If you assume that on January 1st you’ll automatically have weight to lose on account of holiday eating, think again. There is a way that you can enjoy the holidays — including great food — without going overboard.

The most important thing to remember is that holidays are just days on the calendar. They aren’t synonymous with overeating. After all, you’ve never actually needed a special holiday as permission to let loose, have you? It’s just a trick of our minds to think that we now have excuse to overeat…and should use it. So why don’t you treat these food-focused days as simply another day, and stick to what you’d normally eat when trying to be healthy?

For example: If ham or turkey is being served, have the amount you’d normally put on your plate. If you typically wouldn’t order creamed onions or cheesy potatoes, why do so now? Afraid of feeling deprived? It’s not deprivation if you’re choosing self-care. Give yourself the gift of feeling good and you’re only adding something to your day, not taking something away.

Besides, consider that Thanksgiving is for amateurs…it’s for normal eaters to let loose. If you’re an emotional eater, haven’t you used up your coupons for letting loose, long ago? This isn’t your day. Leave it to those better qualified and deserving! Feeling satisfied, but not stuffed is a whole lot better.

Here are 5 suggestions that can help you stay in check during holiday time:

  1. Try the “3 Meal Magic” plan. Three meals with nothing in between but calorie-free liquids. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to abstain from unhealthy foods when you work within the three meal structure; eat only meals, not nibbley things like nuts, chips or candies. You will be eliminating most of the trouble foods when you practice 3 Meal Magic!
  2. “Just one” Theory: Remember, there is no such thing as “just one”. If you think you can handle eating just one, or even just one handful of nibbley things, take a hard look as how successful you’ve been at eating “just one”. It’s virtually impossible, isn’t it? Consider that “none” is better than “some”, especially if you’re prone to emotional eating, so it’s time to “just say no”.
  3. Help out by serving others. Instead of hanging out by the dessert table looking for some company, be proactive and help out the hostess. Clear the table or offer to do some dishes. Getting into action will take your mind off of food and fill you up with a feeling of usefulness.
  4. Free food isn’t free. I don’t know why this is, but whenever food is free, people think they had better get their fill. It’s been a long time since the last famine, so it really doesn’t make sense. Nevertheless, it’s a pitfall to avoid for sure. Just because food or drinks are free, doesn’t mean they’re meant for you! Tell yourself you can have whatever you want, anytime, even if you have to pay for it later. Then just decline the freebies. You don’t need them!
  5. Buffet: Food buffets, especially at restaurants, are usually big traps for emotional eaters. Again, it seems like “free food” that we must take advantage of…and then some. Even if we intend to eat a normal amount, by the time we’re at the middle of the buffet and have a full plate, we feel obligated to continue putting food on until we’re at the end. The best thing to do is to peruse the entire length of the buffet before starting. So you can think ahead about the things you want, and the things you don’t want. And don’t plan on having “seconds”. One plate of food is enough…just like when you’re at home.

Tricia Nelson is the host of the Heal Your Hunger podcast and founder of Heal Your Hunger Inc., which helps people get to the heart of why they overeat and how to stop. Get more of Tricia’s free holiday tips here.