When in Doubt, It's Sugar Over Fat

Standing in front of yet another heaped holiday buffet, you find yourself debating a lesser-of-two-evils question: Which is worse, fatty foods or sugary goodies?

"If you have to indulge, go for the sugar," says Jody Lander Spector, a dietitian who directs a weight-control program at St. Vincent Medical Center. "Fat has double the amount of calories, gram for gram, as a carbohydrate like sugar."

Evelyn Tribole--an Irvine dietitian and American Dietetic Assn. spokeswoman, is in agreement: "Peppermint candies, for instance, are pretty much fat-free."

Some goodies, of course, have both fat and sugar, so the trick is to minimize the fat. "Choose fruit pies over cream or nut pies, which have more fat," says Spector. Adds Tribole: "When you eat pie, leave most of the crust. That's where much of the fat is."

Above all, once you've picked your poison, enjoy it. "If you're going to indulge," Tribole says, "have something you really like that is not available other times of the year. And savor the moment."

Year-End Evaluations Fill Personal Needs

Year-end reviews aren't just mainstays of the media.

Self-evaluation of the year's events and accomplishments is common for most people, therapists say.

What's behind our need to rehash the past?

"Part of rehashing is facing our own aging," says Marc Schoen, a psychologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "Reviewing accomplishments helps us decide if we're moving fast enough through life, if we're accomplishing what we set out to do. It also represents our desire to learn from the past and to gain perspective."

Dr. Edward Stainbrook, USC professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, agrees: "It's a way to become more cognizant of who you are and where you're going. It's an effort to boil down the year's experience into something that makes sense."

Year-end evaluations can help us formulate new goals and directions, Schoen says. To do that, individuals must move from evaluating to resolving, Schoen and Stainbrook agree.

Rehashing too much can be counterproductive. "People who focus too much on the past can hold themselves back," Schoen says. "And focusing exclusively on failures rather than successes can be a way of punishing themselves."

Step Up in Class With New Exercise Program

Bored with your same-old aerobics class? Try bench or step aerobics, a new twist in which exercisers work out to music while stepping up and down and back and forth on wooden or plastic benches. One foot is always on the floor.

Bench aerobics pack all the cardiovascular punch of conventional classes but little of the orthopedic impact, some experts claim.

The fitter the exerciser, the higher the bench. Beginners try 4-inch heights, the more advanced up to about 12 inches, says Richard Walsh, aerobics director of Mezzeplex in West Los Angeles, where two to three bench aerobics classes are offered daily.

Bench classes also will debut in early January at Voight Fitness & Dance Center, West Hollywood, says co-owner Henry Siegel. Other health clubs are expected to follow suit.

"Overall, it's wonderful exercise," says Kathie Davis of Idea, The Assn. for Fitness Professionals in San Diego, who recently evaluated bench aerobics. "It's low impact with creative moves. Exercisers can add variety by using arm weights."

"It feels much easier on the body than conventional aerobics," adds Robin Siegelman, 30, of Los Angeles, who takes several bench classes a week. "It helps tone lower-body muscles more than conventional classes."

Bench aerobics might also change the look of classes. Proponents hope its less choreographed form will attract more men than conventional aerobics, where women outnumber men 9-1.

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