The holiday season is one of the happiest times of the year. What’s better than gathering with loved ones in the season of togetherness? It’s the only time we actually slow down and enjoy all that the year had to bring.

Unfortunately, fun, family and festivities all lead to one thing — diet pitfalls. Each gathering is typically filled with an overflowing bar of your favorite wine and spirits, a plethora of dessert options, and don’t get us started on all of the savory dishes being served.

But you can still have a good time — just in moderation. Mecayla Froerer, Director of iFit Training, shares her strategies for fending off holiday weight gain, because of course we had to enlist a pro to help us get our lives together. So skip the eggnog (or Hennessy) and learn a few lessons on how to navigate holiday food spreads, all while juggling your hectic holiday party schedules.

Plan ahead.

You can’t always control what situation lies ahead, but you can at least prepare for it. Many think that skipping breakfast or lunch in order to “save your appetite” is a sufficient weight-maintenance tactic, but it’s actually more detrimental. The hungrier you are, the more you’ll be likely to indulge in the things that aren’t good for you. Have a holiday party in the evening? How about eating your prepped meals ahead of time, so when you get there, you won’t be starving and are less likely to indulge. Or, if it’s a pot-luck style gathering, bring your favorite healthy dish so you know they’ll be at least one dish there that you can rely on.

Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated has many great health benefits. This seems super simple, but more often than not many of us aren’t doing it. “One of the countless benefits drinking enough water is the ability to ward off hunger and cravings,” says Froerer. “Some studies even show that drinking a glass of water before meals can reduce appetite.” If you’re not sure how much you should be drinking, Froerer recommends drinking at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day.

Use smaller plates.

Because we’ve been taught from an early age to “finish” our plates as not to waste food, it’s hard to do anything otherwise. So sometimes weight loss is all about tricking our minds. And one way of doing so is by eating on smaller plates. Whenever possible, choose the smaller salad plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like one (12 inches or more) because this can actually make you feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big white space on the plate with less food — and smaller plates generally require smaller portions.

Focus on mindful eating.

Rather than putting too much pressure on yourself about what you should and should not be eating, focus on transform your relationship with food. Mindful eating is the key to not only your holiday weight loss goals, but is it a powerful tool to gain control of your eating habits.  “The feeling of being restricted and labeling foods as “good” or “bad” can be detrimental to one’s health,” says Froerer. “There are so many good foods and desserts around the holiday season that are to be enjoyed. Focus on eating in moderation. If you go to a party and see a table lined with goodies, you don’t need to “dig in and go to town”, neither should you have to turn around and walk the opposite direction. Find one or two little things that you’d like to try, stick to that, and enjoy.”

Make exercise a priority.

Exercise tends to fall off the to-do list around the holidays-a time when you really need the calorie-blasting and stress-reducing benefits. Just because you don’t have time to go to the gym for your workout routines or it’s too cold for a walk or run outside, doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a sweat session. “If you don’t want to fight the weather to go outside or get to the gym, keep in mind that you can get in a great workout from the walls of your own home,” says Froerer. “I like using the NordicTrack x22i Treadmill and NordicTrack s22i Studio Cycle for boosting my heart rate. These trainer-led Global Workouts and Studio Classes make my workout seamless and require almost no thought. All I have to do is press the start button and go.”

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