The entire holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s and maybe even through Super Bowl Sunday, is filled with occasions where you are encouraged by societal norms, family and friends, to eat, drink and be merry. For those of you concerned about your weight, it is a perilous time of year. The whole tenor and mood of the holiday season is to let your inhibitions go, to let your guard down and to have fun. As a result, you are very likely to weigh more on January 2 than any other day of year. The ensuing winter season is when your body enters a natural state of fat accumulation. Since the weather and less daylight hours discourages outside exercise, nature conspires to make winter weight gain likely and winter weight loss very, very difficult. If you gain just two to three pounds over the holidays, in just 10 years you can gain a truly considerable amount of weight.

The holiday season, including the food and alcohol laden July 4th holiday, is fraught with weight challenges. The ready access to an abundance of free food and alcohol is a huge trigger event prompting overeating and over-drinking. To begin, I suggest that before each prime occasion where overeating and/or over-drinking is likely, you repeat to yourself the following statement:

“I know that today presents a special eating challenge, but I choose and I pledge that I will still eat (and drink) smart and in moderation and always Take 5.”

You can also employ the following tactics. The day or two before a holiday event, you can consciously moderately reduce your caloric intake and increase your physical activity. On the day of the social occasion, do not completely skip a meal as a counter measure, as this makes overeating far more likely. You should, however, consider eating a strategic snack, one that is calorie light, but filling. After the event, for the next day or two, I suggest that you use the following routine. That is, be especially mindful that you need to eat very carefully over the next few days.

If you are with your partner, or a date (at least some dates anyway), you can try to use the following plan to boost your intent and resolve to Eat Smart  ̶  Eat in Moderation. Ask them to give you a pre-arranged signal, innocuous to others but easily observable by you, if they see that you are overindulging in food or drink. Just having such an arrangement, even if you never employ it, will make you more mindful and alert about the amount you are consuming. If your partner or date does give you the signal, it may well save you hundreds of calories that you might have otherwise consumed.

At a holiday party or social affair, eat and socialize, but not both at the same time. When you eat and talk, it is much more difficult to be highly mindful as you tend to be very distracted. It is then hard to be alert and focused on how much you are eating or drinking. Serendipitously, being single-minded is likely to also improve your interaction with whomever you are talking to, by making you both a better listener and a better conversationalist.

Another tip is to spend more time with people or friends who are lite in spirit and in weight. We all naturally tend to mirror and mimic the behavior of those we are around. If their eating and drinking is immoderate and indulgent, you are much more likely to be so as well.

Many parties and holiday dinners are served buffet-style, and these represent an especially challenging situation. You are much more likely to take extra large portions of the things you like from a buffet than when you are served by others. So survey the buffet first and decide which items you most want to have. In addition, try to not fill one super-large plate with all of your food. If possible, use a small plate for the highest-calorie foods and a larger plate for the lower-calorie fruits and vegetables. Also, be mindful that even eating healthy foods like turkey can pack a lot of calories if you overfill your plate.

Try not to be among the last to leave the party, especially at a party where alcohol and appetizers are distributed freely. The longer you stay, the higher your risk of overeating or overdrinking. As the night wears on, your inhibitions tend to be relaxed, your willpower wanes and the odds of your over-indulging skyrocket.

If you follow any, or all, of this advice, you can survive the season with minimal to no weight gain and still enjoy the holidays.