The holidays are a magical time of good cheer, giving, and gaining weight. Throughout most of the year, many of us go through periods of at least a month or two between indulgent holiday feasts, occasionally making room for a birthday or wedding party, but during the holiday season our schedules and stomachs are both packed. Not only Thanksgiving, but Christmas and New Year’s become decadent dinner parties for many, leading us to fill ourselves more often than we ever would otherwise. Some of us even anticipate the extra pounds we’ll put on during the holiday season, but you can stay trim and fit through the winter by following guidelines to keep the weight off.

It’s no surprise that many of us wind up gaining weight during the holidays–in fact, it’s perfectly natural. As the weather gets colder, our bodies want more insulation to stay warm, and more calories to burn. Bears have gotten this part of life down to a science, engorging themselves all Autumn and sleeping through the Winter. Another part of the reason we experience weight gain during this time is metabolic interruption when we slouch on exercise. However, you can combat this tendency by avoiding the sluggish tendencies that seem to take over our bodies as the seasons change. Keep up on regular exercise to keep your body warm and fit, and your metabolism stable.

Of course, our lavish holiday dinners have a lot to do with the extra holiday pounds we put on. Dinner tables full of creamy soups, meaty casseroles, fat-laden stuffing and rich desserts are around every corner, waiting to entice us with their delectable lure. To make matters worse, a bacon craze is leading people everywhere to heap even more calories onto their tables. Help yourself here by not helping yourself. Take it easy on the fatty holiday dishes–opt for a vegetable heavy plate, avoid eating too much of the heavy meat and cheese dishes, and be smart about dessert. Look for the lean, low fat options whenever possible, and remember that bacon is not a food group.

Remember that it’s not just food that’s pushing the weight gain every holiday season. Be mindful of what you drink as well. A glass or two of wine is common with dinner, and usually harmless enough, but remember all the extra calories that alcoholic drinks pack. Things like hot cider take the liquid calorie to new levels, and even worse–egg nog is bound to be on just about every table along with dessert. Be mindful of these delicious monsters or they’ll creep up on you quicker than you can resist.

In the end, what you really need to do this holiday season to keep the weight off, is do what you always do. Keep exercising, eat smart and healthy, and keep up with your protein drinks for weight loss. A few extra pounds may not seem like much now, but you’ll remember why you wanted them gone when you find them hanging around until Spring and Summer.