communicate is not urgent and doesn’t require you to be at your desk, get up and confer with your co-workers face to face. The mere acts of standing and walking is enough to start the blood pumping to your body. You won’t burn the same amount of calories as a marathon runner at the big race, but you will be moving. Every step counts.

When you go to lunch, choose places within walking distance of the office. Don’t let poor weather discourage you from the opportunity to stretch your legs (unless, it’s a complete monsoon out there). Better yet, make time during this period to eat and exercise with an extended power walk.

Use the Buddy System! Losing weight can be a daunting task, more so if you go at it alone. Why not recruit a co-worker or two to join you on this journey? A group walk during lunch can not only improve one’s health, but it can do wonders for office morale and socializing. You may find you have more in common with your peers than you realize.

A healthy employee is often a happy employee. Just taking a few steps for motivation during work can contribute to a gradual, effective weight loss with many more possible benefits.

Kat Lively

As a fitness instructor, I meet a lot of people who want to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle.

I watch people work out for weeks, take the weight off and sometimes put the pounds back on.

So when I meet someone who’s managed to lose 50 pounds – and keep it off for a long period time – I have to know how they did it.

For my new friend “Terrie,” it was simply a matter of watching how much she ate.

She decided the only way weight loss would work for her was if she didn’t have to change what she ate – just how much.

That way, she wouldn’t gain weight if she stopped eating a certain brand of diet products.

Terrie began her weight loss quest with the dinner plate. She swapped it for a salad plate. Everything she ate for breakfast, lunch or dinner had to fit on the salad plate. Even her kids knew. When they set the table, they put out regular plates for themselves and a salad plate for their mom.

I know what you’re wondering. Couldn’t she just fill up her salad plate with second or third helpings?

Yes, she could have. But Terrie told me that by the time she finished her salad plate, she wasn’t hungry anymore.

She paid attention to that key physical signal that so many of us have a hard time noticing.

She stopped eating when she was full.

And after a year, she lost 50 pounds and fit in a size 6 pair of pants.

Now, Terrie also has something else working in her favor. She loves to garden and eat natural foods. It’s a healthy eating habit that she’s sharing with her children, too.

Does she sometimes eat pizza?

Yes. But, Terrie says, it has to fit on the salad plate.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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