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Holiday gifts to lift spirits

If you’re still struggling with your holiday gift list, help is on the way. I’ve got a lot of good ideas for you this year and none of them involve furry sweaters or a $1,000 Prada backpack. All these recommended Healthy Lifestyle gifts should be given with love, not lectures, and an unconditional acceptance of the person to whom you give it. Those rules behind us, please consider the following:

Body Work

Here’s a holiday gift that’s sure to please, unless your dear one is very, very ticklish. A gift certificate for a great massage is one way to go, or you might dare to be a little different and sign your friend up for a session with a reflexologist, someone trained in cranio-sacral work, a hot stone therapist, etc. My favorite (and shamelessly extravagant) way of giving this gift is to book two treatments at the same time - one for you, one for your pal - and then go celebrate the holiday season with a great lunch and a lot of water.

Time with a trainer or coach

This is the kind of gift that keeps on giving. Offer your fitness-minded friend - this is a terrific gift for a kid! - a private lesson or two in golf, swimming, tennis, running, dancing or whatever activity turns them on. You might also turn them on to an expert in yoga - so they can learn how to breathe. Even one hour, one lesson, can boost enthusiasm, break through plateaus and jumpstart new goals.

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A basket of goodies

Consumables make a great gift, but watch out for chemically tainted meats and artery-clogging fruitcakes. Instead, pack your own basket of goodies filled with choice items that reflect your tastiest understanding of healthy food. Some personal preferences: organic fruits, nuts and berries; special salsas with baked chips; great breads and exotic jams; fine wines and sparkling waters. Top your basket off with a copy of my No. 1 favorite book for 2007 “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, an eye-opening, life-changing look at the food we eat and the health damage it can cause. (You’ll discover why corn rhymes with porn.)

Make a donation

Conscious giving is all the rage. What a fabulous bandwagon to hop on. Why throw away money on another silly tie when you can save someone’s eyesight, fund a well for clean water or introduce an inner-city girl to the joys of team play? There are many worthy not-for-profits tempting you to be generous: www.Kiva.org and www.Seva.org and GirlsintheGame.org are three of my favs. Are you worried your giftees will feel cheated? Don’t be. Your brilliant explanatory note will make them feel like a hero.

The gift of time

There’s no better gift than this. Make a holiday plan to treat your friend or family member to a shared fitness adventure: a hike in the woods, a climb on a wall, a run in the park, an hour of skating, whatever activity feels like fun. Include a slow food lunch or dinner and lots of laughs. Is there a nicer way to say I love you, I care about you, I want you to be happy? I don’t think so.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.