Holiday goal: Take steps to avoid overeating

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, when it's oh so easy to begin to look a lot like Santa Claus. Sweet temptations are everywhere. The office, in particular, can be a deathtrap for the best of healthy holiday intentions.

Say no to holiday goodies? Not gonna happen, at least not for most of us. So how can we expect to not balloon up as all this sweet stuff crosses our every path? By treating December like a good-intention-laden January. There's a decent chance you'll be unhappy with your weight after the holidays anyway, so why not start sooner rather than later?

"I do think there are some useful 'tricks' we can have up our sleeves to help keep stress levels low and excess pounds off," said Dan Graham, visiting assistant professor of psychology at Macalester College, "and in 2010 you won't need to make that familiar resolution to lose the holiday weight."

Here are tips for coping with food overload in the next month.

In the office

Take a hike: Or just take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up from your desk more often, even if it's just to make inquiries with co-workers personally rather than electronically. And consider buying yourself an early present: a pedometer.

Be gracious — in person: When a coworker swings by with a platter of confections, "take the treats and smile," Graham said. "Then bring them home and dispose of them. No one's feelings will be hurt if the cut-out cookies find their way into the kitchen trash rather than into your stomach."

On the party circuit

Party smartly: Eat something beforehand so you don't arrive at a party hungry. And once you arrive, don't stand next to that slow cooker filled with cocktail wienies. Do not deprive yourself of the seasonal foods you really like, but try to stick with the true treat and avoid the "bet you can't eat just one" stuff that's on party platters year-round.

Careful with the quaffing: Alcoholic beverages are uniformly calorie-laden, so be careful with consumption. Cutting back on soda is a good idea. The alternative: Water, water everywhere.

Fill up, not out: Feeling bloated is as much a part of the holidays as "Jingle Bell Rock." "It takes the body and brain around 20 minutes to recognize satiation," said Graham. "Some dieters have found that simply drinking a large glass of water before meals helps them to feel full sooner and thus eat less."

At home

"Trick out" that table setting: Smaller plates and bowls do make a difference, Graham said, adding that it has been proven that "people will drink more out of short, fat glasses than out of tall, skinny glasses — even if the two differently shaped glasses hold the same amount of liquid."

Recycle: If you have leftover cookies or other sweets, send them to your kids' school or take them to a homeless or senior center. Or throw them out rather than eating them just because they're there. And if you receive food gifts, well, that's why "re-gifting" was invented.

A not-so-blue Christmas: It's natural to have periods of feeling down or out, and a common coping mechanism is eating. "Some have found great success avoiding eating when not hungry simply by chewing gum," Graham said. Getting out of the place where the blues set in and taking a long walk is doubly beneficial.