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The Gift of Health
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I’m giving myself a present this Christmas. Actually, I’m giving myself a present every day this holiday season—and I started a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. It’s called “health."

Most years I’ve gifted myself such things as “weight gain”, “indigestion”, or “food coma.” It begins with the pumpkin pie, stuffing, and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, immediately followed by Christmas baking, cookie exchanges, perpetually full candy bowls, company parties, edible gifts from friends and neighbors, and hopelessly busy days that result in ordering pizza for dinner. Long before Christmas, my permissive gift of gluttony reveals its ugly side.

The problem is that by the time I realize it, I am completely hooked. The food addictions (which lie dormant when eating healthfully) have kicked in, and I no longer possess the self-control to pass up the plethora of gingerbread men, sugar cookies, fudge, and toffee. I know that I should stop; all the sugary and fatty foods make me feel slightly sick and lethargic, and my tightening jeans constrict both my waistline and my self-esteem.

Ah, but not this year! So far, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my personal gift of health. It is the gift that keeps on giving in both physical and mental well-being. Regardless of the significant upsides, it still requires a deliberate choice and pre-planned parameters for success with balance. This year, I’ve made three rules to protect my gift.

Three Rules

1. Exercise for 30 minutes every day. Time is a commodity, but I’m committing to squeeze in a little exercise each day. It may be a brisk walk with the dog, a jog on the treadmill, or some intervals of calisthenics—the specific activity doesn’t matter, just so long as it activates me for half an hour. Rather than viewing exercise as drudgery, I view this daily time as a gift to myself. Usually by the end of it, I’m feeling better than I did when I started out and am thankful I took the time.

2. No Christmas baking except for what I will give away. If I allow myself to fill the house with sweets, I will inevitably eat them all. We will receive plenty of goodies from other people, so I need not add to the unhealthy stash.

3. Select special “cheat” days. It is unrealistic and unnecessary for me to refuse every single delicacy of the season. I will partake, but I will limit it to certain days that I’ve selected. These include the holidays themselves and the meals served at the parties I’m planning to attend. But, between the “cheats,” I intend to get right back on track with my healthy habits.

My rules may differ from yours, and that is okay. The point is to figure out strategies of your own that will help you have a happy, healthy, holiday season.

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By Hannah Henry. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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