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Eat, Drink and Be Merry, for Tomorrow We Shall Diet

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Ever notice how we're constantly bombarded by billboards, ads and signs inviting us to eat 24/7? Food tastes good. It's pleasurable, and it's everywhere, especially during the holidays. No wonder so many Americans struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

The holiday season is especially tricky to navigate, because not only is party fare plentiful, but we anxiously anticipate one of the most common New Year's resolutions: lose weight and get in shape.

Psychologically, when we sense an upcoming time of deprivation, we tend to adopt a "last supper" mindset, resulting in over-indulgence and regret. After we loosen our belts a holiday notch, the January diet-mongers come knocking, with tempting weight control measures.

My advice: walk away.

After 30-plus years in the dietetics profession, I promise you that dieting leads to unhealthy relationships with food. F-A-T is not a four letter word, but D-I-E-T is.

This holiday season, let's borrow a tip from the Japanese. Those living in Okinawa practice one of the secrets to longevity: eating less. Hara hachi bu describes the practice of eating until we are only 80 percent full, enabling us to enjoy food while avoiding unwanted weight gain. Practicing moderation through hara hachi bu allows us to enjoy those scrumptious holiday dishes without trading quality ingredients for lower calorie, less tasty alternatives.

Check out these Japanese dietary guidelines from the Japan Dietetic Association. Their unique recommendations are an excellent reminder that culture and connection are just as important as the food itself. Remember some of these tips this holiday season and perhaps you will avoid over-indulgence while still feeling happy and satisfied:

Have delicious and healthy meals that are good for your mind and body.

Enjoy communication at the table with your family and/or other people and participate in the preparation of meals.

Respect your food culture and apply it to your daily diet.

Enjoy natural bounty and change of seasons by using local food products and ingredients in season, and incorporating into holiday and special dishes.

When January rolls around, remember this tip from the Japanese: "Good health is essential to beauty. Do not attempt to lose too much weight."

Here at Organic Valley, we wish you a wonderful holiday season filled with cookies, eggnog (or Eggnog Cookies!) - enjoyed in moderation, of course - and the happiest of new years!

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