A gift to yourself

One of the best ways to avoid gaining weight during the holiday eating season is to ramp up your exercise regimen.

Yeah, right.

Chalene Johnson knows it’s hard to squeeze exercise into your December schedule. But she’s convinced that even the most overwhelmed among us can make it happen.

Johnson, creator of TurboFire workout program and author of “Push: 30 Days to Turbocharged Habits, a Bangin’ Body, and the Life You Deserve” (Rodale, 2011), applies “secrets of success” gleaned through observing folks who’ve succeeded in business, marriage and other areas of life to the realm of weight management. Here are her tips for making exercise happen, no matter how busy or tired you are.

Build it into your schedule. Take 10 minutes first thing in the morning or, better yet, the night before to plan. First, schedule the things you absolutely must do, being sure to account for how much time those activities actually will take. Then add your daily exercise. “Treat it with the same dignity and respect you would any other important task,” Johnson says. Make use of the hour before dawn if you can. “Nobody needs you at 5:30 a.m.,” she says.

Whittle your list. Just for December, give yourself permission to drop a few things to make room for exercise. That could mean not volunteering in your kids’ schools, slowing down on the social media or cutting back on housecleaning. You could also outsource tasks such as gift-wrapping or untangling strands of lights.

Make your promise public. Telling people you plan to exercise regularly during the holidays makes you accountable. Enlist a friend (“someone who won’t let you slide”) to join you in person or on Facebook. Or get your office mates to agree to a daily lunchtime walk.

Create a “why” list. “Write down all the reasons why you want to make fitness a priority during the holidays,” Johnson says. Post it where you’ll see it every day. Or create it as a note or calendar item on your cellphone so you’ll have it with you all the time.

Dry skin? Moisturize your air.

Got the winter dry-skin blues? Unfortunately, that moisturizer you’ve been slathering on will only help so much.

“Your skin is 70 percent water,” says Robert Greenberg, a dermatologist practicing in Vernon, Conn. And the dry indoor heat this time of year saps the skin of its moisture.

“Your skin becomes dry because it lacks water, not because it lacks oil,” Greenberg says. Using moisturizers and creams doesn’t really help, he says, unless you apply them right after your shower or bath (or after washing your hands), when you have lots of water in your skin. Moisturizers act as a barrier against evaporating lots of water, but the effectiveness is temporary.

So, is drinking more water the solution? Greenberg says no, adding that dry skin is not a sign of overall dehydration.

The best way to combat dry skin in winter, Greenberg offers, is to “try to change the environment by putting more moisture in the air. Houseplants with lots of water, a humidifier, a pan of water on top of the wood stove” can help a room feel more like summer, he says.

“Pomegranates are a good produce choice for December,” says Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian in Atlanta and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “They’re in peak season, and you can store them in the fridge for up to two months.”

The fruit’s vibrant red seed sacs, which hold a hard kernel surrounded by juice, offer a bit of Vitamin C and potassium, Moore says, and a half-cup serving provides a healthy 3.5 grams of fiber. Thanks to the antioxidants they contain, pomegranates may help fight some cancers and possibly slow the growth of prostate cancer, Moore notes.

Moore suggests adding the tangy-sweet pomegranates seeds to Greek yogurt; tossing them with golden beets, goat cheese and salad greens for a winter salad; or reducing the juice to create a sauce for chicken or pork.

Pomegranate juice is tasty but not as good a choice as the seeds, Moore says. “Half a cup of juice has [about] 70 calories, just like half a cup of seeds,” she says. “But most people drink more than half a cup, and eight ounces adds up to [about] 135 calories.” Plus, she says, the juice contains no fiber.

That’s too bad, because pomegranate seeds can be hard to harvest. Moore suggests cutting the fruit into quarters and placing the pieces in a bowl of water. “The seeds will fall to the bottom, and the rind and pits will float to the top,” she says. You can freeze the seeds in an airtight container for up to three months, Moore notes; handle them with care, as they can stain your hands and clothing.

Pomegranate recipes

Here are three dishes to try from the Food section’s Recipe Finder, www.washingtonpost.com/recipes:

Brussels Sprouts California Style

Citrus, Mint and Pomegranate Salad

Pomegranate-Glazed Baby Beets

Go easy on the Glogg

Gary Rogg, assistant professor of internal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, has an interesting take on alcohol. “Alcohol is calories,” he says. “Fuel for the engine, if you will.” Accompanying your drinks with food and “drinking adequate amounts of water will naturally cut your desire to drink” by curbing your need for the carbs that drinking supplies. Hydrating ahead of time also can set you up for imbibing less through the evening, Rogg suggests.

In addition to the usual cautions against drinking and driving, mixing alcohol and medications and consuming alcohol when pregnant, Rogg reminds us that “the American Heart Association says up to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women is okay,” he says. And he warns that this doesn’t mean it’s okay to quaff eight drinks at a time on the weekend.

Before you go out on the holiday party circuit, Rogg recommends choosing a companion who can help you recognize if you’re taking happy hour a bit too far. “Once a person starts drinking, he loses perspective,” Rogg says. “People who are with you can help.”