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Ah, the holidays. A time to gather around friends and family, celebrate and rejoice. The time of year when tempers are at ease, hearts are wide open and everyone is hoping to achieve that warm, fuzzy feeling. Unfortunately, for many, the holidays also mean falling off the workout/diet wagon, drinking like a fish and eating as if there were no tomorrow. We’ve all been there. You have good intentions of hitting the gym, but before you head out you flip on the television and see It’s a Wonderful Life playing. Suddenly you’re on the couch with hot chocolate and a bag of cookies and your 6:00 pm boot camp class is nothing more than a distant memory. What about your plan of sticking to your diet no matter what? There is nothing like your mother’s homemade pumpkin pie, potato salad and “Why aren’t you eating?” guilt trip to obliterate that idea.

So are we all just doomed to choose between avoiding all holiday gatherings until after the New Year or asking for clothes one size bigger for Christmas to compensate for the inevitable weight gain? Of course not! It may take some planning and even a bit of discipline, but you can enjoy the holidays without sacrificing your skinny jeans. Here are just a few tips to keep you on track for all your upcoming social events.

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Be real: It’s great to swear that you’re not going to have a carb all month, but the truth is, the more you deny yourself the more likely you are to binge. Set realistic goals like telling yourself you will fill up on protein and veggies first. Then only allow yourself one indulgence, such as a small piece of cake or a reasonable portion of sweet potato pie. This way you’ll be full from the healthier options but still be able to satisfy that sweet tooth.

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Always arrive half full: Before heading out to a gathering that you know will be stocked with candy, cookies and eggnog galore, have a snack. Grab half of a turkey sandwich at home or a protein bar to eat in the car on the way. Don’t forget to drink your water before you arrive as well. This way you won’t arrive ravenous enough to take on an entire buffet.

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BYOD: Meaning, bring your own dish. Most parties and social gatherings around the holidays will involve food; there is just no escaping that. But you can have some control over the food choices. When invited to a party, let the host or hostess know that you’d love to help out by bringing a dish. Then do a veggie or fruit tray, or even try a Skinny Mom recipe for a dessert, side or appetizer to bring with you. This way you can be certain there is at least one item you can eat guilt free.

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Become a morning person: I actually cringe while typing this as mornings typically leave me with the personality of a wicked witch; however, getting in your workout first thing in the morning is the best way to ensure that you stay on track. It’s certainly optimistic to believe you’ll be able to come home every night and get your workout in, but between office lunches, family gatherings and parties with friends, you’re more likely to get home just in time for bed as opposed to in time for a run. Make your workout the first thing you do in the morning, and then feel free to enjoy the rest of the day… wherever it takes you.

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Slow down on the cocktails: We all love them, and heck after too many hours with certain family members, some of us down right need them, but most cocktails add up fast. Instead of overindulging in the sweet, exotic drinks, stick to the basics. Reach for light beer or clear liquors like Vodka mixed with Sugar Free Red Bull or Bacardi mixed with Diet Coke. These drinks will not only eliminate that post cocktail bloat, they will also add up to only about half the calories of other drinks. So for the sake of your holiday mini dress, please drink responsibly!

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Check in with the scale: Typically I don’t believe in weighing yourself more than once a week, but during the holiday season it may be a good idea to weigh in every other day. By doing so you can keep a better gauge on your weight gain. It’s much easier to find out on Wednesday that you’re up 1.5 pounds and plan the week out a little better to avoid additional gains than it is to blow the scale off completely and get that end of the week 5 pound shocker!

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Get your Zzz’s: Hitting the party scene too hard can be very costly to your waistline. Even if your food and drink orders are in check, getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep can have many adverse affects. Not only does skipping out on shut eye increase cortisol levels, which in return increases belly fat, but going through the day on little sleep also increases cravings for sweet and salty foods. When you’re exhausted you’ll be far more likely to order out for pizza and far less likely to cram in that spinning class. So enjoy your event, but keep tabs on the time so you can leave early enough to get in your beauty sleep.

So go get your holiday party on ladies. With just a little bit of prep work you just might be able to have your pumpkin pie and fit into your favorite leggings too!

Skinny Mom Fact: The average American woman gains about 5 pounds during the holidays. While it may have only taken a few great parties to put these 5 pounds on, you’ll need to burn 17,500 calories to get them off!