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Last year’s Thanksgiving meal was a turning point in my holiday-food consumption. Historically, I’d use the holidays as an excuse to eat anything and everything in sight. Thanksgiving, in particular, was about how much food I could get onto one plate and how many times I could return to the buffet. And I wasn’t going back for salad, oh no: stuffing, brown-sugar-and-butter-coated sweet potatoes or another slice of pie were the only foodstuffs I could see.

However, after last year’s meal, I’ve changed my approach. I’ve lost that voracious appetite and replaced it with a desire to eat homemade, from-scratch, nutritious recipes, allowing myself to savor every bite. This year I shared cranberry sauce with candied ginger, Especially Good sweet potatoes and green beans with shallots and almonds, all of which were a hit. (Thanks to Whole Foods Market’s recipe box for those tasty and healthy dishes!) I still enjoyed a slice of pie and a scoop of stuffing, but I kept my portion sizes small.

Part of my influence came from the diet I was on at the time, part came from leaner times for my business, but mostly, I think I had just started to look at food differently last year. The points-based diet I was in 2009 had me looking at the food in front of me as a number; my work this year with our magazine now allows me to see my meals as nourishment and has encouraged me to seek food that will be filling, energizing and healing. It’s been a welcome change for my relationship with food — we get along much better now, thank you.

Still, while making peace is a huge step, I feel like this holiday season needs to be different. With all the parties and events, family get-togethers, dinners out with friends, is it possible to actually lose weight during the holidays? We’ve all heard that the old report of an average 7- to 10-pound weight gain this time of year is bunk, and that it’s really only 1 pound, on average. However, a study from Tufts University found that people who were already overweight gain more, closer to 5 pounds, in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. (Although, can that be attributed to our current habits — if we’re overweight and like food, wouldn’t we eat more as it becomes available to us? I know I do.) With 34 percent of American adults overweight, that 5-pound possibility can be really discouraging.

So I think we need to make a new plan. I say we need to use this time as motivation — this is a season to lose weight. Think of it as the ultimate gift: a healthier body. (Quite frankly, I think this is why I struggle to name what I want for Christmas when my family asks: I usually say snowpants or long underwear or snowshoes, items that will support my healthy outdoor activities, because all I really want is to be slimmer and fitter and feel better in this body. It’s the only gift I truly want, but only I can make it happen.) I’m using today to kick-off my Holiday Season Slimdown! Who’s with me?

If you’re on board but find yourself struggling with food temptations, check out this month’s “Holiday Food Frustration” article. I also picked up some tips in today’s live Twitter chat with our fitness editor, Jen Sinkler, and @MizFitOnline, who suggested to shift the focus to friends and family and the non-food and non-drink experiences of the holidays, and to make a plan, list your stress triggers, and create non-food ways to deal (find their chat on Twitter under #ELfit).

Let me know how you are doing and how you’ve coped with challenges during this busy time of year. Another great gift: support from our awesome community of readers! Let’s help keep each other on track!

Thoughts to share?

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