Certain things can be strictly engrained in you.

The way you say hello; learned early on by emulating your mother.

“What’s going on, honey.”

How you tie your tie and the one you prefer. Mirroring your father’s slim black one he’d dawn every Sunday.

The way your hands tighten when you walk as if drill Sgt. Chuck Brady is still breathing down your neck.

Right down to the food you eat. How it’s prepared, its ingredients. The way it’s cooked, served, and enjoyed. Just like grandma used to do.

The holidays, a combination of Family, heritage, beliefs and food, is a prime example of engrained habits and tradition for every adult.  A major staple of the holidays — the menu.

You know what I’m referring to. The lightly glazed ham, baked to perfection and juxtaposed by preferred assorted sides: rolls, yams, oven roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, with or without gravy, casseroles, pies, the choices go on. And so do the portions and trips back to the kitchen.

The holidays are bar none the biggest yearly obstacle to anyone dedicated to fitness and total body health. The one time of the year where time stops and indulgence is for once not just okay, but encouraged.

At least that’s how it has always been in my Family; especially my mother’s southwest Louisiana, Cajun family, who heed no caution when devising a holiday gathering’s menu. The food is plentiful and the deep-frying tactic abundantly used.

Every return trip is a trip back into a time warp. Nothing has changed. Not only is everyone in the same job, living at the same house, friends with the same people, the stories ending with the same punch line, but also the food is as always, bountiful and severely nap inducing.

So what can we do?

Moderation

If your fitness and daily body-mood is important to you, just one plate will do. You can enjoy the holidays without making that second or third trip to the kitchen. Bottom line: Make the first trip count.

Portion Sizing

This one is in conjunction with the first on our list. Before you ever battle your temptation to go for a second gun run, make sure your plate isn’t overloaded to begin with. Less of all the things you love equal less damage with the same enjoyment to a disciplined soul. Bottom line: Don’t over do it. Just like with your credit card.

Balance

The holidays are never just one day. In the days leading up to the big day, make a calculated effort to enforce your exercise routine and meal plan. Bottom line: Eat healthy and exercise before the big day and jump back on the horse quickly to stem off a rut.

Bottom Line:

Don’t be like Marie or the Soup Nazi. Find balance.

If you need help orchestrating a top-notch holiday meal, there are a number of options in the surrounding area. Farmers markets and organic whole foods services are all over the counties, like Fayetteville’s Carolina Grown, offer varying weekly, monthly, and yearly food packages that come from and support local farmers and growers.

You can also find what you need close to home. Your Fort Bragg Commissary’s have noticed the rising demand for natural, organic foods and are answering the call to arms.

“Our commissaries are primary players in the Healthy Base Initiative,” said John Moore, the South Post Commissary Store Director.

Moore says Fort Bragg residents can take advantage of his store’s locally grown produce, including sweet potatoes and collards.

He also directs shoppers to Kay’s Kitchen on www.commissaries.com. There, after searching Fort Bragg’s north and south stores, you can find healthy recipes.

You’re now fully-mission-capable to survive the holiday season. All it takes is the same discipline and determination you exemplify in your daily exercise and work habits.

Just remember: no tofu.