You can enjoy the holiday season without overindulging and gaining festive pounds before the new year.

Family carving thanksgiving dinner
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Exercise physiologist Laura Williams, a writer featured in national publications and owner of, says most people might gain between 2 and 5 pounds over the course of the holidays. But she cautions that while it's not some insurmountable amount, small incremental weight gain can add up.

Williams says it's not that one holiday mega indulgence is going to set you back in a huge way, but it is something you want to think about.

Set your limits ahead of time

"Plan in advance," Williams said. She suggests keeping a holiday calendar and picking one or two events a week where you indulge a little in order to avoid celebrating every day.

"Maybe you grab one cookie or you have one specialty coffee drink," said Willliams.

For bigger events, Williams suggests thinking about what you really like to eat and limiting yourself to those things instead of trying everything on the table.

"We have this tendency when we see a smorgasbord set in front of us of all the holiday foods that we end up going in for a little bit of everything, and then we might go in for seconds, too."

"When you limit yourself to just three or four foods, you're more likely to fill up faster," she said.

Fill up on healthy foods

Before your arrive at a party, or as soon as you arrive, go for veggies, salads or water-based soups to help fill you up.

"It's not like drinking a glass of water, which doesn't really fill you up. There are nutrients in there, so it won't immediately be absorbed through your intestinal wall," said Williams.

Don't come hungry

Don't starve yourself all day with the idea that you plan on overeating at a holiday meal or party.

"This is a terrible plan for a lot of reasons," warns Williams.

"It's a way of approaching food that's fundamentally unhealthy and re-shifts the way we think about nutrients and food, and you're giving yourself carte blanche to just do whatever you want when you finally get to eat at the end of the day," she said.

Studies have shown that skipping meals backfires because you end up eating a lot more calories than if you had paced yourself with small meals throughout the day.

Skip the cocktails

Watch your alcohol intake. Williams advises sipping cocktails slowly, having water in between glasses and enlisting a buddy so you can both hold each other accountable at holiday parties.

"Those alcohol calories, they add up. If you're going to drink alcohol, stick to wine and beer. You don't have all the extra added sugar of crazy cocktails," Williams said.

Don't give up on exercise

If your eating plan doesn't go as intended, "get back on the horse the next day," said Williams.

Just like with food, Williams suggests planning exercise through the holidays and not letting it fall by the wayside.

Be creative and turn exercise into a family event through the holidays. Williams suggests taking a hike together or visiting a trampoline park.

"It doesn't have to be your traditional workout, but it maintains a habit, and that's so important going through the holidays," she said.

It's also important in terms of keeping your metabolism running through the holidays when you are going to be overindulging, she said.

"You don't want to give up on the fun of holidays, you just want to make sure that you're thinking about how you can maintain and prioritize your health during this challenging time," she said.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at

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