Susan Johnson

“I recently read that the most effective way to decrease childhood obesity is for adults, primarily parents, to model healthy habits. When I think about Thanksgiving Day, I think about traditions. Growing up, our Thanksgiving Day was spent eating and watching football. But as I create new traditions for my children, I've made some changes. “One is to start the day with a turkey trot — fun for everyone and a great way to create a little calorie deficit before indulging. I love that the Charleston (Turkey Day Run) event has a kids run ... “Finally, we always get outside after dinner, for walks, flag football, Holiday Festival of Lights (walking the enchanted trail), even taking advantage of the “Thanksgiving creep” and shopping gets folks moving and away from the table.”— Susan Johnson, director of the office of health promotion at MUSC.

s Thanksgiving approaches, so will come the bombardment of advice on how to avoid “holiday weight gain.”

Dr. Ann Kulze

“This (getting away from food) is important because our immediate environments and the foods in it have the single greatest impact on what and how much we eat. The environment can trump self-control, hunger, knowledge and even taste as the overriding determinant of what we consume. “So yes, get out of the places where foods will call to us and into places where there are not foods. Better yet an environment where there are other pleasant distractions ... walking, running or cycling in beautiful natural settings.”— Dr. Ann Kulze, wellness expert and author of “Eat Right for Life” series

From portion control and eating before going to parties to avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, we all know what to do, or should. It appears more of an issue of execution rather than knowledge.

“Plan some outside apres-dinner physical activities to get people away from the TV and leftovers. Perhaps hold off on dessert 'til after this activity break to give your brain a chance to get the word that your belly's been fed. (I suggest) Walks around the neighborhood, or anywhere you wish to go, to games of pickup football, volleyball, badminton or even croquet.“When it comes to the food, don't chide yourself for enjoying it. Just think about which of the items you enjoy the most and have reasonable servings of them, and just a dab of other stuff if you want to be polite. This is perhaps the most predictable meal of the year, so you should be able to figure it out well in advance.”— Patrick M. O'Neil, director of the MUSC Weight Management Center and president of the Obesity Society.

One easy tactic may just be to minimize the time near the refrigerator, kitchen and living room in the first place. Go outside or at least leave the house and office. Inevitably, stepping out not only removes you from food environments, but often requires more movement.

And regular exercise, after all, is the second piece of having a healthy holiday. It not only burns calories, but it eases stresses of the season caused by irregular work schedules, family feuds, shopping, partygoing, and year-end financial obligations, as well as any monster credit-card bills awaiting you in January.

On Page D3 are five ideas to get away from it all in the Lowcountry in the next six weeks, including professional advice from Dr. Patrick M. O'Neil of MUSC's Weight Management Center.

Go into the darkness

One factor that often does play into holiday slug syndrome is the dark. The combination of shorter days and the end of daylight saving time earlier this month leaves many daytime workers discouraged from taking a walk, run or bike ride.

There are several lighted paths that locals turn to when it gets dark. A Facebook inquiry drew some of these suggestions.

While many who exercise after dark mentioned the Cooper River bridge bike and pedestrian lane because it is well-lit and separated from car traffic, others offered an array of options, including under the bridge.

Isle of Palms resident Theris Trupos says she likes to train under the bridge at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park because of the lighting, parking, bathrooms and “just enough people” to be safe without being crowded.

Peter Hull of the Wagener Terrace neighborhood in Charleston runs on the campus of The Citadel and on Lockwood Drive. “The latter has wide sidewalks, most of the way, and fairly good lighting,” he said. “A turnaround at Broad and Rutledge is a nice 10K.”

Kevin Adcock and Liz Rennie, who both live in North Charleston, suggest walking or running around Park Circle, which Adcock adds is “festively lit and decorated.”

Cristina Young of Charleston heads to the streets south of Broad, such as Legare, Lenwood, Gibbs, South Battery, “where there is very little traffic, and lots of pretty holiday decorations and lights on all the old houses.”

Robert Miller of Mount Pleasant was among many who like the area in Mount Pleasant on the harbor side of Coleman Boulevard, from the Pitt Street bridge and Old Village to Patriots Point.

Kendall Shows of Summerville likes downtown Summerville starting from the YMCA. He and some friends have loops, including the Piggly Wiggly loop, that they rely on.

Climb a wall

If the holidays make you feel like climbing the wall, then go right ahead — it might make you feel a lot better.

Adventure isn't limited to the outdoors, and indoor climbing in Charleston got a major boost this year with the opening of Coastal Climbing, a climbing gym on Upper King Street. And just in time for the holidays, owners Jeanna Crockett and Kensie Whitfield are waiving $45 initiation fees during December.

The climbing style is bouldering, or without ropes, but Crockett and Whitfield say that shouldn't scare away beginners.

Day fees are $10 for use of the gym, $3 for rental shoes and $2 for a chalk bag. A 10-climb pass is $80, while a month membership is $50 with a $5 discount for military and students.

Visit coastalclimbing.com.

James Island County Park has an outdoor climbing wall as another option. Call 795-4386.

Hike with the birds

Distracting yourself from pecan pie, holiday ham and egg nog doesn't necessarily involve physical exertion.

The Lowcountry is blessed with an array of opportunities for strolls in the woods while taking in the sights and sounds of birds and other wildlife.

The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission hosts regular morning bird walks, 8:30-11:30 a.m. Saturdays and Wednesdays in the coming weeks through the forests and former rice fields of Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel for a fee of $5. The walks will be held Wednesday, Saturday, Nov. 28, and Dec. 1, 5, 8, 12, 15, 19 and 22.

Walks also will be held 8:30-10:30 a.m. Dec. 13 at James Island County Park and 8:30-10:30 a.m. Dec. 14 on the northeast end of Folly Beach at the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. Both are free. More at www.ccprc.com.

Farther afield from the metro area is the Audubon Center & Sanctuary at Francis Beidler Forest in Harleyville that contains 16,000 acres of the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress and tupelo gum swamp in the world. A 1.75-mile self-guided tour, along with special events, offers a chance to breathe some really fresh air and get away from the feasting.

Beidler nightwalks will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Dec. 22. Reservations are required. The fee is $10. Visit beidlerforest.audubon.org.

And while not deep in the woods, the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw also opens its doors for tours 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. The cost is $12 for adults, $10 for youths and free for children under age 6 (must be accompanied by parent or guardian).

www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org

Ride a trail

Off-road bicycling, or “mountain biking,” has been a second-tier activity because of the flat, aquatic landscape of the Lowcountry, but that's changing. And the cooler, less buggy weeks in the holiday season are an ideal time to break the bike out of the garage.

Besides miles of trails in the Francis Marion National Forest and in Goose Creek's Marrington Plantation (which requires a Department of Defense identification card), the newest addition is the Wannamaker North Trail.

The trail, designed by Brad Phillips and carved out by the Lowcountry Fat Tire Freaks, is eight miles long, winds through a forest of live oak and beech trees, and is open to all levels of mountain bicyclists, as well as hikers, walkers and runners. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset. The fee to enter is $1.

While the address to the trail is 455 Westview Blvd., apparently Google Maps, Bing and MapQuest are not reliable for directions. That and more information is available at www.ccprc.com/wnt.

Run, Fido, run

If you're stressing out during the holidays, there's a good chance your dog is, too.

So get both of you out of the house. Because of the cooler weather, the excursions can be longer and Charleston has more than a dozen dog parks to choose from.

Many dog owners also like to head to the beach, but each one has a different set of rules.

For one of the best rundowns of dog parks and beach rules with web links, go to www.sciway.net/tourism/dog-friendly-travel-guide.html.