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Pick a New Resolution: 12 Strategies to Survive the Holidays Without New Year's Regrets

12/27/2011 03:35 pm ET | Updated Feb 26, 2012

Holidays mean giving gifts and getting fat. Between the mandatory alcohol-soaked company party, your aunt's Paula Deen-inspired dinner, and the dreaded annual Golden Corral family get-together, the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's create a fat-fueled purgatory.

You won't be surprised, then, to learn a study in the journal Nutrition Reviews showed those infamous six weeks explained 51 percent of your annual weight gain.[1]

Stop using the holidays to indulge in every Santa sugar cookie and eggnog custard that comes your way. Follow these 12 easy strategies and despite whatever regrets you have come New Year's Day, those hated 20 extra pounds won't be one of them.

1. Journal daily. I had all of the ultimate weight loss challengers on the Dr. Phil show do this because it works. Writing every bite you eat holds you accountable and ensures you don't "forget" that pumpkin-cranberry tart you whimsically devoured at your kids' semester-end party.

2. Weigh in weekly. You don't need to become a slave to the scale, but it will keep you honest and make you think twice before you devour a peppermint bark brownie. Check in once a week with a scale that measures weight as well as BMI, fat and lean mass. And record your results in your food journal.

3. Have a high-stakes contest. Here's another cool trick weight-loss participants used on Dr. Phil that puts the kibosh on mid-afternoon apple cider doughnut pitfalls. You and participating co-workers pool the money you normally spend on Krispy Kremes and other holiday junkfetes offices indulge in. Schedule weekly weigh-ins, make it fun and right before you wish everyone a happy New Year the biggest loser gets the money. You work hard for that year-end bonus, so why not also prioritize your health?

4. Stick with the skinnies. Think about the five people you spend the most time with. Guess what? You are a conglomerate of those people. So if your best girlfriend's idea of a night out involves Cheesecake Factory and oversized margaritas, chances are you're making a New Year's resolution about now for fast fat loss. During the holidays, hang out with friends who skip pumpkin lattes to sip green tea and prefer manicures instead of manicotti Neapolitan.

5. Keep both hands full. You feel more secure with both hands occupied at a party. (That's one reason why glamorous 1950s actresses always kept a cigarette strategically poised between two fingers.) But let's face it: One of those hands will likely be occupied with a Petits Fours. Nix the pastries for mineral water and a sexy clutch. Full hands means you don't mindlessly nibble on stale gingerbread cookies.

6. Employ the 2:1 rule. Stop downing cosmos at the office party like you're in an open bar at your old sorority house. For every glass of alcohol you consume, drink two glasses of water. You won't drink as much, you stay hydrated (no morning-after blahs), and best of all you won't rack up a four-digit calorie catastrophe. And avoid the drinks-as-dessert trap: trade the spiked pumpkin eggnog for pinot noir.

7. Avoid pre-party starvation. You subsist on celery and egg whites all day because you plan to "spend" your calories on mint juleps and raspberry macaroons. You arrive at the party famished and immediately grab a ginger snap martini. Thirty minutes later you're feeling, shall we say, in the holiday spirit, dive right in to the chocolate hazelnut trifle, and hazily promise yourself you'll get back on track tomorrow. Break that mindset immediately. When you eat lean protein and green veggies throughout your day, you'll keep your blood sugar steady so you don't drink and nosedive right into the Kahlua cheesecake bars.

8. Once through and you're done. Just because you're with your family at an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord doesn't mean you have to return for seconds and thirds like cattle to a trough. Get a small plate, fill it up and you're done. You're not missing much with the soft-serve dessert bar and overcooked mac and cheese that's been sitting under a heat lamp for hours.

9. Wear your skinny jeans. Those forgiving relaxed-fit holiday sweaters, mom jeans and "comfort waist" pants aren't doing you any favors. Elastic waists kill your sex appeal and grant you permission to devour endless varieties of petit pastries. To halt temptation, pick your slimmest-fitting jeans and a fitted top. A skinny black dress does the trick for more formal occasions.

10. Plan a non-food reward. You got your holiday bonus, but that's no excuse to splurge on after-work Candy Cane-tinis and chili cheese nachos with your HR girlfriend. Instead, schedule a Barney's date for the day after your aunt's popular holiday carb-fest. Even with familial guilt ("What, you don't like my homemade fruitcake?") you'll think twice about going face down in that homemade pecan torte if you know you'll be shopping a Jil Sander sales rack the next day. If shopping isn't your thrill, treat yourself to a spa day.

11. Hire a trainer. Mandatory year-end overtime at the office? Got "stuck" in mall traffic? You can always find a reason to miss your workouts during the holidays. You'll think twice, though, if you pay in advance and tell your trainer to bill you double if you bail.

12. If you bomb, try this trick. Your favorite receptionist baked cranberry pecan biscotti. You couldn't turn her down because she told you to live a little and, well, she's so incredibly nice. Create a no-excuses personal agreement that you'll immediately recover for the next few days with two meal-replacement protein shakes, a clean protein and vegetable dinner, and plenty of fiber and water. Double your exercise with burst training. Better yet, ask your trainer to up the walking lunges and Turkish get-ups so you'll think twice next time before you order that peppermint schnapps infused double hot chocolate.

Sources:

[1] Roberts SB, Mayer J. Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction? Nutr Rev. 2000 Dec;58(12):378-9.