I wish I could quickly teach you all the things you need to know to make sure you don't gain weight-or much weight--over the holidays. But there's too much to cover in this blog. I've devoted a whole chapter in The Complete Beck Diet for Life to eating in challenging situations. Here are some highlights.

* Decide what your goal is. For example, do you want to lose weight (or maintain your weight or gain just a little weight)? Or is your goal to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, in whatever quantity you want? These two goals are incompatible.

* Make sure your goal is reasonable. It's not reasonable for most people who have been actively dieting to continue to lose weight over the holidays, when you have less control over your schedule, your exposure to tempting food, and sometimes, your emotions (both positive and negative).

* Consider making a "special occasion" rule for yourself. For example, you can plan in advance to eat up to 300 extra calories 1-7 days a week. If you do that for the next two weeks, you may gain a little weight, but you'll take it off if you return to your usual diet plan January 2nd. Having a flexible plan like this makes it less likely that you'll fall off the wagon completely.

* Weigh yourself daily. If you know you have to be accountable to the scale, it's easier to say, "I've already eaten my extra calories today. I don't want the scale to go up tomorrow. And, besides, tomorrow I can have extra calories, too. I don't have to eat everything today."

* Remind yourself that a calorie is a calorie, no matter when you eat it. Your body doesn't know it's a holiday.

* Compare what you're eating to what successful dieters and maintainers are eating. You can be sure that they are limiting their calories, too. If you compare yourself to people who aren't dieting, you'll end up feeling deprived and frustrated.

* Imagine how you'll feel when you see the number on the scale when the holidays are over. Do you want to feel demoralized and discouraged, and perhaps be unable to get yourself back on track? Or do you want to feel proud that you limited your weight gain (if you gained any at all!) and energized to keep going.

Controlling your eating over the holidays requires a plan and a shift in your thinking. But once you've learned the skills you need, you'll find that it isn't so hard after all.

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