I know it’s hard. There are lots more parties at this time of year, and at every one of them, there will be a plethora of home-baked desserts and high calorie snacks. Everybody else is eating it! And if you refuse, other party-goers are liable to look at you askance and say, “What, are you on a diet? Come on, just try one, they’re amazing!” …So of course you cave. Then you do it again at the next party, and the next… and suddenly you’ve gained ten pounds in a month.

Here are ten tricks to help you ward off the weight gain this Christmas (without offending anybody!)

  1. Plan Ahead. If you’re headed to a holiday party, you can pretty much bank on it that most of the snacks aren’t going to be healthy. So the same rule applies here as to the grocery store: don’t go hungry! Eat something healthy in advance, and you will find your self control much improved in the face of temptation. And bonus: people are more likely to understand when your excuse not to partake is that you already ate, or that you’re not hungry.
  2. Schedule More Exercise. You should already engage in aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes three to five times per week, stretching as often, and incorporating some sort of resistance (body weight or weight training) for 15-20 minutes 2-3 times per week. But during the holiday season, step it up. Add in 1-2 extra days of both aerobic and weight training, or tack on an extra 10-15 minutes each time you work out. That should help to compensate for the extra treats you’ll consume this holiday season.
  3. Substitute Whole Grains and Limit Sugar.  When you’re in control of the recipe, you can minimize the weight gain potential by limiting sugar and simple carbs (which are basically sugar). Try substituting whole grain flour for enriched white flour whenever you can—just realize that it’ll make your finished product heavier. Cut the sugar by a third or by half. (You can actually bring out the sweet flavor and limit the amount of sugar needed by adding a pinch of salt, too.) If your family and friends don’t mind the flavor, you can even substitute stevia for the sugar, which won’t spike your blood sugar and also isn’t on the nasty chemical list.
  4. Get In Your Veggies. There’s always a veggie tray. If there isn’t, bring one! These will help to fill you up, and also counterbalance some of the empty calories you’ll otherwise consume. Technically you should get in between five and nine servings of fruits and veggies daily.
  5. One Dessert per Day. Obviously you can’t avoid the Christmas treats completely. But if you decide in advance that you’re only going to “cave” once per day (or maybe a few times per week—even better!) then you can do so guilt-free, and you will also have greater willpower to resist the rest of the time. It’s always easier to stick to a resolution you’ve made in advance than to try to summon the willpower in the moment.
  6. Take Charge (and just say no!) There’s definitely a social expectation to partake, partly because enjoyment increases when shared. Say no politely, and give an (honest) reason: “I’ve had plenty, thank you!” You’re much less likely to be pressured a second time if you give a reason for your no. It’s also sometimes helpful to nurse a low-calorie beverage, such as carbonated water or herbal tea. This way you can still participate without too much compromise.
  7. Avoid Temptation. If you know a certain coworker always brings fresh baked goods to the office to share, try to say hi to her somewhere other than at her desk, where she keeps them!  Get rid of your candy stash and substitute mixed nuts and grapes or carrots instead. If you don’t put yourself in a tempting situation in the first place, resistance will be that much easier.
  8. Pick the Small Plate. Sometimes you get to choose whether to select a full-size paper plate, or the smaller variety. Make your selection last longer by taking small bites at intervals and chewing slowly, instead of wolfing down the whole thing right away.
  9. Don’t Take Home Leftovers.  If you don’t have them in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat them. Instead, stock your fridge full of real food with high nutritional content, such as fruits, veggies, nuts, fish, free-range eggs, grass-fed meat, whole grains and the like. That way, when you get hungry at home, these will be your only options.
  10. Careful of the Beverages! One of the sneakiest ways to cram in an extra couple hundred calories per day is with high-sugar beverages, like hot apple cider, hot chocolate, fruit juices, and of course soda and alcohol. Choose water or flavored carbonated water if you can (it’s a good idea to bring this to the party yourself, so you know you’ll have something to sip on). Dilute your fruit juices. Pick hot herbal tea and don’t load it up with sugar, or drink decaffeinated black coffee, perhaps with a little cream. Limit your sugar intake wherever you can, and you will limit the pounds you put on this holiday season.