Give yourself the gift of good health.

Fit for the Season
Give yourself the gift of good health.

The arrival of the season of cheer means lots of things we all cherish: gathering with family to exchange gifts, mingling with friends at parties, and stepping up to an endless buffet of holiday joyfulness. Unfortunately it can also mean an expanding waistline--but it doesn't have to! Follow these tips, and stay on track.

Weigh In and Weigh Out
The single most important thing you can do to maintain your weight during the holidays is to weigh in before they begin and weigh out after they are over, says Connie Tyne, executive director of the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas.

"About December 1, write your weight on a card, and plan to weigh again between January 1 and 5," she says. "Your goal is not to gain more than 2 pounds. Every time you look at a major splurge, remind yourself, ‘I have to weigh in.' "

Stay Active
Look for every chance to burn calories. All activities add up, whether it's going outside to do yard work or walking the neighborhood to check out the holiday lights. Also look at your shopping list as a workout guide: Carry your bags in a curl position to give your biceps a little work, draw back your shoulder blades to improve posture, and do extra laps around the mall.

Be Picky
Fabulous food, such as homemade pumpkin pie or dressing, makes it hard for even the most determined among us to resist. But skipping it completely is unnecessary. Connie recommends passing on those items you can eat year-round, such as mashed potatoes, and spending your calories on special holiday treats instead.

And don't forget about portion control. Studies show we only really enjoy the taste of food for the first three bites. After that, Connie says, we're just eating, so be sure to keep your portions small. Another helpful tip is to eat dessert right after your meal--you still get to indulge in the sweet stuff, but you eat less because you are already full.

Party "Hearty"
It's true: Holiday get-togethers can be both fun and guilt-free. Don't go hungry; eat something healthful beforehand so you will be less tempted to overindulge. Once there, survey the table of food and choose something good for you--maybe some cheese and veggies. Then step away from the table. "The people make the party, not the food," reminds Connie.

If you want to have a beverage, avoid ones with cream in them (eggnog can have as many as 350 calories per serving). Start with something nonalcoholic to quench your thirst. You won't be motivated to gulp down glass after glass of alcohol if you aren't thirsty, and we're sure your fellow partyers will appreciate your discretion.