Although I don’t want to discourage anyone from starting a diet, I’d advise you to put off starting it until after the holidays are over. This time of year is just too chaotic and stressful for most people. If you’re isolated and alone, go ahead and start, but only in that case would it be effective and enhance your holiday season instead of making things more stressful.

For most people, just avoiding a weight gain this holiday season will be a fantastic success. This is entirely possible, without a lot of anguish and self denial, if you follow my list of Dos and Don’ts. Here they are:

Don’t try to diet, discover that you can’t keep to it, and then decide “It’s impossible. I might as well forget about weight control and enjoy everything until after the first.” Giving yourself permission to binge for a month will create a weight gain that will take all of next year to get rid of.

Do pick out six to ten days that you will go to parties, go out to dinner, have Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve and Day get-togethers, and plan on healthy indulgences those days. Determine to “eat like a health nut” all the other days. You will be able to, when you have those other days to indulge in. Don’t deny yourself gratification —delay it a bit.

Don’t try to avoid the “bad foods” at parties and dinners. You’ll only feel cheated and want to eat them later, when you’re alone. Plan on the kind of things you’ll want to have and find out ahead of time what kind of calories are in those things and what amounts you’d like. Remember, there are no bad foods or bad calories, unless you’re talking about calories in food you don’t like! Also remember, women usually have a “calorie budget” of 1800-2200 a day to maintain an ideal weight, and with a little advance planning, you can fit in just about anything on that.

Do save your day’s calories for the parties on your party days. If you eat a lot during the day, you’ll still eat a lot at the parties and feel awful. If you plan ahead and have your calories at the event, they will taste better, you’ll have a great time, and you’ll feel great. And, no guilt! You’ll have had just what you loved, enjoyed it, and accomplished your health goal.

Don’t decide it’s impossible to control yourself during the holidays. Self control is entirely possible, especially when you know you have those party days to look forward to. I teach some great self control techniques in my book, The Anderson Method, but you already know some, such as self-talk, like reminding yourself “Those would add cellulite and make my pants tight” as you walk by the box of candy at the nurses’ station.

Do have a definite plan at the beginning of each day for it to be either a “health nut” day or a party day. Develop a clear idea of what you’ll be eating that day and when, before you leave in the morning

Don’t leave it up to the point in time when you are presented with a challenge, like an offer of a lunch out or a pastry, to decide what to do. Have your answer ready before you face the tempter. “No thanks, I’m saving my calories for the parties, so I don’t gain weight this year.”

Don’t beat yourself up and feel guilty when you’re not perfect. Eating too much or losing out to an urge is not a capital crime or a mortal sin. It’s just a mark of humanity, and you can get better at self-control as time goes by if you give yourself half a chance and learn more about it and practice it. Be forgiving of your human qualities rather than critical of them.

Do decide that you care about your health, no matter what, even if your behavior isn’t always the best all the time. Never decide you don’t care, even when you slip up.

Don’t decide to stay home or punish yourself by wearing clothes that are too tight all season. It is better to have some nice things to wear and be comfortable and feel good about the way you are eating when you are following these dos and don’ts.

Do go out and get a couple of nice outfits that are comfortable and have a wonderful happy holiday season. You can plan on beginning your diet New Years’ Day, dropping 10-20 lbs. in January, and make someone else very happy when you give those outfits to Goodwill because you’re swimming in them!

So don't beat yourself up this holiday season trying to stick to a diet. Just follow these tips, and don't forget to pick up a copy of The Anderson Method to start your diet off right once the New Year hits!

Author's Bio: 

William Anderson, MA, LMHC, is a licensed psychotherapist residing in Sarasota, Florida, specializing in weight control. He is the author of the revolutionary new weight loss self-help book, The Anderson Method (Two Harbors Press, 2009, $14.95), and he is training a growing network of licensed therapists in his successful weight loss program. Anderson developed his approach when, as a behavior therapist, he permanently lost 140 pounds over 20 years ago after 25 years of diet and exercise failure. More information can be obtained at